It has been five years since the Sydney Swans defeated the Hawks by 10 points in the 2012 Grand Final.
Looking back on the Sydney team that took the field that day, a fair bit has changed.
Key defenders Ted Richards and Martin Mattner have retired. Lewis Jetta was trade to bitter rivals West Coast. Adam Goodes, who was one of the best on the day, has since won Australian of the Year and retired from the game.
Who could have predicted that by the end of 2016, rising defensive star Alex Johnson would not have added any senior games to his total of 45 due to a sadistic run of injuries?
The 2012 season was also John Longmire’s second as head coach of the Swans. The year prior, they had finished seventh and lost to Hawthorn in the semi finals.
In their premiership season, they would finish third, defeating the second placed Adelaide Crows in Adelaide before taking out the plucky Magpies at ANZ Stadium and of course, defeating the minor premiers on the last Saturday in September.
This Bloods team that had the skill and nerve to beat the best in the biggest game of the year certainly looked like it had what it took be hoisting many more premiership cups in the years to come, especially with the playing additions they would soon make.
These include star Adelaide ruckman/forward Kurt Tippett in 2013, three-time Coleman Medalist Lance Franklin the year after, and young, academy bred superstars Isaac Heeney and Callum Mills in subsequent years.
How is it then that Sydney has not won a single premiership since, despite having been back to the grand final twice?
In losing grand final efforts in 2014 and 2016, the Swans finished first on the ladder in both years.
Many will be quick to point out that in 2014, the Bloods separated themselves from second and third only on percentage, but in 2016, they were facing the seventh placed team from the home and away season – a team so often written off as too young and naïve to even be in the grand final.
Despite the almost implausible performance of the Western Bulldogs’ last year, it was a game Sydney had a massive head start in on both the talent and experience.
In fact, that latter category counted for almost naught on the day – it was the Bulldogs that, concerningly so, showed immense amounts more mental toughness than their opponents.
For those who wish to suggest that they also played free of the weight of expectation, tell that to the long suffering Footscary fans that had not seen their team in a Grand Final for 55 years.
But how could this be? This Swans side had one premiership, another grand final and a preliminary final under the belt during the Longmire reign.
For a while now, ‘Horse’ has taken the brunt of the criticism for his team’s annual underachievement.
We thought we might have seen the worst of it in 2015 when, after finishing fourth, the Swans lost a home semi final to the eight placed North Melbourne Kangaroos by over four goals.
This was the same team that they had beaten away from home during the season and by over 70 points in the prior year’s preliminary final at the same venue.
Certainly it is very easy to blame a coach for a team’s failures – a captain whose ship has sunk can blame the weather, but he was the one who steered them into it.
There is no doubt in the phrase “hindsight is 20/20”, but when John Longmire chose to play an unfit Callum Mills and Jarrad McVeigh in the Grand Final, he opted to field two less than competent players in the club’s biggest match of the year.
As a result, the Swans were criticsed in their loss for their lack of run out of the back, allowing the Dogs to keep them trapped in their own half for long stretches of the game, particularly in the second half.
Of course, this is just one example of what was perhaps a naïve decision from a sixth year head coach, and the unavailability of Aliir Aliir for the match certainly weakened the defence as well.
But one would imagine that Longmire has both played in and coached enough big matches to not make the kind of decision that ends up directly affecting the style of football his club looks to play.
One poor decision does not condemn a coach to the unemployment line. Every top gaffer has made mistakes before; it is how he or she learns from those mistakes that indeed makes them great.
Now in his seventh season in control of the Swans, one wonders whether or not the club is beginning to closely count how many mistakes Horse has and hasn’t learned from in his time as head coach.
The team has recruited impressively over the past few years, and has put everything in place for long and sustained periods of domination.
What should be, but isn’t following, are the premierships. Someone is going to be held accountable soon, and it may very well be the coach.