Sport

Bear necessity: Alastair Lynch's sliding door moment

LION KING: Alastair Lynch in action for the Lions
LION KING: Alastair Lynch in action for the Lions Jonathan Wood

ALASTAIR Lynch knows only too well the kind of pressure current AFL stars Dustin Martin and Josh Kelly are under having massive offers from rival clubs in front of them.

Lynch, after all, was the pioneer of the 'mega contract'.

Well before Richmond's Martin and GWS Giant Kelly were presented with lengthy lucrative deals by a cashed-up North Melbourne, Lynch was contemplating his own future after being wooed by the Brisbane Bears - to the tune of an unprecedented nine years.

"10," Lynch interjects when News Regional catches up with him.

Of course it was Lance Franklin, who signed on for nine when defecting from Hawthorn to Sydney in 2013.

Two decades earlier Lynch had been given his own "significant offer I just couldn't refuse".

The high-leaping key position player, who had won mark of the year in 1989, was in high-demand in 1993 after a standout season with a cash-strapped Fitzroy.

He had been moved to full-forward and booted 68 goals, though was named at fullback in the All-Australian team.

Lynch was keen to remain loyal to the original Lions, despite strong interest from across town at Hawthorn.

That is until an ambitious Brisbane Bears outfit intervened.

 

Lynch with fellow Fox Footy special comments man Jason Dunstall.
Lynch with fellow Fox Footy special comments man Jason Dunstall.

Peter Hudson, the champion Hawthorn full-forward who was now the club's chief executive, had organised a meeting with Lynch at the Hawks' headquarters at Glenferrie Oval in the hope of getting him to don the brown and gold.

"He used to coach me at the Hobart Footy Club, (and) he wanted to get me over to Hawthorn," Lynch recalled.

"I had no intention of leaving at all, but Huddo being Huddo - and someone I respected highly - I went and spoke to him."

In the meantime, Brisbane had come knocking on the then 25-year-old's door to complicate one of those sliding doors moments.

"I showed him the offer that I got from Brisbane ... he couldn't match it or even argue against it.

"He said best of luck, you've got to accept it.

"I had the same sort of conversation with Roosy (Paul Roos), who was my captain at the time

"I was essentially getting my contract tripled and guaranteed payment for 10 years.

"Although it weighed heavily on me to actually leave Fitzroy I had no choice."

 

Alastair Lynch prepares to kick a goal for Fitzroy
Alastair Lynch prepares to kick a goal for Fitzroy Getty Images

Lynch's contract was then worth about $300,000 a season - which pales in comparison to the reported $1 million plus Martin and Kelly could be getting if they leave.

But in the early '90s it was big bickies.

"Brisbane probably didn't get the value early," Lynch says.

"Thirteen games first year with a couple of broken collarbones and a knee operation and then the second year played one game.

"I slowly started to warm into it after that."  

That one game in 1995 was due to a mystery virus later revealed to be chronic fatigue syndrome.

He became somewhat of a poster boy for overcoming the condition - and one of the first in Australia to use ice baths as part of his recovery.

 

Alastair Lynch stretches at training
Alastair Lynch stretches at training DAVE HUNT

But he admits the pressure had gotten to him that season - after the Bears had invested so heavily in him being one of their 'saviours' - prior to finally returning to the field for round one 1996.

"There were times when I thought 'what I've done' when I got crook

and wasn't playing and everything was falling apart," he recalled.

Lynch would of course go on and become an integral member of Brisbane's three premierships - 2001 -2003 - and play 306 games.

His first finals match wouldn't come until his 150th game in 1996.

"Then it came with a rush after that," he says. "I was very lucky."

The Bears had become the Lions in 1997, and after a few teething problems, conquered all.

"They put very good people around the place," Lynch says.

"Andrew Ireland as the CEO put an enormous amount of structure in place.

"And obviously getting Leigh Matthews in (as senior coach) was fantastic."

 

Lions coach Leigh Matthews keeps a close eye on Alastair Lynch during a training session
Lions coach Leigh Matthews keeps a close eye on Alastair Lynch during a training session JOE CASTRO

Lynch, who finished up in 2004 - "one extra" year on top of the initial 10 years - has watched the Lions progression - or lack there of - from close quarters, the Tasmanian footy legend having settled in the Sunshine State.

The club has played two finals since Lynch's last game in the losing 2004 grand final.

"We'd come off a very successful period, which was great, I wouldn't swap it for anything in the world," the now Fox Footy special comments man says.

"But because we were chasing four flags we probably didn't develop enough younger players at the time.

"And as we bottomed out we made some recruiting mistakes, and then on top of that you get the 17th and 18th teams come into the competition, so they get the draft concessions

 

Alastair Lynch marks on a lead
Alastair Lynch marks on a lead STUART MCEVOY

"It was almost the perfect storm.

"Frustrating for supporters and frustrating for past players as well I can assure you.

"I think the club would admit we haven't managed it well.

"When you're not in an AFL state, you've got to do things much better.

"The things they are putting in place now should be able to turn that around."

Lynch is liking the work senior coach Chris Fagan and football manager David Noble has been doing with a young, promising group that will attempt to lift itself off the bottom of the ladder this Saturday when hosting 17th-placed North Melbourne.

 

Alastair Lynch celebrates with the 2003 premiership Cup.
Alastair Lynch celebrates with the 2003 premiership Cup. Mark Dadswell

"That's what they (Brisbane) has done well - found some really experienced footy people.

"I think in the past when we've been struggling we've trimmed the football department

"I think the AFL has learnt its lesson as well. When you're struggling you've got to put more resources into the footy department."

But, obviously make sure there's a little left in the kitty for the players as well.

Topics:  afl alastair lynch brisbane lions fox footy sportfeature

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