Fremantle Dockers coach Ross Lyon has been sacked after eight years after the club failed to make the AFL finals for the fourth consecutive year.
- Ross Lyon joined the Dockers in 2012 after walking out on St Kilda
- He led Fremantle to a 2013 grand final, but the club has since struggled
- President Dale Alcock said the club needed to “change and evolve”
Staff have been told that chief executive Steve Rosich is also leaving in a dramatic day at the WA club.
Lyon will leave the club with immediate effect, with one game left in Fremantle’s season.
In a statement, the club said the board “had a duty to act in the best interests of its members and supporters, and to be bold in making its strategic decisions”.
It said it had reached “a mutual agreement” with Rosich to depart.
“Leadership change is necessary to begin the process of renewal and to set our course for the next 10 years,” Fremantle club president Dale Alcock said.
“Fremantle had not made the finals for the past four years.
“This isn’t acceptable to the board, the players, and most importantly to our supporters. We need high performance and consistency at all levels of the club, so we need to change and evolve.”
Although speculation over Lyon’s future has swirled for much of the season, the veteran coach has routinely denied he was considering walking out on the Dockers.
The club failed to make the finals this year, its fourth in a row without post-season football.
An inconsistent year saw Fremantle pair unlikely wins over top-two teams Geelong and Brisbane with disastrous losses to basement-dwellers Gold Coast and Melbourne.
Former Dockers forward and current Collingwood assistant coach Justin Longmuir has been installed as the bookmakers’ favourite to take over as Fremantle’s next coach.
Ex-North Melbourne coach Brad Scott, Brisbane legend Michael Voss and current Dockers assistant David Hale are among the other frontrunners according to betting markets put forward by two bookmakers.
‘We cannot agree on key directions’: Rosich
Rosich said he had been working closely with the board over the past few months to “firm up our strategic and operational plans for 2020 and beyond”.
“Given that we cannot agree on some of the key directions for the club we have reached a mutual agreement for me to step down as chief executive officer,” he said.
“I am extremely proud of my time at the club, with what we have achieved over the 2008 to 2019 period and with the strong foundations that the club has in place to be a leading club in the AFL.
“Of special significance is the on-field achievements over the 2012 to 2015 seasons that included the 2013 AFL grand final and the McClelland Trophy for the best performed team in the 2015 home-and-away season.
“Commercially the club is a top-tier club, with very strong corporate support and over 51,000 members. The club is very well placed for the future.
“I would like to thank our board, management team, staff, players, sponsors, corporate partners and members for their support of the club and for me personally for the past 11 years as CEO. I’ve loved every moment of it and I believe in this club and our people.
“After I take a period of leave I’m looking forward to my next career opportunity and continuing to be a passionate Fremantle Dockers supporter.”
Lyon’s inconsistent tenure
Lyon’s tenure has been plagued by inconsistency.
Ross Lyon’s Dockers record
He was sensationally recruited by Fremantle after the 2011 season, walking out on his contract at St Kilda.
In his first four years in charge Fremantle won 67 of 87 matches and made a grand final in 2013.
Recent years have been far less successful.
Under Lyon, the club has posted just 31 wins from its past 93 games. Only Carlton, Gold Coast and Brisbane have fewer wins since the start of 2016.
Criticism over Lyon’s ability to coach skill has dogged his time in charge, with Fremantle hindered by poor kicking accuracy and sloppy marking this season.
Injuries to key players, especially star defender Alex Pearce, also disrupted the Dockers this year.
Dockers ‘weighed up Lyon cost’
The club faces a significant six-figure payout to Lyon to compensate for the last year of his contract.
ABC Grandstand AFL commentator Clint Wheeldon described his sacking as “a brutal and pragmatic decision” based on the club’s finances.
“The club would have been weighing up what it would cost them to pay out Ross Lyon, versus the damage that could have been done to their membership,” he told ABC Radio Perth.
“And the membership certainly would have been a real issue. Crowds have been down for the Fremantle Dockers this season.
“So I think there was a general consensus among a lot of supporters.
“I think most people had had enough of the way the club’s been performing.”
The decision to sack Lyon adds to an exodus of experience at the club, with veteran ruckman Aaron Sandilands announcing his retirement, and forward Hayden Ballantyne departing the club at the end of the season.
Internal and external search for replacement
Hale will take charge of the team for its final game against Port Adelaide this weekend, while chief operating officer Graeme Parker will act as CEO until a permanent replacement for Rosich is found.
The club said separate selection panels for the two roles had been set up, and both internal and external candidates would be assessed.
“This leadership change is about transforming our whole club. We need to act now to ensure we are reinvigorated and reenergised for success,” Alcock said.
He paid tribute to both men, saying Lyon had “instilled great professionalism, drive and commitment into our club,” while Rosich had “done his utmost for Fremantle over the past 11 years, and he’s leaving the club in good shape corporately and financially”.
Lyon is scheduled to speak to the media at 2:00pm AWST.