19/04/2024
John Longmire will coach game #308 against Melbourne in the Opening Round (Photo: Joshua Davis)

John Longmire will coach game #308 against Melbourne in the Opening Round (Photo: Joshua Davis)

It’s March 27th, 2011.

Over 33,000 people are in attendance for a Round One clash between Melbourne and Sydney. A late Swans goal could put them ahead with too little time for Melbourne to respond, and with the ball deep in Sydney territory, they’re in position to do such a thing.

With just 57 seconds remaining, and a one-point Melbourne advantage, a timeless Shane Mumford tap sets up Ryan O’Keefe’s 31st disposal and third scoring shot.

But how did we get here?

Let’s wind back the clock, all the way to 1990, where a young John ‘Horse’ Longmire bursts onto the scene.

Longmire had one of the best seasons of any teenager in the game’s modern history. The highlight was his 98 goals, which earned him the Coleman Medal, making Longmire the youngest, and only teenager to win the medal after it was named in honour of the legend.

But what made 1990 so special? Let’s hone in on Round 14 for our prime example, where Longmire made an example of today’s antagonist, Melbourne.

It was just 12 weeks removed from Longmire’s then career and team-high 12-goal outing when Longmire had his most prolific day in his career, kicking 14 goals amidst a 127-point routing of the Demons.

Photo Courtesy of the AFL Record

What adds to the spectacle is Melbourne was no ordinary team. The Demons were in the thick of a fantastic run, making semi-final appearances from 1987-1991, including a grand final appearance in 1988.

Longmire’s playing career against Melbourne was quite the arm-wrestle, with the Demons taking the advantage, albeit a slim one, just 8-wins-to-6. 

Circling back to modern-day Melbourne, it’s been nothing short of doom and gloom. Their last finals campaign was in 2006, and they hit the absolute depths in the years to follow.

In 2008, Melbourne spent every round at the bottom of the ladder. 2009 they finished last again, but came with accusations relating to tanking in the back half of the season.

Then senior coach, Dean Bailey, and then GM of Football Operations, Chris Connolly, were found guilty of charges related to the accusation following an investigation in 2013.

Comparatively, Sydney was absolutely flying, they’d made finals in 8/11 years since the turn of the millennium, including a flag in 2005, breaking a 72-year drought.

Longmire had a hand in this flag, joining Sydney’s coaching staff as an assistant in 2002. He was in the line for his first senior coaching role at St. Kilda in 2006, yet fellow Swans assistant, Ross Lyon, was given the nod instead.

Sydney had seemingly lapsed in the past couple of seasons, their last top-four finish came in 2006, and in 2009 they finished 12th, their worst ladder position since 1995, with the last time they missed the finals coming in 2002.

With questions being asked about the current senior coach, Paul Roos, Sydney opted to make a move in an attempt to set up the future of their club.

In August of 2009, Sydney announced a succession plan that would see John Longmire take the reins from Paul Roos following the 2010 season. 

Ironically, Roos would join Melbourne in 2013, and take part in another succession plan, Simon Goodwin the successor in 2017.

So, after a trip through the decades, we come back to 2011 and with the game on the line, Ryan O’Keefe has a prime opportunity to start Longmire’s coaching career in the best way.

Tie game? That’s it? Aren’t these supposed to be feel-good stories? Surely there’s more to come, right?

Nope.

Despite O’Keefe’s best-on-ground efforts earning three Brownlow votes, he finished the game kicking 0.3, including the last score of the game.

The last time a team drew in Round One was way back in 1982, before our story begins, when Carlton (16.17. 113) and Fitzroy (17.11. 113) were left all square at the final siren on March 27th.

Wait, when was this game again? March 27th, 2011. 29 years to the date. Huh. 

Longmire didn’t coach another draw until 2023 when Sydney (6.18. 54) and Geelong (7.12 54) tied in what is currently the most recent draw. Hang on, what did Sydney score against Melbourne, 18 behinds. Huh.

2023 also saw a Round One draw, the first one since, 2011.

It’s the little things sometimes.

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