Mark Harvey’s long-time mentor Kevin Sheedy has likened the former Fremantle coach’s shock sacking yesterday to “coming out of a war zone and being shot by one of your own”.

Sheedy, the four-time Essendon premiership coach now at Greater Western Sydney, joined the AFL Coaches’ Association in describing Harvey’s stunning axing as “very disappointing.”

Yesterday morning an apparently unsuspecting Harvey attended an awards breakfast as Dockers coach. By the afternoon he knew he was out of a job. By yesterday evening, the football world knew that Ross Lyon would replace him.

Fremantle officially confirmed less than half an hour ago that Lyon would be its new coach on a four-year contract.

“It’s very, very disappointing and difficult. I was on the coaches’ association for a couple of years helping to make sure we look after our coaches,” Sheedy told ABC radio.

“Mark Harvey to me is a magnificent young coach and I really hope Fremantle doesn’t become like one of those Melbourne clubs that gets that desperate to win a premiership that they tear the heart and soul out of the club.

“Mark loved coaching Fremantle. This is like coming out of a war zone and being shot by one of your own.”

Harvey this morning flew out of Perth and Lyon flew in, as Fremantle prepares to officially install the former St Kilda man as its new coach.

The shell-shocked Harvey reportedly travelled with the budget airline Tiger, despite being likely to receive a payout of up to $500,000 for the remaining year of his contract. He was believed to be bound for Melbourne.

Lyon, meanwhile, who only told St Kilda yesterday that he wouldn’t be back for 2012, will be unveiled by the Dockers at a press conference at noon.

Lyon has flown into a furore about Harvey’s sacking, with speculation that the former Saints mentor had been in discussions with the Dockers for several weeks and confirmation that he negotiated with Fremantle without the knowledge of his management.

Elite Sports Properties – which also, coincidentally, manages Harvey – immediately severed ties with Lyon.

AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou said this morning that Lyon’s actions opened up debate about “integrity”, while coaches’ association chief Danny Frawley said Harvey had been hard done by.

“Given the injury rate at Fremantle this year, Mark 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 to which he has given his all.”

A clearer picture of the swiftness with which Harvey was dispensed with emerged today thanks to his friend and former St Kilda player Michael Roberts.

Roberts, who was with Harvey at yesterday’s breakfast event, confirmed to Perth radio station 6PR that Harvey never saw it coming.

“Three hours later he rings me and says ‘Robbo I’ve been sacked sacked as Fremantle coach and in comes Ross Lyon’,” Roberts said.

“I actually got him to repeat it three times because I’ve been through this situation with Princess Diana when I was in the Channel 9 newsroom. I spoke to the bureau over there and they told us Princess Di had a car accident and of course it was tragic.

“It actually went through my head [that it might not be true] as Harvs is a practical joker. But I could hear it in his voice. He was quite tense and disappointed and then fired up by the afternoon.”

He called me in the afternoon and said ‘I’ve just been sacked as Fremantle coach’,” Roberts said.

The Dockers’ foundation coach Gerard Neesham also told The Australian that Harvey’s sacking was almost an “act of treachery.”

But Fremantle president Steve Harris said that Lyon, whose 63 per cent winning percentage is the highest of any current AFL coach to have coached for more than one year, was the “right fit culturally for the club”.

“Ross’s professional attributes and coaching style are founded on a demanding worth ethic highlighted by his professionalism, diligence and a ruthless will to win,” Harris said.

“It is clear that Ross can deliver a consistent and successful game style while at the same time continue to build the culture of our playing group.

“Despite the disquiet caused by our decision to end Mark Harvey’s tenure at Fremantle, we believe it was the right decision in the long-term interests to appoint Ross to take over as a senior coach of the club.

“We expect under Ross’s guidance to execute a well-planned pre-season that will lay the foundation for a playing group that is consistent, driven and competitive throughout the entire home and away season and plays finals in 2012.”

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