Fremantle captain Matthew Pavlich has compared the 2011 sacking of coach Mark Harvey to Julia Gillard’s overthrow of Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister, saying it was brutal but no different to what happens in the cut-throat corporate world.
Harvey’s axing with a year to run on his contract caused widespread outrage in football circles, especially once details emerged of Fremantle’s secret dealings to lure then-St Kilda coach Ross Lyon.
The coaching controversy has been detailed in a new book, “Fremantle Dockers: An Illustrated History”, which celebrates the club’s 20-year history.
Pavlich said Harvey’s axing came as a shock to him, but he worked hard to ensure the players moved on quickly from the controversy.
“It was professionally brutal, but no more brutal than BHP getting rid of their CEO, or the Julia Gillard takeover of Kevin Rudd,” Pavlich says in the book, which was written by former Dockers board member Les Everett.
“I think the reaction to it – the public and media scrutiny – was a significant over-reaction.
“The next day, the players got together and … I got up and said something along the lines of, ‘There’s going to be varying emotions here, but this is the decision that’s been made and we have to get on with it’.
“It’s like a decision from the umpire: you move on.”
Harvey was mapping out the club’s 2012 pre-season campaign with his assistant coaches when he was summoned into a meeting by chief executive Steve Rosich.
The fourth-year coach thought nothing of it at the time, but knew something was wrong when he entered the room and saw the body language of president Steve Harris and football operations manager Chris Bond.
“Well, that’s football, isn’t it,” was the last thing Harvey said to Fremantle’s hierarchy after being told of his fate.
Harvey is still deeply hurt by the nature of his sacking, and refused to be interviewed for the book, saying he didn’t want to talk about it either now or in the future.
Rosich said he initially made contact with Lyon on September 4, 2011 to see if the veteran coach would be interested in leading the Dockers in 2013.
However, talk turned to arranging a deal for the 2012 season once St Kilda crashed out of the 2011 finals at the first hurdle.
Although the appointment of Lyon as Fremantle coach was heavily criticised at the time, it has proven to be a big success.
The master tactician led the Dockers to last year’s grand final, and the club has the chance to go one step better this year despite last week’s shock loss to the Saints.