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Why Ross should no longer be boss

13th Man Roar Rookie

By 13th Man, 13th Man is a Roar Rookie New author!

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    The 15th of September 2011 was a massive day in the history of the Fremantle Football Club. Indeed it was one of the most important days in their history: it marked the start of a new era.

    A change of guernsey and logo was only the start. Then coach Mark Harvey, who had led Fremantle to the semi-finals in 2010 before enduring a disastrous 2011 season, when injuries hit the side so hard that the Dockers had to ask the AFL for special permission to play rookies, was cast aside in the most brutal of circumstances.

    Just that morning Harvey had been talking about the upcoming season at a breakfast. By the afternoon he was gone.

    Only two hours later the reason became apparent: Ross Lyon had left St Kilda, who he had led to three grand finals, and was set to become the new coach of the Fremantle Dockers.

    As a lifelong fan and member of the Fremantle Dockers, I was excited about the move. Yes it had been harsh on Harvey, but we were finally getting a coach who I believed could take us all the way – finally a coach who would mean the Dockers would be taken seriously.

    And for a glorious few years it was indeed a match made in heaven. Freo really was the perfect fit for the aptly named ‘Ross the Boss’. It was a side about to hit the peak of its powers with perhaps three of Fremantle’s greatest ever players – Matthew Pavlich, Luke McPharlin and Aaron Sandilands – coming towards the end of their careers and hungry for success.

    Ross Lyon

    (Adam Trafford/AFL Media/Getty Images)

    In 2012, Lyon’s first season in charge, Fremantle made the semi-finals, beating reigning premiers Geelong in an elimination final in Melbourne, proving themselves as a potential future power of the competition.

    By 2013 they were one of the best sides in the league, making it all the way to the grand final. It was a glorious time. The Cappuccino Strip turned purple, and as a 17-year-old in the middle of year 12 exams I still made my way to the MCG to watch Fremantle hopefully make history under Ross the Boss.

    It wasn’t to be. Hawthorn were at the absolute peak of their powers as the best team of the modern era – but we ran them close, and perhaps if we’d been accurate, who knows? Lyon may well have had that elusive premiership.

    However, hope springs eternal, and I felt that the next two years would be our big chance, finally winning a premiership for our champion Pav.

    The 2014 and 2015 seasons were two of the most frustrating years I can remember. With so much expectation we played really well throughout the season only to crumble in the finals. Fremantle went out in straight sets in 2014 and lost a preliminary final to Hawthorn at home in 2015, robbing Western Australia fans from the ultimate: a derby grand final.

    However, in 2015, despite finishing on top of the ladder, the cracks started to show. Rarely did we actually kill a team off; rather we’d grind them down with our dour defence and hope we could score more than they did. It worked thanks to the superstar that was a 33-year-old Pavlich, still the lone man up front, and McPharlin, still the rock in defence. Our midfield was superb with Brownlow medallist Nat Fyfe leading the charge, but at either end we started to look vulnerable.

    Nat Fyfe Fremantle Dockers AFL 2017

    (Matt King/AFL Media/Getty Images)

    With the retirement of McPharlin and Pavlich, with Sandilands another year older and with younger teams finally working out how to break Fremantle down, 2016 shouldn’t have come as much of a shock as it did. Lyon showed in that season that we had no plan B, no way to cope with teams that moved the ball at pace and had multiple attacking options. The Bulldogs won the premiership on the back of fast ball movement while Freo were still stuck in the Paul Roos 2005 method of trying to grind teams down.

    The reality was that Freo were past it, the window had shut – but Lyon didn’t want to accept that fact.

    Rather than choosing to undertake a full rebuild at the start of 2017, Lyon chose a ‘re-stump, re-wire, re-plumb’ strategy, which backfired spectacularly and set Fremantle 12 to 18 months behind where they currently should be.

    Zac Dawson, Nick Suban, Danyle Pearce and Hayden Ballantyne are all players who should have been moved on after the 2016 season but were kept because Lyon’s ego was too big to attempt a full-scale rebuild. The latter players are still strangely on the list even now, when it is clear they will have no part in any future premiership tilt for Fremantle.

    At the start of the 2016 season Lyon signed a lucrative five-year contract extension that tied him to the club until 2020, a decision I believe has backfired spectacularly on the club.

