If football’s ever ripe grapevine is to be believed, this was the third time Ross Lyon quit St Kilda in the last 12 months. The first time was when the grubby sequence of events known as the St Kilda schoolgirl saga first came to light. The second was after a handful of St Kilda players embarrassed themselves and the club on a pre-season trip to New Zealand. Most clubs at least wait until the end-of-season trip. Don’t they, Gold Coast? now a real football club.
Lyon was disgusted. His philosophy as a coach had evolved and matured at Sydney, a club with a famous (but negotiable) ”no dickheads” policy. He set himself to reform St Kilda’s culture, and failed. Reportedly, officials talked him into seeing out the season.
Then the Saints lost Lenny Hayes who, departing from tradition, at least was not substance-affected and had his clothes on at the time. In the first half of the season, the ironically nicknamed Saints couldn’t take a trick. Somehow, they made the finals anyway. But it became a token appearance, exposed as such by Sydney, Lyon’s alma mater. And always, a sense of unease pervaded the club. St Kilda is the club of eternal unease.
Last night, unease descended abruptly into uproar. Lyon sacked St Kilda. Lyon’s management sacked him. Fremantle sacked Mark Harvey. Media, us included, smacked ourselves over the hands. In the leakiest game in town, no one caught a whiff of this. There ought to be a media inquiry. Oh wait, there is one.
Immediately, the moral scatter-gun began its rat-a-tat-tat. Lyon had betrayed St Kilda. Lyon had betrayed the players he ”retired” last Saturday (doesn’t anyone really think his decision was unilateral?). Lyon had betrayed his management, the ironically named ESP. Fremantle had betrayed Harvey. But didn’t the Fremantle players betray Harvey? And didn’t the St Kilda players betray Lyon? And didn’t ESP betray both? After all, it managed both, at least until 8pm last night. What sort of left-and-right-hand management is that?
Betrayal? Humbug. The corollary to betrayal is the always ethereal concept of loyalty. Melbourne betrayed Dean Bailey, but Tom Scully betrayed Melbourne. The Bulldogs betrayed Rodney Eade, but Callan Ward betrayed the Bulldogs. Betrayal, shmetrayal.
Lyon betrayed St Kilda by listening to overtures from other clubs. Harvey betrayed Fremantle by making overtures of his own. Lyon jumped. Harvey was pushed. That is the only difference.
Football, let’s face it, and despite protestations of teamsmanship, is every man for himself. There is no such thing as morality, just results. In an only slightly alternative universe, Lyon would today be a dual St Kilda premiership coach, Harvey (sans injury curse) would at least be the first Fremantle coach to take the club to successive finals, and Collingwood would be politely but impatiently holding the door open for Mick Malthouse.
Instead, this morning, Collingwood (rather awkwardly) has two coaches, Fremantle one and St Kilda half of one. Or, to put it another way, St Kilda has a coach called Harvey, Fremantle has a coach called Lyon, and Melbourne has Lyon, but still no coach. It’s that simple.