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The Roar


Saints go back to the future, but will 'Ross the Boss' lead them to that elusive premiership?

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28th October, 2022

The year was 2011.

Mark Harvey was coach of Fremantle and Ross Lyon was in charge at St Kilda.

Then, on a Thursday night in the middle of October, the Dockers sacked Harvey and appointed Lyon as his replacement.

The AFL industry was in shock. Harvey was left understandably “angry and disappointed” about losing his job.

Lyon had walked out on the Saints to chase success across the other side of the country. He had ditched St Kilda to coach Fremantle. The 55-year-old was labelled as “deceitful, duplicitous and distasteful”. He was seen as being cunning and money-hungry, chasing millions of dollars.

On Monday, though, the Saints announced Lyon would be returning to coach the club he left 11 years ago, after tenure that saw them reach three grand finals, including a famous draw with Collingwood in 2010.

According to Saints president Andrew Bassat, as soon as they had parted ways with Brett Ratten, they had eyes only on getting Lyon on board. When Ratten was sacked, Bassat and newly appointed CEO Simon Lethlean said they knew the coach they were after.


While they deny making any advancement to Lyon while Ratten was still coaching, many AFL experts believe they would not have made the decision to part ways with Ratten had they not known they could get Lyon. Bassat, Lethlean and Saints Director of Football Geoff Walsh met with Lyon extensively over the past 10 days.

Some fans will be excited about his return. Others will be reluctant to have him back after he walked out on the club.
This is the same man that left them in the lurch, after all.

But the man is adamant he has changed, and is determined to prove he can guide the club to success.

“Just give me the opportunity to get into action and we’re all only as good as our next moment,” Lyon said last week.

“I want to stack a lot of good moments here so in the end they’ll say this was the right decision.”

This is the same man who expressed keen interest in the Carlton coaching job last year and the Essendon coaching role this year, only to pull out, citing he didn’t want to go through a process.

He wanted a club to hand him the role on a golden platter. And the Saints did just that.


The question is, will they regret that decision? Or will it prove to be a masterstroke and land the club the elusive second premiership?

In what will be seen as getting the band back together, Lyon will be joined by former St Kilda players in the coaching box.

One of Lyon’s all-time favourite players, Lenny Hayes has already joined the Saints’ coaching ranks, while club legend Robert Harvey has left his assistant coaching role at Hawthorn and re-joined the club where he won two Brownlow Medals. Former Saint Brendan Goddard has also been suggested as another potential assistant coach to join forces with his previous mentor.

Saints coach Ross Lyon talks with Stephen Milne during a St Kilda training session in 2009.

Saints coach Ross Lyon talks with Stephen Milne during a St Kilda training session in 2009. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

With Corey Enright and Hayes as assistant coaches in defence and the midfield respectively, David Rath as a strategist, and Damian Carroll as head of development, Lyon will have great support surrounding him.

St Kilda’s last flag was 56 years ago – Lyon was still a month away from being born. But he is not shying away from the challenge of doubling their premiership tally.

“It‘s an Everest that can be climbed, needs to be climbed and I’d like to be the person to do that with the group,” he said.


David Parkin was the last man to coach the same side in two different stints – and tasted success in his second stint with Carlton in 1995. St Kilda fans will be hoping Lyon can have a similar fate in his second coming.

But for every David Parkin, there’s an Alex Jesaulenko: after coaching the Blues in 1978 and 1979, he coached St Kilda from 1980 – 1982. The man affectionately known as ‘Jezza’ returned to coach the Blues for the last part of 1989 after premiership coach Robert Walls was sacked. After taking over, he guided the Blues to seven wins for the rest of 1989 and got reappointed for the 1990 season.

The following year, they won 11 and lost 11 games and missed out on finals again when they were expected to return to premiership success. And he stepped down at the end of the 1990 season.

Lyon is a well-credentialed coach. He has coached sides to four grand finals. However, he has walked away empty-handed each time, unable to deliver premiership success. But the Saints were unlucky not to win the nail-biting 2009 grand final against Geelong; and if it wasn’t for a cruel bounce a year later against Collingwood as well, he would have had at least one premiership to his name.

Lyon may have the best win-loss coaching record of any coach that has ever coached St Kilda, but it will still be hard work. It’s a good thing he is under no illusions it will require a significant amount of effort to turn things around for the club starved of success.

With assistance from the old St Kilda brigade, can ‘Ross the Boss’ lead the Saints to the holy grail?

Or will his second tenure be another setback in the long history of the St Kilda Football Club?


I guess time will tell.