    The reason is that Lyon can’t rebuild, he has never done it before. At St Kilda he inherited a side built by Grant Thomas and at Fremantle it was a side built by Chris Connolly and Mark Harvey. He’s never had to start from scratch like he has to now with this Dokcers side, and I don’t believe he has it in him to do so.

    Ross Lyon Fremantle Dockers AFL 2017

    (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

    He doesn’t fill me with any confidence with the sides he picks, and up until this season he hasn’t given many young players consistent football. Even this season the likes of Hayden Ballantyne and Danyle Pearce have been getting regular football even though they have proven time and time again they are no longer up to AFL standard. It’s almost as if he doesn’t trust the young players to do the job.

    Lyon’s game plan seems not to have evolved even though football is completely different to how it was five years ago when Freo were in a grand final. On multiple occasions on Saturday night every single Freo player was behind the ball, and when a player received the ball in the midfield he had no-one ahead to kick to so had to go backwards or sideways. The ball movement is slow and frustrating to watch.

    It’s almost as if Lyon coaches any attacking flair out of the players. Stephen Hill seems a shadow of the player he was in his early years, and the elite foot skills his brother Brad had at Hawthorn have all of a sudden disappeared. Even new recruit Nathan Wilson, considered one of the best ball-users off half back, is now constantly butchering the ball.

    These are all symptoms of Lyon’s outdated gameplan which seems to be so ingrained into these players that any natural attacking flair has been lost or is forbidden from being used.

    The system which was once so effective seems to be lost on these players, and with the AFL continually updating the rules to encourage a more free-flowing and open play, it will only get harder and harder for Freo to compete with their current style.

    Fremantle Dockers

    (Paul Kane/Getty Images)

    It all makes you question whether Lyon is the right man to be coaching the team. I am certainly not the only Fremantle fan that feels this way – in fact most Fremantle fans I talk to agree that Lyon is not the man to lead Fremantle forward.

    Why, then, is he not under more pressure? Brendon Bolton, who in my opinion is doing a better rebuilding job than Lyon is, is under huge pressure to keep his job at Carlton, while Alan Richardson’s job seems to be as good as gone at St Kilda.

    What happened to holding the coach accountable for poor performances?

    When Lyon signed on in 2016 he said, “We’re certainly aiming for a premiership and you don’t shy away from that. Particularly by the end of this tenure, I’ll have no excuse to not have achieved that because we’re fully resourced, fully supported and I’ve certainly got a timeframe where I can make short-term and long-term decisions to get us where we want to be.”

    Two and a half years into his contract Fremantle look further away from a premiership than ever, and he needs to be held accountable for what he said when he signed on. He was going to lead Freo to the promised land by 2020 – but even the most optimistic Freo fan will tell you that’s a pipe dream now.

    So who should replace him?

    Peter Sumich is a name that keeps coming up in conversation, and for good reason. He knows the players well, has experience both at Fremantle and at West Coast and has been coaching Western Australia under-18s for the last two years, showing he has the ability to work well with young and developing players. It would also be the ultimate irony if Suma took over Lyon.

    Jarrad Schofield is another who would certainly be a good fit. He’s a two-time WAFL premiership-winning coach and probably would be a four-time winning coach if it wasn’t for the Dockers alignment with Peel. Subi are currently so far ahead on the WAFL ladder this season that they would probably challenge the likes of Carlton and Gold Coast if they played them.

    However, the dream choice would be Brett Kirk. The former Swans superstar was an integral part of Fremantle’s coaching staff in 2013, and Nat Fyfe actually credited Kirk as playing an integral part in his career development when he won the Brownlow. As much as I’d love to see it happen, he is Sydney royalty, so I would not be surprised if he eventually replaces Longmire.

    All of this is moot if Fremantle don’t get rid of the current problem that is Ross Lyon. The board continues to back him to the hilt despite Fremantle’s poor showings, though I really don’t the reason for it other than his long-term contract.

    There is quality in this list, I truly believe that, but it needs a fresh perspective to once again turn that potential into performances. I don’t think Lyon can change, and it’s time to cut him loose, despite the financial hit.

    Getting hassled by a parent or partner about spending too much time playing video games? Now, you can tell them the story of how some ordinary gamers scored $225k for just seven weeks of work.

    Have Your Say



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    The Crowd Says (144)

    • Roar Guru

      July 11th 2018 @ 7:43am
      Peter the Scribe said | July 11th 2018 @ 7:43am | ! Report

      Oh oh, don’t think Don Freo is going to like this.

