IS IT possible for an AFL premiership-winning coach to be underrated?

When the topic of the best coaches currently plying their trade in the AFL is raised, Fremantle mentor Ross Lyon's name is invariably somewhere near the head of the pack.

Revered for the discipline and defensive principles he instils in his players, Lyon reached three Grand Finals with St Kilda before transforming the perennially underachieving Dockers into flag hopefuls in less than two years.

With an excellent winning percentage of 64 over almost seven seasons, Lyon is still chasing his first premiership.

Mick Malthouse is another who occupies rarefied air in the coaching ranks and rightly so after a sustained level of excellence that has yielded three flags over almost three decades at the top level.

Now at his fourth club, Malthouse is trying to put his mark on Carlton and build on a career winning percentage of 58.

Alastair Clarkson has won 59 per cent of his games over nine seasons and is credited with introducing the 'cluster' that helped Hawthorn win the 2008 flag.

Chris Scott has a remarkable record in almost three years at Geelong, winning 77 per cent of his 66 games, the best record of the modern batch of coaches, including a flag in 2011.

There is another coach, however, who has totally transformed his team's style of play and won a premiership in just his second season.

His winning percentage of 69 is second only to Scott, but it is arguable he doesn't find himself in the same conversation as his above contemporaries.

It is John Longmire, an astute tactician and fiercely-driven man who is well on the path towards leaving an indelible, and potentially historic, imprint on the Swans.

While he has managed to maintain the near-maniacal focus on contested football that is the Swans' trademark, Longmire has transformed them offensively.

Adopting elements of the forward press that became so successful for Malthouse's premiership-winning Collingwood side in 2010, he also launched a breathtaking brand of football that has become known as the 'slingshot'.

It carried the previously unheralded Swans all the way to the 2012 premiership which, as has been widely acknowledged outside the club, came a year or two ahead of schedule for their young, rebuilding list.

Rhyce Shaw is well placed to comment on the current coaching fraternity, having been led by Malthouse at Collingwood and then Roos and Longmire in Sydney.

And Shaw believes Longmire deserves to be right amongst the debate about the best coaches currently in the game.

"I've been with Mick and Roosy and now 'Horse' (Longmire)," Shaw told

"Horse's competitiveness for the contest is some of the most intense I've ever seen.

"He's a real competitor and you probably don't see that in the public eye.

"But he's a real winner and wants to get the best out of every individual in his team and also provides that support when needed.

"He's just got a fantastic balance in that respect and he should be in that conversation of the top coaches for sure."

As a player, Longmire was a key member of the North Melbourne side that dominated the 1990s, five times leading the club's goalkicking and claiming a Coleman Medal in 1990.

Cut down by a serious knee injury, Longmire retired after helping North win the 1999 flag, becoming a forwards and ruck coach at the Swans in 2002.

Longmire celebrates his 1999 premiership with North Melbourne. Picture: AFL Media

In a real 'Sliding Doors' moment for both men, Longmire was then overlooked for the Saints job won by Lyon in late 2006.

Instead, he would eventually inherit the top post at the Swans when Roos stepped aside in 2010.

Swans great Michael O'Loughlin, who worked alongside Longmire for eight years, believes his humble approach means he isn't always afforded the same recognition as some others in the coaching caper.

"I love him. I think he's one of the best people you can meet in football," O'Loughlin said.

"He's so humble, respectful; he's just one of those guys you love being around.

"You never hear a bad word about him and he's certainly underrated, but that's just John's style. There's no fuss about him.
"He doesn't go out to seek the limelight.

"He was a champion player struck down by injury, but when that finished he just moved on really quickly and has established himself as one of the best coaches in the land."

If Longmire himself doesn't always draw high praise, the way his Swans are playing is certainly being recognised.

Very few interviews conducted with either the coach or any of his Swans doesn't include the phrase "four-quarter effort".

It's a cliché, but it is critical to the way the Swans want to play.

Longmire with Kieren Jack and Dan Hannebery after the Swans' 2012 flag victory. Picture: AFL Media

Western Bulldogs veteran Robert Murphy noted that element when his side pressed the Swans hard at Etihad Stadium last weekend before suffering a six-goal loss.

"The way that we're coached and the way we're all taught the game, they're the benchmark, Sydney," Murphy said on Fox Footy this week.

"I was proud of the way we went toe-to-toe with them for the majority of the game and I left the game thinking it was almost a missed opportunity.

"But they go right to the bell every time. That's what is so good about them.

"They do the ordinary things all the time, every time."

A key indicator of the imprint Longmire is leaving on the Swans is evident in the way the side is performing without some key personnel.

Most would expect the extended absences of premiership players Adam Goodes, Lewis Jetta, Lewis Roberts-Thomson, Sam Reid, Alex Johnson, Marty Mattner and Shaw would leave the Swans battling to stay afloat.

Instead, previously unheralded players like Brandon Jack, Jed Lamb, Dane Rampe and Jesse White have stepped in and the Swans haven't missed a beat, sitting second with four rounds remaining.

O'Loughlin calls Longmire "a very intelligent and switched on guy" and marvels at his dedication, saying "from day one he was always the first one in and the last to leave".

And he can boast another vital coaching element – the players want to perform for him.

"Roosy was one-on-one, miserly defence, try to win the game 1-0," Shaw said.

"It worked with the personnel we had and as Roosy's record shows, he was very successful with it.

"But Horse has come in and we attack a lot more. We try to kick goals and really hurt the opposition on the scoreboard, plus having the defence as well.

"I think that combination is really putting his stamp on our side."

Chris ScottGeelong6651150771
John LongmireSydney Swans6746192691
Ross LyonSt Kilda/Freo163104545640
Alastair ClarksonHawthorn206122831591
Mick MalthouseWB/WC/Coll/Carl6823952816583
John WorsfoldWest Coast2771481272531

James Dampney is a reporter for AFL Media. Follow him on Twitter @AFL_JD