Appointing AFL coaches just because they have played for that club is not always the best strategy, but in this case, Justin Longmuir ticks all the boxes for Fremantle.
More than a decade after hanging up his boots after 139 games for the Dockers and after a long coaching apprenticeship, Longmuir has come full circle and signed a three-year deal to take charge of his former club.
A young, modern coach with tactical nous, he presents 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 club’s members.
The 38-year-old has been credited with turning Collingwood’s defence into one of the best in the AFL and industry experts say he was the standout of the level four accredited assistants before being appointed to the senior role at the Dockers.
At West Coast, he helped develop key forwards Jack Darling and Josh Kennedy into the players they are.
And while still young in coaching terms, he has done a decade-long apprenticeship under two of the most respected leaders in the game, Adam Simpson and Nathan Buckley.
He also credits the late Phil Walsh and Neale Daniher as key influences.
No club walks away at this point of the process of hiring a new coach unhappy with the decision that they have made, and on paper this is a very good appointment by Fremantle.
But as the man he is replacing, Ross Lyon, would say, “football games aren’t won on paper”.
He will need more support in the coaching department than is currently there, along with some better help from the list management team in terms of talent identification and player retention.
Dockers president Dale Alcock and the board have made it their aim to change the culture at the Dockers and this is just one part of it.
If Longmuir’s first media conference as coach is anything to go by, you get a feel for what is trying to be achieved, and that is making Fremantle a family-first club with a simple emphasis 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 to achieve out of their football careers,” he said.
“It just gives me a great buzz and a great feeling to be able to help young men achieve.”
The new Dockers coach was a very good player for Fremantle and could have been a great one, if not for a degenerative knee injury that ended his career at just 26.
“They put a lot of faith in a skinny kid from the country and drafted me, I personally don’t feel that [I] fulfilled that faith that they showed, so to get another opportunity to fulfil that faith is really exciting,” Longmuir said.
He certainly had unfinished business as a player at the club, and despite being at both the Magpies and the Eagles as an assistant when they played in grand finals, he is yet to taste premiership success in his coaching career — just as the Dockers are yet to taste it.
So while Longmuir ticks a lot of boxes for Fremantle, there are a few of his own he needs to tick as well.