New senior coach Justin Longmuir wouldn’t take back even the toughest experiences from his playing days at Fremantle, saying they have helped shape the person and the coach he is today.
In a special episode of Fremantle’s The Purple Patch podcast with hosts 'Duck and Oz', Longmuir spoke candidly about his troubles settling in to the football club as a shy country boy, as well as the literal and metaphorical pain of the 2006 season.
Growing up in Koorda, a town of less than 300 people 230km east of Perth, Longmuir was at times the only student in his grade at school.
At 17, after being taken at no.2 in the 1998 National Draft, Longmuir said his shyness made it difficult for him to find his feet at AFL level.
“When I came down I was so raw. I was years off being able to execute my role and mix it with some of the players that I had to mix it against,” Longmuir said.
“I’m a lot better equipped now to handle a lot of things but a lot of the experiences that I went through as a player has made me who I am now and helped shape me as a coach. I draw on those experiences a lot.”
Longmuir said he often reflects on those days when relating to Fremantle’s current list.
“Something that I regret to some degree, was not putting myself out there to learn from the experiences of those that had been before me,” Longmuir said.
“I was a shy country boy that didn’t put myself out there enough. I wasn’t a sponge, I didn’t learn as well as I should have from the older boys.
“They’re the mistakes that I learn from and I try and impart those on the younger kids now.”
Longmuir spoke in depth about the 2006 season where Fremantle made their first preliminary final.
Playing as a versatile forward/ruckman, Longmuir said the year was filled with a number of highs for the team but also some personal lows as he battled a degenerative knee injury.
“It was by far the best season I’ve played in terms of win-loss but it was a really challenging season for me personally,” Longmuir said.
“I remember only doing two main training sessions for the year and I reckon that was the worst my knee got that year.
“Although I was playing most weeks, I didn’t really enjoy the season because of the pain I was in.
“It does take a hit on you after a while when you’re continuously trying to play without the preparation on the training track.
“I got to the end of that year and I felt like I was done mentally, to be honest. It was a really frustrating year and a real grind.”
Longmuir added that he’s never experienced a better football environment than he did in 2006.
“As far as the team goes, I’ve don’t think I’ve ever been at a football club where you felt in the zone as a team as much,” Longmuir said.
“The weeks just rolled on in the back half of that season, we just felt like we were in a real groove.
“All the good players were playing really well and we sort of felt bullet proof as a team. You come up against whoever, wherever and you just feel that confidence that you’re going to win.
“I think we strung nine in a row together towards the end of that season and we had our opportunities in (the preliminary final) against Sydney.
“I was one of those players that didn’t make the most of a few opportunities. I feel like we created enough, we just couldn’t finish off like really good teams do.
“My preparations probably didn’t allow me to execute in that prelim final and that was a disappointing way to finish, as we felt like we could have gone all the way.”
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The @purplereign95 boys return for season 2?? with a special in-depth chat with new Freo coach @justinlongmuir
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Longmuir played only two more games following the preliminary final loss before retiring early in 2007 as a 26-year-old.
While he felt he physically could have played for longer, he said he wasn’t capable of dealing with the mental challenges as his knee worsened.
“I had bone on bone in my right knee, and once that happens it doesn’t get better, it means you’ve lost the cartilage and the bones are rubbing on each other and wearing,” Longmuir said.
“In hindsight, I probably could have ground out another year for maybe a few more games and really pushed it, but the thing with being in rehabs for so long and putting up with something like that for so long, it becomes a bit of a mental burden with setback after setback.
“It just does your head in mentally and that’s probably the thing that got me in the end.”
As tough as these experiences were, Longmuir feels they have made him more equipped to relate to his players.
“To be honest, at the end of my career, it took me a lot of time to get over,” Longmuir said.
“I wouldn’t take it back, all of your experience in life helps create who you are now.
“I didn’t have a smooth career so I feel like that has helped make me the coach I am today.
“It’s helped build empathy in who I am and I have a real understanding of players who go through similar in their careers.”