      • July 11th 2018 @ 4:41pm
        Don Freo said | July 11th 2018 @ 4:41pm | ! Report

        I think we all know the silliness this article will generate. It is just a subjective rant.

        • July 11th 2018 @ 5:01pm
          Daws said | July 11th 2018 @ 5:01pm | ! Report

          It encapsulates the feelings of so many Freo supporters though Don. Sure, we aren’t in as bad a situation as Cartlon, Gold Coast or St Kilda but its hardly silly to express disappointment at the lack of competitiveness of the team.

          What is silly was Dennis Pagan suggesting Carlton should get a priority pick. Now there’s a joke. Try being a Freo supporter for the last 23 years before you complain Dennis. Or Richmond; they only recently won their first premiership since the 1980’s and only after they undertook massive cultural and structural change.

          • July 11th 2018 @ 7:34pm
            Don Freo said | July 11th 2018 @ 7:34pm | ! Report

            It doesn’t. It speaks the repetitive thoughts of the few. I said one in a 100 the other day. It is more like one in every 500.

            That’s members. Non-member supporters it is probably more like one in every 2000. Footy followers see the youth, the injuries and know. Lyon is very, very popular with members…apart from the tiny, whiny minority.

        • July 11th 2018 @ 5:24pm
          13th Man said | July 11th 2018 @ 5:24pm | ! Report

          Maybe so Don but it’s a view that is being expressed by the majority of Freo fans, not just me! Go to a game and sit in one of the members areas and just listen to how many people express the exact same views as I do! We are a patient lot but enough is enough, we must demand change if we want our club to have more success!

          • July 11th 2018 @ 7:35pm
            Don Freo said | July 11th 2018 @ 7:35pm | ! Report

            A tiny minority. Indeed, a negligible minority.

            • July 11th 2018 @ 8:26pm
              13th Man said | July 11th 2018 @ 8:26pm | ! Report

              Its a majority! Why don’t you go to a game and see for yourself! Most fans want him gone!

              • July 11th 2018 @ 9:27pm
                Don Freo said | July 11th 2018 @ 9:27pm | ! Report

                Oh, I’m at every game. You may well be listening to the groups in the bar. Real fans stay level headed…and sober.

        • July 11th 2018 @ 8:17pm
          New York Hawk said | July 11th 2018 @ 8:17pm | ! Report

          A subjective rant that speaks something very close to the truth.

          • July 11th 2018 @ 9:18pm
            Don Freo said | July 11th 2018 @ 9:18pm | ! Report

            To his “truth”…not the truth of Freo’s bulk of fans.

            • July 11th 2018 @ 11:44pm
              13th Man said | July 11th 2018 @ 11:44pm | ! Report

              We’ll have to agree to disagree on this one. Most fans i talk to want Lyon gone!

    • Roar Pro

      July 11th 2018 @ 8:01am
      berrlins said | July 11th 2018 @ 8:01am | ! Report

      Is Ross Lyon the problem? Or is it that Freo doesn’t have a really good team right now? They’re going through a transitional period and they’re blooding young players and building around them while trying to keep Fyfe on the park. You have to be patient with them and see what they are in 2020, if they’re still no good then oust Ross but sacking him now probably won’t help.

      • Roar Guru

        July 11th 2018 @ 9:53am
        JamesH said | July 11th 2018 @ 9:53am | ! Report

        I think they lack a bit of depth but yes, Ross is the problem.

        Lyon waited too long to blood younger players. He should have been doing it a couple of years ago when it was clear Freo was slipping out of flag contention so they could learn under the guidance of an elite senior core. Instead, he clung onto experienced depth players hoping they would be enough to get the side over the line come finals time.

        Now Pav and McPharlin are gone, Sandy, Mundy and Johnson are on their last legs, Fyfe is basically carrying the side and they are suffering some heavy losses. It’s not the ideal environment for a raw young player to learn in.

        Contrast this with what Hawthorn and North did in letting go of older, much-loved players who were no longer going to be major contributors. One year down the ladder while the sides adjusted (still playing competitive footy, mind you) and now they are on the rise again. Why? Because (a) they still had a quality core of experienced players at the peak of their powers from which their youngsters could learn and (b) those young players were coming into a side that knew how to win.

        Ross refused to see the writing on the wall and is now playing catch-up.

        As a side note, any club willing to give a coach a 5 year contract extension needs a board clean-out.

