I’m no backstabber: Lyon
New Fremantle coach Ross Lyon says he has done nothing wrong in leaving St Kilda and replacing Mark Harvey in the senior role, and has simply exercised a “resignation clause” in his previous contract.
Lyon, in his first media appearance in front of the purple banner just hours after he touched down in Perth on Friday morning, said he was “very comfortable with my integrity and my honour” despite taking Harvey’s job.
“I’ve been head-hunted by the Fremantle football club and taken through a power point presentation, the club’s resources, their future direction and what they want to achieve,” he said.
“An attractive offer was put in front of me, I’m an AFL career coach, I have a young family, three children and my wife and they are my purpose, and at the other end I had no involvement or no understanding of the relationship between Fremantle football club and Mark Harvey.
“As I sit here today, I hold my head high.”
Harvey, like Lyon, had a year to run on his current contract.
Lyon said he didn’t feel like he had “stabbed Harvey in the back” and instead had just acted on the three-month “written resignation clause” that was factored into his last contract extension with St Kilda.
“If circumstances for either party arose where they wanted to exercise those options, they could,” he said.
“That situation arose for me so I’ve done nothing unlawful and have exercised an option that was written into my contract and has been there over the last couple of years.”
Lyon said negotiations with St Kilda had commenced in April this year but his request for a “four-year unconditional deal” was not met until Wednesday afternoon.
He said used lawyers to negotiate with Fremantle on his behalf after realising a conflict of interest with his management group ESP also representing Harvey.
He also said Thursday night’s split with ESP was a “mutual agreement”.
Fremantle president Steve Harris said he was able to look Harvey in the eye on Thursday when he told him of his sacking, and that the former coach had remained a chance to coach on next year until Thursday’s decision.
Harris also said “informal” talks between club CEO Steve Rosich and Lyon commenced the day after Fremantle’s last game, which was against the Western Bulldogs on September 3.
He said it was “simply not true” the two parties had been in talks for “five weeks”, and discussions had only become serious over three days earlier this week after the Saints’ season ended on Saturday night.
“Ross’ professional attributes and coaching style are founded on a demanding worth ethic highlighted by his professionalism, diligence and a ruthless will to win,” he 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.”
Lyon, 44, has been the senior coach for the past five seasons at St Kilda, where in 121 games he took the Saints to four finals series and three Grand Finals in two years (including the 2010 drawn grand final).
At 63 per cent, Lyon has the highest winning percentage of any current AFL coach who has coached for more than one year.
His tenure at St Kilda followed assistant coaching roles at the Sydney Swans (2004-2006), Carlton (2000-2003) and Richmond (1996-1999).
As a player, Lyon notched 127 games with Fitzroy over 10 years before a knee injury ended his career in 1995 after a further two games for Brisbane.
Lyon flew into Perth before 11am Western Australian time.
The Saints confirmed that Lyon had turned down an unconditional four-year deal to coach their club until the end of 2015.
The former Essendon star, who took over as caretaker coach from Chris Connolly with seven rounds remaining in 2007, still had one year to run on his contract.
In its statement, Fremantle did not outline any reasons for the 46-year-old’s dismissal.
St Kilda sent out a release late on Thursday stating Lyon would not be continuing as the club’s coach.
“The St Kilda Football Club is disappointed that Ross Lyon will not be continuing as senior coach. Until this evening the club was engaged in constructive discussions with Lyon’s management about his long term future at the Saints,” it read.
St Kilda legend and current assistant coach Robert Harvey will assume senior responsibility on an interim basis.
And in another incredible development on Thursday, it was reported that Lyon’s management – Elite Sports Properties – announced it was parting ways with the coach due to his negotiations with Freo.
Rosich said: “It was an extremely difficult decision to make but after lengthy consideration it is a decision that we believe is in the best interests of the long-term future of the Fremantle Football Club.
“We are very grateful for everything that Mark has done during his six years at the club and wish Mark all the best for the future, both personally and professionally.”