Fremantle choose safe bet Lyon over unlucky Harvey
Fremantle’s sacking of coach Mark Harvey, and the subsequent revelation St Kilda coach Ross Lyon would be his replacement, was as unexpected as it was crazy as it was dramatic as it was gobsmacking. In the space of an hour last night, the footy world was blindsided.
Fremantle turned its back on a coach that has done almost everything right, at least in the past two years, with a year left on his contract.
St Kilda lost a coach it desperately wanted to keep and who had taken them to three grand finals, with a year left on his contract.
Melbourne, who were reportedly prepared to offer Lyon a five-year deal, were outmanoeuvred by a competing club for the second time in the space of a week.
It was incredible stuff, and it came from nowhere.
While it’s true the Dockers did not make the finals this season, the fact is few saw that as a poor reflection on Harvey, who many consider the best ever Dockers coach.
This season the club was simply decimated by injuries. Each and every week there were at least ten players on the sidelines. 23 players were on the final injury list of the season. It’s hard to recall a team in recent history being so harshly hit by injuries.
You could say that for the team to remain as competitive as it did despite the injury crisis was a positive reflection on Harvey’s coaching abilities, if anything.
Last season Harvey returned the Dockers to the finals – even flirting with a top four finish for most of the year – despite most in the media saying he was on his last legs at the beginning of the season. He took a list few saw life in and turned it into a team that was exciting to watch and, when fit at least, got results.
Then all of the sudden, he’s sacked.
When the news hit, it just seemed so bizarre. It was perplexing as to why Freo could possibly think of it as a good idea. No reasons were initially given for the club’s decision, which made it even worse.
Within an hour of the news breaking, though, Ross Lyon’s name started to be mentioned. Things started to become a little clearer.
From a Freo perspective, Lyon has runs on the board and would therefore be considered more of a “safe bet” going forward than Harvey. That doesn’t make it the right decision, mind you, especially considering the club have denied Harvey the chance to score more runs himself.
It just means they’ve taken the safer option. On top of that, it means Harvey is incredibly unlucky and has been judged unbelievably harshly.
From Lyon’s perspective, while a lot of St Kilda and Melbourne fans would be angry right now, you can comprehend why he chose the Dockers.
After St Kilda’s finals exit last weekend, Lyon said: “It certainly feels like the end of an era, to be honest.”
He clearly felt the Saints were in need of a rebuild that would take several years.
Melbourne, too, aren’t all that close to a premiership despite at least being at the back end of their rebuilding stage.
Freo, meanwhile, are a realistic chance to make the top four next year. They are also a predominantly young list. In many ways for Lyon this move is akin to getting control over St Kilda’s list a couple of years earlier on in their development than when he took over the Saints.
That’s a pretty good situation to be in.
The main criticism levelled at Lyon last night was the fact he bypassed his management and negotiated with Freo alone (while his management was putting together a new deal at St Kilda). It’s fair to raise an eyebrow at this, but it’s worth noting his manager, Craig Kelly, is also Harvey’s manager.
When you sit down and think about it, it’s a huge conflict of interest. There’s no way the Dockers would want Harvey to be made aware his position was under threat – especially if the deal ended up falling through.
It sounds a bit rough Lyon going out on his own, but it does seem like there was a sound reason behind it.
Then there’s Melbourne in all of this. I won’t stick the boot into them here (their supporters still haven’t forgiven me for Tuesday’s column) and it’s because they were just unfortunate that another club closer to a premiership than them was also in the market for Lyon.
Some will say this reflects on Melbourne’s standing as a club. That’s rubbish. If you are to compare the lists of both the Dockers and Demons, you are not comparing apples and apples – one club is simply further along than the other.
Lyon picked his club accordingly, as you would expect him to.
Last night’s news shocked the AFL community. There are plenty of questions yet to be asked. Will Mark Harvey get another job? What does this mean for the Adelaide, Melbourne and Western Bulldogs coaching searches?
Does this improve Fremantle’s chances next year? Or was it more important to for them overhaul the fitness department than the coaching department?
Where do St Kilda go from here? Do they go with an experienced coach or another untried coach?
It will be interesting to see what happens next.