        • July 11th 2018 @ 5:03pm
          Daws said | July 11th 2018 @ 5:03pm | ! Report

          The Hawks/Kangas approach kind of craps all over the old 5-year rebuild doesn’t it.

        • July 13th 2018 @ 12:19pm
          mervyn said | July 13th 2018 @ 12:19pm | ! Report

          Ross was blooding younger players a couple years ago

    • July 11th 2018 @ 8:58am
      Reservoir Animal said | July 11th 2018 @ 8:58am | ! Report

      Would the best way to sack him be to poach Clarkson, in a coup reminiscent of what they did in 2011?

      • July 11th 2018 @ 2:19pm
        13th Man said | July 11th 2018 @ 2:19pm | ! Report

        If they manage that i’ll forever praise the board! Won’t happen though as Clarkson has expressed a desire to remain a one club coach!

    • Roar Guru

      July 11th 2018 @ 9:00am
      DingoGray said | July 11th 2018 @ 9:00am | ! Report

      I can’t see Ross ever landing that Elusive premiership.

      Likely to join the likes of Wallace, Eade, Brad Scott and Nathan Buckley….. very good coaches but don’t quite have that little bit extra to get silverware.

      Ross would be a great target though for a Carlton, Suns or dare I say it Saints…. always manages to improve ordinary sides into very good sides….

      Just not the very best sides. Someone got finish second right.

      • July 11th 2018 @ 2:21pm
        13th Man said | July 11th 2018 @ 2:21pm | ! Report

        No I think he’d be a terrible appointment for a rebuilding side such as Carlton or the Gold Coast. He’s at his best coaching a side that is an ‘almost’ side, with quality on their list but just not quite making it. GWS comes to mind as a side he’d be a good fit at but I think to adapt to modern football he’d have to dramatically change his current coaching style!

    • July 11th 2018 @ 9:07am
      The Hyphen said | July 11th 2018 @ 9:07am | ! Report

      I’m just here for the comments…. Particularly Don’s… Should be interesting!!

    • July 11th 2018 @ 9:41am
      IDER said | July 11th 2018 @ 9:41am | ! Report

      Freo’s list is currently at where they should push for finals in 2019 and be aiming for top 4 finish in 2020. Over the next two years they will lose through retirement of their core only Ballantyne, Pearce, Mundy, Sandilands, and Johnson.

      Sandilands and Mundy will be huge holes to replace especially with Ross not pumping games into the younger brigade earlier. The other three are certainly past it and not in the best 22 this year.

      Fremantle have passed on their 2nd, 3rd and 4th round draft picks for 2018 so it will be interesting who they target at seasons end.

      2019 will be the defining year for Freo and Ross’ coaching ability to develop a young squad.

      • July 11th 2018 @ 8:07pm
        Don Freo said | July 11th 2018 @ 8:07pm | ! Report

        The young guys have already replaced Mundy in the midfield. Darcy and Apeness are guns and ready replacements for Sandi (mind you, Sandi will probably play for at least 2 more years. What are you watching, 1DER?

        • July 12th 2018 @ 2:09am
          Ken said | July 12th 2018 @ 2:09am | ! Report

          Darcy and Apeness are guns….ROTFLMAO

          • July 12th 2018 @ 8:32am
            Don Freo said | July 12th 2018 @ 8:32am | ! Report

            I get that you don’t know who they are. I don’t know what word you were trying to spell at the end.

            • July 12th 2018 @ 12:36pm
              Downsey said | July 12th 2018 @ 12:36pm | ! Report

              I don’t know if you’re for real, Don, or you’re just playing with a persona. Regardless, I’m fans of those boys. I’m looking forward to seeing more of that partnership and development.

        • July 12th 2018 @ 12:23pm
          IDER said | July 12th 2018 @ 12:23pm | ! Report

          Ready made replacements?

          Apeness who has played total of 9 games in 5 seasons and Darcy who is 20 years of age and played 9 games in two seasons with one game this year.

          • July 12th 2018 @ 12:44pm
            Don Freo said | July 12th 2018 @ 12:44pm | ! Report

            I wonder if you know why Apeness has not been playing. 9 games has nothing to do with anything…apart from to promise he will only get better.

            You tell me what you have seen in their games that you don’t like. If Darcy was available to other clubs, every club would have him as a priority after what he has shown so far.

            He will become a dominant player in the AFL.

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