Fremantle coach Ross Lyon has launched a passionate defence of his coaching style, saying people who claim he burns players out are living in “gaga land”.
Lyon’s coaching style has come under question amidst reports of player unrest at the AFL club.
Fremantle started the year as a premiership fancy, but currently sit in 16th spot with a 3-17 record after producing one of their worst ever seasons.
Lyon’s relentless demands of the playing group have been blamed by some as a reason behind the Dockers’ dramatic fall from grace.
The 49-year-old is a renowned task master, who until this season had guided Fremantle to four straight finals appearances.
Critics suggest Lyon’s demanding style eventually wears players down, as well as his assistant coaches.
However, Lyon claimed that theory was bogus, citing the glowing reviews he’s received from a host of past and present players as proof that his coaching methods are within bounds.
“There’s players on this list that describe me as a father figure,” Lyon said on Thursday.
“So if you think my behaviour with those players can be so disparate from other players, I think you’re living in gaga land.
“All I know is the teams I’ve coached – and you can only go on how they give effort – if what you were saying was true, it’s impossible to give the effort and play consistent footy year after year like they do.
“Anyone who thinks that I would treat players any differently – it’s naive at best, mischievous at worst.”
Lyon is contracted with Fremantle until 2020 after signing a new deal on the eve of this season.
The 10th-year coach is expected to oversee a list overhaul in the coming months, with Michael Barlow, Hayden Ballantyne, Anthony Morabito, Zac Clarke, Chris Mayne, Matt de Boer, Tendai Mzungu, and Nick Suban among the players who could be on their way out.
The future of Nat Fyfe is also up in the air, with the Brownlow medallist set to explore his free agency options before deciding whether to re-sign with Fremantle beyond the end of next year.
Former St Kilda board member Nathan Burke says the Saints have built up a war chest to lure a big fish like Fyfe.
But Lyon wasn’t fazed by the comments, saying it was natural for rival clubs to express their interest in an elite player.
“We’ll all queue up for Buddy, wouldn’t we? Theory land and fantasy land and reality are hugely different,” Lyon said.
“So we’re really comfortable with where things sit.
“Nathan will work through it. He’s committed. He loves Fremantle – just listen to his Brownlow speech.”
Reports of a rift between Fyfe and some of his teammates emerged during the week.
Goalsneak Ballantyne was reportedly one of those players.
But Ballantyne has since laughed off suggestions of a rift, saying he loves playing with Fyfe.
“If we want to focus on gossip, I’d go and buy the New Idea,” Lyon quipped when asked about the player unrest.
The Dockers will be without ruckman Aaron Sandilands (glute) and Matthew Pavlich (rested) for Saturday’s clash with GWS at Spotless Stadium.
Jon Griffin will replace Sandilands, while Matt Taberner will come in for Pavlich.
Lyon said luckless midfielder Anthony Morabito was unlikely to earn a call-up this week.