Sydney coach John Longmire has declared this finals campaign the “chance for a new story”, saying the pain of last year’s grand final defeat is not driving the Swans.
Form and injury issues left the Swans languishing in 15th spot on the ladder at the end of round 17, but a six-game winning streak has taken them to what Longmire calls the “starting grid” in the form of an elimination final showdown against Carlton.
It will be Sydney’s first final without retired superstar Lance Franklin since 2015, with the coach backing Isaac Heeney and a fit-again Tom Papley to spearhead an inexperienced attack in his absence.
Longmire repeated the message he has stuck to all season: that the horror 81-point loss to Geelong in last year’s decider was irrelevant to how the Swans were approaching their campaign.
“We just have to keep improving, that’s all we can do. This year is a chance for a new story,” Longmire said.
“We started off the season that way and we’re certainly focusing on that leading into another finals series.
“I’m really proud of the resilience of the footy club and the players to keep pushing along and keep working at what we need to do … they’ve been able to do that to give us a chance on the starting grid. I’m really pleased with that.”
Longmire said the Swans’ rollercoaster journey to securing a finals berth did not diminish the achievement.
“50 per cent of the teams that made finals last year didn’t make it this year, including last year’s premier, so it’s a tough thing to do every year,” he said.
“It can be underestimated how hard it is to make finals every year. The whole competition is set up so you don’t do that, essentially.
The tall forward combination of Logan McDonald, Joel Amartey and Hayden McLean will be the least experienced deployed by any finalist, but Longmire said leaders Heeney and Papley would be able to keep the forward line humming in the heat of a finals battle.
“They’re players that have been around for a while and understand what it’s about – they understand the importance of playing well and playing to your trademark every week,” he said.
“We’re confident they can help those younger ones a bit.”
Longmire said it would be important the defensive responsibility for Coleman medallist Charlie Curnow was not left solely to Tom McCartin on Friday night.
“(Curnow) is one of the premier forwards in the competition and it won’t just be about Tom,” he said.
“We’ll have to put on enormous pressure up the ground as a first point of call … we have to make sure it’s a team-orientated defence.”
Originally published as AFL Finals 2023: John Longmire hails Sydney’s resilient season