Mills always to skipper Swans despite Mad Monday: coach

Jasper Bruce |

Callum Mills has been announced as Sydney’s lone skipper for the 2024 AFL season.
Callum Mills has been announced as Sydney’s lone skipper for the 2024 AFL season.

John Longmire says it was always a given that Callum Mills would one day become Sydney’s sole skipper, despite the midfielder questioning his leadership future after his Mad Monday injury.

Mills, Luke Parker and Dane Rampe had been co-captains for the past two seasons but the Swans announced on Tuesday that 26-year-old Mills would do the job on his own in 2024.

Rampe floated the possibility of he and Parker stepping down at the end of last season, with the decision to appoint Mills officially communicated to the playing group this week.

“I feel super privileged and honoured to be able to be sole captain of the footy club,” Mills said.

“It’s something I hold really close to my heart.”

Mills underwent surgery after damaging the rotator cuff on his left shoulder while wrestling a teammate in post-season celebrations last year.

Callum Mills.
Callum Mills visits Swans HQ in a sling after an off-season shoulder operation. (Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS)

The incident left Mills to fear the Swans could strip him of the co-captaincy as they plotted to improve on last season’s eighth-placed finish.

“It runs through your mind when you make mistakes,” Mills said.

“But I go back to the conversations I had with ‘Horse’ (Longmire), and the support I felt from the club, board down, was something that was quite reassuring.

“I think the fact is I’m human and I made a mistake but I’m not going to let it define me and be able to lead the group the best I can.”

The Swans will rotate the captaincy until Mills returns, likely around the mid-point of the season, and are still working to determine the make-up of their leadership group.

Premiership coach Longmire first identified Mills’ leadership potential when he was a teenager coming through the Swans’ Academy.

The Sydney product has remained a favourite of the coach’s since being taken with the third pick of the 2015 draft and making his senior debut the following year.

Callum Mills and John Longmire.
Callum Mills and John Longmire await a question during the Sydney Swans’ media conference. (Bianca De Marchi/AAP PHOTOS)

He has since played 155 games for the Swans and was an All-Australian in 2022.

“I think everyone sort of expected at some point Callum was going to do the job (as sole captain),” Longmire said.

“I think that was probably an unspoken given amongst the playing group.”

The Mad Monday mishap did not shake Longmire’s faith.

“His ability to be able to keep thinking of the team and how can we keep improving, is the thing that stands out,” Longmire said.

“In the end, that’s the thing that still stands out. We all make mistakes, we all learn.

“The ability for Callum to be able to go on this journey, we think is going to be ultimately in his captaincy a real learning experience.

“We’ve got absolute confidence that he already has been and will continue to be a fantastic leader for this footy club.”

Not since Josh Kennedy in 2018 has a sole captain led Sydney, but Mills did not foresee much of a change in his role.

“I don’t think it’s going to be a massive shift,” he said.

“We’ve got a great mix of leaders, young and old, that I’m going to lean on. We’ll get the best out of each other.”

AAP