Justin Longmuir as coach of the Fremantle Dockers of the AFL makes sense – now for the difficult part.
Appointing AFL coaches just because they have played for this club is not always the best strategy, but in this case, Justin Longmuir marks all the fields for Fremantle.
More than a decade after hanging his boots after 139 games for the Dockers and after a long coaching apprenticeship, the circle closes and signs a three-year contract to take over the leadership of his former club.
As a young, modern coach with tactical skills, he presents himself well and understands today’s player.
“I believe in developing players holistically. This means focusing on their craft, their mental skills, and their physical traits,” he wrote in an open letter to the members of the club.
The 38-year-old was credited with making Collingwood’s defense one of the best in the AFL, and industry experts say he was the outstanding personality of accredited level four assistants before being appointed to the Dockers leadership role.
On the West Coast, he helped develop key strikers Jack Darling and Josh Kennedy into the players they are.
And while he’s still young in coaching, he’s had decades of training with two of the game’s most respected leaders, Adam Simpson, and Nathan Buckley.
Well done Longy, quality person who’ll have a great impact over west. We know he played at freo because we’ve seen that match winning goal 20x in 2 years. All the best J-Lo @justinlongmuir
— Scott Pendlebury (@SP_10) September 30, 2019
He also names the deceased Phil Walsh and Neale Daniher as main influences.
No club goes away at this point in the process of hiring a new coach who is dissatisfied with the decision he has made, and on paper, this is a very good appointment from Fremantle.
But as the man he replaces, Ross Lyon would say: “Football matches are not won on paper”.
He will need more support in the coaching department than is currently the case, along with better support from the list management team in terms of talent development and player retention.
Dockers President Dale Alcock and the Board have set themselves the goal of changing the Dockers’ culture, and that is only part of it.
If Longmuir’s first media conference as a coach is something you can let go of, you get a sense of what you want to achieve, and that makes Fremantle a family first club with a simple focus on Cockburn being a good place to work.
“The one thing that drives me as a coach is to help players achieve what they want from their football careers,” he said.
“It just gives me a great feeling and a great feeling to help young men achieve something.”
The new Dockers coach was a very good player for Fremantle and could have been a great player if not for a degenerative knee injury that ended his career at only 26.
“They put a lot of faith in a thin child from the country and drafted me in, I personally don’t feel that [I] fulfilled the faith they showed, so getting another opportunity to fulfill that faith is really exciting,” Longmuir said.
He certainly had unfinished business as a player in the club, and although he was there as an assistant to both the magpies and the eagles when they played in the Grand Final, he still has to taste the success of the Premier League in his coaching career – just as the Dockers will taste it.
So while Longmuir can tick many boxes for Fremantle, there are some of his own that he must tick as well.