As his 300th official match as a player and coach approaches, Ross Lyon says it’s the love for the game that has kept him involved in the system for so long.

This Saturday against Collingwood at the MCG, the Fremantle senior coach qualifies for AFL Life Membership for a career comprising 129 home and away matches as a player for Fitzroy and the Brisbane Bears, 17 pre-season matches as a player for Fitzroy, one State of Origin match, 133 premiership and 19 pre-season matches as a coach for St Kilda and Fremantle.

“Fundamentally, if you don’t love football you couldn’t work in a manner to keep you involved,” Lyon said.

“It’s something you have to work hard every day to be a part of and I’m really respectful and grateful of the opportunities the game has given me.”

Lyon said he had never taken his position in the game for granted and felt “privileged” to have an honour such as AFL Life Membership bestowed upon him.

“When it’s all finished, you’ll look back and say you’ve been resilient enough to withstand the rigours of AFL football and play a part in some way at different clubs,” he said.

“We all have our moments with the game, but overall, when you do look back, you build some magnificent friendships and meet some people that you feel blessed to have been involved with.

“Particularly my time at Sydney, during the premiership period, and then the players at the Saints that went to grand finals.

“They’ll always hold a special part of my AFL journey.”

As for playing compared to coaching, Lyon said they both had vastly different challenges.

“I was a very limited player and I’m still trying to prove myself as a coach,” he said.
“The reality is I wouldn’t be an AFL Life Member without the coaching. I can hardly remember playing, but I’m still alive and well as a coach at the minute.”

Football legend Kevin Sheedy holds the record, having been involved in 977 VFL/AFL games, and although Lyon has no plans to catch up to him, he wouldn’t mind making a bit of headway.

“There’d have to be a few premiership cups in the cupboard for that to happen,” he said.

For now, the 45-year-old father of three will continue to try and help his new club attain the sustained success it desires.

When his time in the game is up, he said he’ll look forward to using the privileges of AFL Life Membership and take his family to the footy.

“When it’s all over, I’ll be able to take my little boy, who is four, and my girls who are six and five, and enjoy the footy as a spectator.”

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