Fremantle coach Ross Lyon has refuted suggestions from AFL great Wayne Carey that he’s not coaching to win, saying some of his controversial selection moves are about promoting youth rather than tanking.
The Dockers face a battle to avoid the wooden spoon after slipping to a 0-9 record following their 38-point loss to Richmond on Saturday.
Their dire situation is in complete contrast to last season, when they won their opening nine games on the way to the minor premiership.
Lyon’s decision to drop experienced players such as Michael Barlow, Garrick Ibbotson, and Zac Dawson in recent weeks has raised eyebrows.
Carey, who played 272 games for North Melbourne and Adelaide during a glittering playing career, questioned whether Lyon was doing his utmost to win games.
“The players certainly are out there giving 100 per cent. They’re trying to win the game of footy,” Carey told Channel 7.
“But is Ross Lyon coaching to win? I’d say no. He put the cue in the rack as soon a Nat Fyfe got injured, and said we’re rebuilding.”
But Lyon says giving more game time to younger players shouldn’t be viewed in the same light as tanking.
“We need turn over our list and give people opportunities, while at the same time trying to win games of football,” Lyon told Channel Seven.
“We think we’ve done that.
“We’ve been in it up to our necks in a lot of games, but we haven’t been able to sustain four-quarter performances.
“I’m working within the confines of the direction of the club – take care of the present, and plan for the future at the same time.”
Barlow is a good chance to earn a recall for Saturday’s clash with St Kilda after tallying 44 disposals, 13 tackles, and three goals in the WAFL.
The 28-year-old fell out of favour following the round-seven loss to GWS, but Lyon said the decision to drop him wasn’t done to purposely hurt the team.
“Mick had been solid without being exceptional,” Lyon said.
“When he’s in the team, I feel better.
“He tailed off a little bit. Mick would disagree, but we felt there were areas of his execution (that needed addressing), and pace issues.
“It’s really simple. When we’re losing, and people are playing well at Peel, people go out, and young people playing well get opportunities.
“Does that mean the player coming in is better than the player going out? Not necessarily.
“But win-losses do dictate your selection a little bit.”
The Dockers received a dose of good news on Monday when Dawson was cleared of any wrongdoing by the match review panel over his late hit on Richmond’s Steven Morris.
But fellow key defender Alex Pearce will miss the rest of the season after undergoing surgery to fix his broken leg.
Pearce joins Nat Fyfe (broken leg), Michael Johnson (knee/hamstring), Aaron Sandilands (ribs), and Harley Bennell (calf) on the long-term injury list.
Midfielders Stephen Hill (adductor) and David Mundy (calf) face fitness tests this week ahead of Saturday’s clash at Etihad Stadium.