Swans four quarter effort should put Longmire criticism to bed

John Longmire has been criticised many times over his tenure with the Swans, despite their success, and almost permanent fixture in the top 4.

Understandably, criticism reached a crescendo after the round 10 loss to an injury depleted Hawthorn team, with Gary Lyon and Tim Watson giving John Longmire and the Swans a whack the following Monday.

“Don’t let John Longmire and the Swans players off the hook lightly,” Lyon said on SEN.

“... The ability to identify the problem and address it, Sydney didn’t do that.”

It's been an uncharacteristically poor start to the season for the Swans, and for lack of an easier and more obvious target, Longmire has copped a lot of flack.

Was it warranted? I'm not so sure myself. I never stopped backing him with his track record and the continued success over the last 6 seasons. There's 16 other clubs in the AFL that would beg for Longmire to join them, if he were to ever part way with the Swans.

To find the criticism, one doesn't have to wander far. Casual conversations with Swans fans, or cast a wandering eye over internet forums like Twitter, Facebook, BigFooty and Reddit and you'll soon discover that there's a deep divide amongst the fan base, that almost borders on the same levels of the Arsene Wenger Out of Arsenal campaign.

There's not a lot of consistency, and at times, logic behind the desire to part ways with arguably the clubs' most successful coach in its storied history.

But he has come consistently come under fire from supporters and critics for the same reasons; loyalty to players whose performances fluctuate between enigmatic best and terribly poor, rigidity to game plan and inability to adapt, and for being consistently out coached by certain teams, or certain coaches.

It's almost a parallel between Arsenal's greatest ever football manager Arsene Wenger, who saw unparalleled success early in his tenure and John Longmire, who've remained faithfully loyal to their players, game style and coaching staff.

Does one win make it all better? No, but when you reflect over the years with what the club has dealt with, I think the Swans have done OK and John has done magnificently well with the challenges he's overcome.

Three grand finals, two minor premierships and one premiership, not to mention finishing in the top four for five consecutive seasons, it's almost as if the supporters have come to expect it, and any drop off in performance is met with fierce resistance.

When Paul Roos handed over the reigns, he left the club primed for the future. Daniel Bradshaw and Peter Everitt were gambles that didn't pay off, but the astute recruitment of Josh Kennedy and Ben McGlynn, as well as transforming Heath Grundy and Ted Richards into defensive stalwarts was one of his better achievements.

Today, Josh Kennedy is the club captain and has never finished outside of the top three, amazingly winning three Bob Skilton medals.

More importantly, he's flourished under Longmire, whose astute recruiting with the recruitment and talent identification team, has provided a midfield base for the Swans for the next eight years.

John Longmire certainly isn't solely responsible for his development, but he has given him the tools and the support to flourish, the Swans to flourish, and most important, to achieve ultimate success in 2012.

Both 2014 and 2016 were hard lessons for the Swans, and the latter certainly can be attributed to a somewhat fall from grace for the Swans, but something that is regularly overlooked is how young and inexperienced the squad is.

14 players have debuted for the Swans since round one 2016, the most of any club, and at times this season the Swans have been almost the youngest team in a given round. They were on average younger than the Lions when they beat them by 9 goals.

Perhaps another thing that's been overlooked is the change in the Swans game plan, to counter the fast rebounding, almost gung-ho game styles from the Bulldogs, Saints and Giants.

Last year, the Bulldogs and Giants twice beat the Swans, playing an almost identical brand of football - rebound quickly out of defence, run the length of the field, get it out the back or over the top and long into the forward line.

The Swans adopted a full ground zonal defence, not quite as extreme as the Hawks or Eagles, to limit their exposure to pace in one-on-one contests, and its worked a treat against the Saints and Bulldogs, but for the first six rounds, coupled with confidence and form drop offs, as well as injuries, it looked like the Swans were well off the boil.

Dan Hannebery summed it up best when he spoke with Fox Footy last month.

“We probably went into our shells a little bit and weren’t working as a group. That first six weeks we were on and off but in the last three weeks everyone has worked together and not just worried about their own backyard.”

Longmire was pragmatic in his analysis after the Bulldogs game.

"The consistent pressure that we applied, we didn't let up on it at all, and we put the opposition under enormous pressure when they had the ball, and that turned into 71 inside 50s (to 39).

"There's no secrets to AFL footy, you've got to go harder for longer.

Handing out a drubbing to a team that's given the Swans a lot of grief over the last two seasons was extremely satisfying.

One can only hope that the criticism of John Longmire slowly fades away, but as results slip, grand finals missed and finals losses mount, it's understandable that it'll always be there, silently in the background.

We can't all wish we were coached by Damien Hardwick or Nathan Buckley.

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Justin Mitchell

Justin is a passionate AFL and Sydney Swans supporter, and football blogger since 2016. All articles are of his own opinion. You can reach him by twitter and Facebook at @theswansblog

Melbourne, Australia http://theswansblog.com

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