There’s one glaring issue that could keep Ross Lyon from putting his hand up for the vacant St Kilda coaching job – and it’s not a quick fix.
Lyon is reportedly in the mix to take over from Brett Ratten and return to the Saints, more than a decade after he walked out on the club to coach Fremantle.
But Brownlow Medallist Adam Cooney has issued a warning about the state of St Kilda’s “average” list – and the commitment it would take to lead them back into premiership contention.
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“I don’t think this is a list at the moment that is capable of winning a premiership at the Saints,” Adam Cooney said on SEN.
“They need a couple of A-grade midfielders. They’ve probably only got two or three A-grade talents on their list.
“I think (the list) would probably scare off maybe a couple of the more experienced coaches who could tarnish their legacy, you could say – if they take on the job and it fails in two or three years.
“I don’t know if the romance of Ross Lyon going back to St Kilda is enough of a pull for him to do the job.
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“He would look at that list and think: ‘Can I work and shape and mould that list into a premiership winning team?’ He doesn’t have Nick Riewoldt, he doesn’t have Lenny Hayes. He doesn’t have Brendon Goddard, Nick Dal Santo on that list to try and get him there. He just has to weigh up is if it’s worth it to go back to the Saints.”
AFL journalist Mark Stevens agreed the Saints’ list had “a lot of holes in it”, amid plenty of trade criticism in recent days as the club only acquired Zaine Cordy from the Dogs.
Former Docker Michael Barlow, who was coached by Lyon during his time at Fremantle, said he was confident Lyon could endure a rebuild if required.
“There are some similarities from what I see in how this St Kilda list is being perceived to what I experienced at Fremantle,” he said on RSN Radio.
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“It’s top-ended, yes. But you’ve got to embrace the whole list and find out what makes all of them tick. And Ross has got a great history doing that.
“Whether this (St Kilda job) or this itch that will always be there as a coach is itching a little bit harder than the last few, perhaps.”
Former Saint Stephen Milne has backed Lyon as the man for the job, describing his possible return as “exciting” for the club.
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“Once Ross puts his mind into anything, it’s 110 per cent, and he’ll do anything in his power to make this club great again,” he said on SEN WA.
“I think if he’s in, Ross is all-in – it’s no half-hearted, he will do everything he can, working 16-hour days like he used to when I was coached by him to get the club right.
“He’s got that mental capacity to just (say), ‘I’m in, so let’s get this job done’ and get the Saints where they need to be – up the top of the ladder again’.
“Obviously ‘Rooey’ (Nick Riewoldt) is a big fan of his, Joey (Leigh Montagna) is, me and obviously Brendon Goddard put his hand up to help.
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“All of the past players will be right around it and hopefully there’s a few phone calls being made today or this week even if he hasn’t done that already so interesting times ahead.
“We did have a dinner six weeks ago and there was a lot of Saints chat. It wasn’t a coup – it was just a dinner and he was out because obviously with the Essendon job, his name gets brought up all the time.
“He’s a coach that loves coaching.”
And Milne said Lyon wouldn’t be concerned by the current Saints’ list issue.
“Ross can turn anyone around,” he said.
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“His standards and the way he goes about it, I know we haven’t got the list.
“I definitely believe he could change this club in two to three years pretty quickly and get us back where we belong.”
Barlow dismissed claims Lyon may be too “hard edged” to return to coaching in 2023, after the controversy David Noble found himself in for being tough on his players at North Melbourne.
“When I left (Fremantle), or was pushed out the door realistically, he did lighten up a little bit with the 2017, 2018 side,” he said.
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“The trend with the dynamics of the AFL at the moment is the players really relate to the more personable, empathetic and caring coach and that’s come through with Craig McRae hasn’t it, the way he’s coached Collingwood. But at the same time there is an absolute need for a hard edge.
“I think the way (St Kilda) are looking, they need to make a real statement with who comes through the door.
“The St Kilda situation, the way the commentary has been slung around in the last couple of weeks is they want to stand for something and they want to become relevant in the competition.
“(Lyon) just called it how he saw it. You’re a professional athlete and it’s a professional environment – you get paid really well to be there in that environment and you’re there to win.”