One of the most understated rivalries in modern AFL history will have another chapter written when Sydney meets Essendon this weekend.
The Swans and Bombers have a long history of close finishes, with six of their last seven encounters decided by less than 10 points.
It’s this recent record that has Sydney coach John Longmire more than weary of facing Brad Scott’s men, with both teams desperately needing a win to keep their respective finals hopes alive.
“They’ve been close, they’ve been tight games. They’ve got a new coach now and we’ve noticed some changes in their style,” Longmire said.
“They’ve got some very good players and I think everyone agrees they’ve had a pretty good year up to this point. We’ll get down on their home deck and see how we go.
“We feel like they’ve made some changes and we’ll have to cater to that, and their style and play a really competitive brand.”
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The Swans will have extra motivation to rise to the occasion on Saturday night when co-captain Callum Mills plays game 150.
Mills has grown significantly from his debut in 2016, with Longmire sharing an anecdote on his journey to the milestone.
“At 16 years of age, I remember him coming in and asking questions about our game plan,” he said.
“He walked out and I think it might have been Tom Harley – I walked into Tom’s office afterwards and said ‘that kid will captain the club at some stage’, he just had it written all over him.
“He was just such a massive competitor, really loved his footy, thoughtful even at a young age. And he’s been everything and more since he’s come through the system. He’s just a really important, integral cog to the footy club in a whole lot of ways.
“He won our Club Champion award last year, All-Australian and he’s just a really important player to that younger group under ‘Ramps’ [Dane Rampe] and ‘Parks’ [Luke Parker], that younger group coming through, he’s an important leader.”
Crucially for the Swans’ fortunes, Mills is returning to his best form with Longmire acknowledging the rollercoaster year he’d been on to date.
“He got thrown to full back on Tom Hawkins at one stage and that was a big ask of him,” Longmire laughed.
“He missed six weeks with injury and then coming back after that, he’s feeling a bit better. His body is still getting used to the grind of coming back after a six-week break.
“We feel like he’s so flexible we can play him inside, we can play him wing, half forward, half back and that’s the beauty of him. We can play him in any position and know he’ll have a real impact.
“He’s a key player and such an important player around our club.”
Sydney and Essendon face off at Marvel Stadium on Saturday night.