I was broke, says new Freo coach
New Fremantle coach Ross Lyon has revealed he took St Kilda to the 2009 grand final as he battled extreme stress in the face of financial ruin.
Lyon confirmed this week that he had lost a significant seven-figure sum in a month in failed investments in an Australian mining company at the height of the global financial crisis, just as he was preparing for the 2009 season.
He and his wife Kirsten, who had recently given birth to their now three-year-old son Jai, sold their family properties and moved back into his father Maurie’s home in the Melbourne suburb of Reservoir for six months.
The property was about an 80km round trip to St Kilda’s club base at Moorabbin. While Lyon said his tenure at St Kilda in the past two seasons had enabled him to forge a significantly more stable financial position, he believed his past dire situation had better equipped him with the tools to handle the stresses of coaching an AFL team.
The 44-year-old, who flew into Perth yesterday morning, made national headlines last week when the Dockers announced he would replace Mark Harvey.
He will be paid $3.2 million under the terms of a four-year deal.
“It was pretty significant,” Lyon said. “I didn’t tell anyone but my closest friends. I just dug in with my wife Kirsten and we coped.
“It was huge but I didn’t want any handouts and I look after myself.
“Everyone got hit and it was my own stupidity. It certainly wasn’t cowboy stuff.
“It had been a 10-year investment that basically disappeared. That’s what I was coping with.
“It was pretty stressful and I had one bad night.
“But if you’re talking about handling stress, I didn’t miss a beat.”
In a wide-ranging interview, Lyon also told of:
·His emotional hurt over questions regarding his integrity in the way he replaced Harvey.
·His belief that contacting Harvey would be offensive.
·The scars from losing two grand finals with St Kilda.
·How resurrecting the career of former Eagle Michael Gardiner remained a great satisfaction.
But coping with the financial heartache of 2009 was also the pre-cursor to a cruel double twist of fate last year before he led the Saints into two epic grand final battles with Collingwood.
His sister Julie, who had been battling breast cancer for 18 months, died suddenly in July after she succumbed to an undetectable cancer.
He laments not getting the chance to say goodbye and said taking his sister’s seven-year-old daughter to hospital to say a final farewell to her mother had hit hard.
Then last November, his 24-year-old nephew Kane, son of his sister Michelle, was killed in a motorcycle accident while on holiday in north Queensland.
Lyon continued his coaching role, telling only his closest confidantes of his personal traumas.
“I don’t wear it as a badge of honour,” he said.
“We all go through it and we’ve all got difficulties but at the end of the day it’s about being mentally tough and to keep going.
“If you talk about commitment, under the fiercest heat I feel like I’ve been able to dig in and not flinch.
“But at the end of the year, as soon as you stop to think it can knock you around a little bit.”