The Saints have claimed a one-point victory over the Gold Coast Suns after a thrilling finish.
Gold Coast chief executive Mark Evans admits Tom Lynch’s late-season axing as co-captain probably wouldn’t have happened if Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley hadn’t publicly revealed he had met with him.
Restricted free agent Lynch informed the Suns he would leave the club at the end of the AFL season to return to Victoria, with the Magpies among a number of teams in the mix for his signature.
Buckley confirmed last month he had met Lynch, who was in Melbourne for knee surgery, and later expressed regret over his comments.
In a pointed critique of Buckley’s methods, Evans said the coach could have gone about things differently as Victorian clubs now circle their departing key forward.
“The last two weeks haven’t been terrific for the code, I don’t think, in terms of this issue,” he told reporters on Friday.
“It’s difficult to be false when you’re asked a question, but also difficult to completely blurt out everything … I think we’d be in a different spot if that hadn’t happened.”
Free agency rules mean clubs can’t publicly make an offer for Lynch until October, but Evans justified the club’s internal pressure on Lynch to make an early call despite that.
“One way or another we had pressed Tom pretty hard over the last couple of months for answers and I can’t back away from that,” Evans said.
“It feels like it was the right thing for the Gold Coast Suns to get its ship in order.
“I’m not sure you can have your cake and eat it too, (but) we’d probably prefer it wasn’t public.”
Standing alongside Evans, Suns coach Stuart Dew said Buckley’s actions had put a spanner in the works.
“I think he went on radio to say if he had his time again he wouldn’t have put it on the radar,” he said, acknowledging the pair had spoken.
“I think he was aware that that put it out in the public eye and did change the look of it.”
Lynch informed his teammates and the club’s board of his decision to leave on Thursday after eight years at the club and was then told he would be stripped of his co-captaincy.
The 25-year-old could earn about $1.2 million a season on a five-year deal at his next club.
Collingwood and Richmond appear to be frontrunners after Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson confirmed on Friday he hadn’t met with Lynch.
Former Magpie Jarrod Witts will lead the Suns against Melbourne on Sunday in an ironic twist given May (suspended) Lynch (knee) and David Swallow (concussion) are unavailable.