Foundation Fremantle coach Gerard Neesham today slammed the decision to axe Mark Harvey and appoint St Kilda’s Ross Lyon.

Neesham said Harvey, who was in his third season in charge at Parry Street, did a manful job in charge of the Dockers this year with limited resources, listing the season-ending injury to Anthony Morabito and limited game time of captain Matthew Pavlich and ruckman Aaron Sandilands as reasons for the Dockers failing to make the finals.

“The decision to axe Harvey after having up to nine senior players unavailable because of long term injury borders on an act of treachery,” Neesham told The Australian.

“Dockers president Steve Harris, who has never kicked a footy in his life, and chief executive Steve Rosich have thrown the rule book into the Swan River.

“I’m just stunned when I heard the news. I think this is totally unfair in the way they got rid of a very decent bloke.

“Harvey sat next Harris on the same table at a breakfast in Perth and had no idea that the axe was going to fall just a few hours later.

“He simply never saw his sacking coming. The way it’s been handled leaves a very bad smell.

“What must the players think? What loyalty has Harris and Rosich shown to Harvey who still had a year to run on his contract? None whatsoever.

“This just stinks to the high heaven and smacks of a very mercenary act,” Neesham said, who now runs the Clontarf Foundation, a nationwide charitable organisation working with disenfranchsied Aboriginal children, was in Sydney when told of the news.

A former player with the Sydney Swans in the mid-1980s, he went on to coach the Dockers from 1995 to 1998, and was himself sacked and replaced by then former Ron Barassi assistant Damian Drum.

Ross Lyon, who informed the St Kilda board late yesterday of his decision to accept an improved and extended contract offer to stay at Moorabbin, will be officially unveiled as the new Dockers coach later today.

The fate of Harvey’s assistants, Todd Curley, Simon Lloyd, Barry Mitchell and Michael Prior, remains undecided.

AFL Coaches Association chief executive Danny Frawley was highly critical of the manner in which Harvey was terminated at the Dockers.

“Given the injury rate at Fremantle this year, Mark (Harvey) did a remarkable job in keeping the team in contention until the very end of the season,” Frawley said.

“Regardless of contract payouts, coaches simply want to be given the opportunity to complete their tenure, in this case a two year contract extension agreed upon only 12 months ago.

“Harvs is shattered that he won’t get the opportunity to finish on good terms with Fremantle, a club which he has given his all.”

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