Jonathon Griffin key to new Dockers coach Ross Lyon’s plans
Ruckman Jonathon Griffin has told Fremantle he wants to stay in WA, according to incoming coach Ross Lyon.
“I really value ruckmen my history in coaching tells me that and anyone who’s watched the finals in the last few weeks will understand that,” Lyon said.
“Obviously, getting it forward and locking it in the front half is a key to (success), so he’s (Griffin) got an important role to play in that.
“If you’re talking hitouts, he’s probably the next best in line behind (Aaron) Sandilands, there’s no doubt about that.”
Griffin, originally an East Fremantle product, left Adelaide to boost the Dockers’ ruck stocks this year, but a lack of opportunity linked him to a return to South Australia.
The Dockers’ commitment to triple All-Australian Sandilands and apprentice Zac Clarke resulted in little game-time for Griffin.
But when Sandilands was sidelined with injury, the 25-year-old performed superbly.
He averaged 26.7 hitouts a game double that of Clarke played a crucial pressure role with a 3.4 tackle average, built to 14.1 possessions a match and contributed four goals across his seven outings.
But when Sandilands returned, Fremantle opted to again relegate Griffin, triggering talk he wanted to head to Port Adelaide to lead the Power’s ruck following the retirement of Dean Brogan.
Griffin was one of few players the coach contacted during his first week at the club, with many on holidays.
Lyon spoke to Griffin this week, with the coach telling ABC Radio “he wants to stay at Fremantle”.
Griffin’s hitout ability would give Lyon a crucial point of control over stoppages at Patersons Stadium, a large ground that, for the past five seasons, has been the former St Kilda coach’s home away from home.
Lyon dragged his team on the lengthy trip from Melbourne to Perth eight times through his tenure with the Saints, returning an impeccable record of six wins and two losses.
The figures are the coach’s best considering the number of games away from Melbourne grounds Etihad Stadium and the MCG, with the most comparable being AAMI Stadium, where Lyon’s Saints also played eight times but had only three wins.
The Saints’ control over contested ball through stoppages at Patersons Stadium, coupled with the fluctuating form of both the Eagles and Dockers in the past five seasons, helped Lyon maximise his former team’s impact at the uniquely shaped ground, to the point that St Kilda created an eight-match hoodoo over Freo.
The last time the Dockers defeated the Saints was in Lyon’s first trip to Subiaco as senior coach in Round 9, 2007.
Lyon said the cigar-shaped home ground was a benefit the Dockers would look to exploit, but he also stressed the isolation of WA presented trials for his new club.
“It’s clearly one of the longest grounds in the AFL it’s a big ground,” Lyon said. “Teams have to fly here, (so there’s) the tyranny of distance.
“Certainly teams have travelled better than they ever have and if you want to be a good team, you’ve got to win interstate.
“So, whether you’re flying east or west, it’s an added variable, but at the end of the day, there’s sticks at both ends, there’s grass and there’s a white line.
“I think there’s maturity in the AFL now that grounds don’t intimidate anyone.