An emotional John Longmire has detailed the frantic pre-game rollercoaster his club endured on Sunday night, which has been described by a late inclusion as a “sh*tshow”.
Longmire’s Swans on overcame unprecedented pre-game Covid chaos and a 35-point deficit to make a statement to the rest of the top four, overrunning the Giants to claim a 26-point victory.
Post-game vision of Longmire, which was aired on Fox Footy’s First Crack, showed him wiping away tears as he embraced young player Errol Gulden, Will Hayward, Justin McInerney and Dylan Stephens before putting his arm around veteran co-captain Josh Kennedy.
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Hours earlier, he wasn’t sure whether the Sydney Derby would even take place after three of his players in Callum Mills, Harry Cunningham and Colin O’Riordan – as well as two Giants in Toby Greene and Matt de Boer – were forced to withdraw from the game late as the Australia-France rugby test at AAMI Park last week had been upgraded to a Tier 2 exposure site.
James Rowbottom, Dylan Stephens and Ben Ronke were then all drafted into the Swans’ 23-man team, despite all three taking part in a scratch match the day before.
Rowbottom revealed to the Swans’ website post-game that he was in the shower 70 minutes before the first bounce when he received a call from club official Peter Berbakov.
“He said, ‘what are you doing?’ and I said: ‘I’m just in the hotel chilling out’. He said ‘good, get your gear on, it’s been a sh*tshow down here, you might be playing’,” Rowbottom told the club’s website.
Speaking to reporters post-game, Longmire also detailed what went down in the frantic hours before the match.
“I quickly got on the phone and rang the players back at the hotel,” Longmire said. “We got the medical staff in and went through the players that we thought could back up – and then I rang them and then told them to get in the car and come to the ground, get changed.
“We weren’t quite sure whether it was locked in or not. So once it was locked in, we just grabbed the players together and told them: ‘We’ve been away for a month, we’ve lost staff, we don’t have one fitness guy and you lose three players before the game (and bring in three) that played yesterday.’
“To say it was a good win would probably be an understatement.”
Dual premiership Kangaroo David King said Longmire’s raw post-game emotion would’ve made Swans fans “proud”.
“I love seeing this. This is a family, this is a brotherhood, this is everyone in it together, everyone doing their part” King told First Crack.
“If you’re a Swans supporter watching that, you think ‘how proud am I with my football club?’ OK they play the way they play, but they’re actually unified and together.
“That can build, that can get rolling and all of a sudden you get the snowball effect and they could just snowball their way through September.”
It was the Swans’ third win on the trot, which cemented their place inside the top six and put them within striking distance of the top four.
Dual All-Australian Leigh Montagna labelled Sydney “now officially the hottest team in the competition right now”.
“You’ve got to get going to win a premiership, you’ve got to have that momentum – and they are galvanised and they are all in it. You can see they are heavily invested in this season and it’s going to take them a long way.”
While conceding it would be hard for the Swans to win the flag from outside the top four, Montagna said there was a pathway for Longmire’s troops to earn the double chance, with all of their remaining five games coming against teams lower than them on the ladder.
“Looking at this run home for the Swans, they are every chance now to finish top four and have a real tilt at a flag.
“They’ve got winnable games on the run home, they’re playing the best football in the competition right now and there is something special about this group in a hub, away from home with everything that’s going on. They are a group that has galvanised, they’re using the South Melbourne spirit … and go back to that Bloods culture, which has held them in good stead.”