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John Longmire sits alongside Alastair Clarkson as the AFL coach of the modern era

Because he sits outside the Melbourne football bubble, we often don't hear a whole lot about John Longmire. But what 'Horse' has been able to do with Sydney this season has been nothing short of remarkable.
From 0-6 to start their campaign, the Swans are now right back in the finals hunt and if they can beat the Crows on their home deck tonight they should be considered premiership favourites.
Since that disastrous start, Longmire's men have lost just twice to Hawthorn, a team they probably won't need to worry about in September. Having a number of senior players returning from injury in the second half of the year has certainly helped Sydney's cause. But no matter how many guys you get back, it doesn't mean belief and confidence automatically returns with them.
The Swans' resurgence proves the relationships and trust Longmire has built with his players must be incredibly strong, and that is the mark of a great coach.
He's instilled a 'never say die' attitude that was evident during the victory over Essendon back in round 14, when they came back from 19 points down with just a few minutes remaining. If Sydney didn't win that game, they'd probably be in danger of missing out on September altogether.
It's funny that as teammates many years ago, I never thought John would be a senior coach. Having said that, he was someone I looked up to in our early days at North Melbourne, after he booted 98 goals in a season as a 19-year-old.
A country lad, he was a very serious person, but also someone who got along with everyone and was very loyal. While Horse was the kind of guy who wouldn't say a whole lot in team meetings, when he did people would listen. He had a strong voice and a strong personality, and I've got no doubt he's also inherited a few traits from Denis Pagan.
It seems some coaches in the AFL might be lacking a certain fear factor, but not Longmire. He has a look that can go straight through you, and, while times have changed to an extent, if you have that element of intimidation you should use it to your advantage. 
It's worth noting he also has one of the smallest coaching groups in the AFL with just seven assistant and development personnel, compared to the 12 Ross Lyon has at Fremantle. Among Longmire's assistants, though, is former Kangaroos teammate John Blakey. If Longmire is anything like Pagan, then Blakey would have copped his share of cooks over the journey, but he's a trusted sounding board and calming influence in the box.
Central to the Swans' resurgence under Longmire this year has been the evolution of the team. In his seven years as coach, it's not the first time Longmire has managed to reinvent his side, but this season in particular we've seen the emergence of many young players. The likes of Oliver Florent, Nic Newman, Lewis Melican and Will Hayward have all been introduced to senior footy, with Hayward already one of the coach's favourites.
Zak Jones, George Hewitt and Tom Papley have also benefited from increased exposure. While some of their opportunities have been forced on the club due to injury, their progress has been above expectations.
Longmire has also managed to ween the Swans off their reliance on Buddy Franklin, which has made them much more dangerous inside 50. John would know more than most the problems of kicking to your main target too often, given he found himself in that situation in his early days at Arden Street. Your greatest strength can quickly become your biggest weakness, but Longmire has managed to transform his side's offence.
Having Sam Reid back has been important, while Papley, Isaac Heeney and Gary Rohan now form a really dynamic forward-line alongside Buddy. Add all of that up, and I think John sits comfortably alongside Alastair Clarkson as the greatest coach of the modern era.
While he might not have Clarko's four premierships, Longmire is yet to miss September in his time at the club, making three grand finals and winning one. And it would take a brave person to back against him adding to that tally this season.

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