Sydney coach John Longmire knows better than most that AFL grand finals can be heartbreaking for players, even before the ball is bounced.
The former North Melbourne forward watched his side’s 1996 triumph over Sydney from the MCG coaches’ box due to a knee reconstruction, while he wasn’t picked in the Kangaroos side that lost to Adelaide in the 1998 grand final.
There will always be hard-luck stories on the last Saturday of September, and Hawthorn chalked up another in Brent Guerra on Monday.
Guerra, who suffered a serious hamstring injury in round 23, told coach Alastair Clarkson he had run out of time and wouldn’t be able to take on the Swans.
“As desperate as I am to play on Saturday, I realised that I couldn’t guarantee to Clarko or the team that I could do everything that would be asked of me in a grand final,” Guerra said.
“It was a gut-wrenching decision to make and it was difficult to address my teammates and coaches,” Guerra said.
Sydney fared better in the start to grand final week.
Swans ruckman Shane Mumford was cleared by the match review panel, despite murmurings he had deliberately made contact with the injured knee of Collingwood forward Chris Dawes.
Longmire confirmed Ted Richards, who looked in all sorts of trouble with an ankle injury against the Magpies, would be fine to take on the Hawks.
But hamstrung Ben McGlynn remains in a race against the clock to not only prove fitness, but show Longmire he is a calculated selection risk worth taking.
The Swans are hopeful McGlynn, who like on-baller Josh Kennedy came to the harbour city via Hawthorn, will on Thursday complete a regular training session for the first time since injuring his hamstring in week one of the finals against Adelaide.
However even if the small forward makes it through that SCG hit-out, he is no certainty to dislodge somebody from the side that defeated the Magpies in last Friday’s preliminary final.
“We need to make sure we make the right decision, and when the facts are in front of us we’ll do that,” Longmire said of the 27-year-old who had been a mainstay of the team prior to his setback.
“If he ticks the right boxes, it gives him a chance to play. We’ve got to be very clinical about it.”
Longmire, who overcame the two grand final setbacks to play his swansong in North’s 1999 premiership team, noted sentiment wouldn’t feature at the selection table this week.
“This time of the year, it’s always a tough time of the year for some players and it’s a great time of the year for most players,” he said.
“But some players find it very tough, there’ll be no difference this week. And there’ll be no difference at Hawthorn.”
While Guerra will be gutted, Hawks vice-captain Jordan Lewis said he has “no doubt” captain Luke Hodge will recover from a bout of gastro to take on the Swans.