Veteran AFL journalist Caroline Wilson has declared St Kilda is “a terrible football club” with “abysmal” recruiting following the shock sacking of Brett Ratten.
It comes as delisted Saints defender Jarrod Lienert declared his surprise at the move, which came just a few months after Ratten signed a multi-year contract extension.
“He’s the most caring bloke I’ve ever met, he’s such a genuine bloke,” Lienert told SEN SA.
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“I was surprised when he was sacked but the back half of the year we gave him didn’t help.”
Ratten’s departure was just another mistake by the Saints in recent years, according to Wilson, who pointed to CEO Simon Lethlean as the source of a number of them.
Lethlean was one of two senior AFL executives who were forced to quit the league over inappropriate relationships with younger AFL staffers, but months later he was appointed GM of football at St Kilda, then becoming their CEO in 2022.
He and St Kilda president Andrew Bassat conceded they “blindsided” Ratten with the decision to sack him after the trade period.
President tells how Ratten lost his job | 01:06
“What probably made Ratten worse is that he was re-signed only 100 days or so ago on a two-year deal,” Wilson said on her Don’t Shoot the Messenger podcast.
“If you are a club that receives money from the AFL and owes a lot of money and has the worst debt in the AFL, they aren’t allowed to sign long-term contracts, there would have been a six-month payout.
“But still, that six months for a club that has got not much money, the footy boss (Lethlean) at the time is now the CEO, I don’t know whether he’s saying it was the old CEO’s decision to re-sign the coach, I hope not because he was the head of footy and would have had a big say in it.
“One of the problems is you’ve got a guy who has come in as head of footy in Simon Lethlean who has had issues at the AFL as we know and had to leave the AFL when he was on a trajectory there, he’s come in as footy boss and he has made some bad calls as head of footy. The first one was getting Dan Hannebery from the Swans. The recruiting has been pretty abysmal.
“They’ve brought in Geoff Walsh over the two men Lethlean wanted to run things. They’ve basically knocked back his first envisaged structure of the footy department.
“Now they’ve decided they want Ross Lyon to coach. This review has been going on since early September and I gather the president was telling people about it on Lindsay Fox’s yacht and you’ve got all these former club presidents there.
“They’re a terrible football club. They’ve been run so badly for so long.
“I just think – to make Ratten go in and plead for his job after being told he’s come out badly in the review and then pretty much making him wait outside the door while the board meets for a few more hours before they emerge and tell him he’s gone – anyway. It’s not pretty. That was bad.”
The Saints are now strongly interested in reappointing Ross Lyon as senior coach having held multiple meetings with the man who took them to three Grand Finals over a decade ago.