Ross Lyon is out at Freo.
Ross Lyon is out at Freo.

Dockers defend decision after Lyon axed

ROSS Lyon had been adamant all season long his position at Fremantle was safe, but the club has sacked the coach effective immediately.

Lyon was notified of the decision by the club on Tuesday morning before president Dale Alcock announced the news.

"Fremantle has not made the finals for the past four years. This isn't acceptable to the board, the players, and most importantly to our supporters," Alcock said.

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"We need high performance and consistency at all levels of the club, so we need to change and evolve."

Assistant coach David Hale will step up for the final game of the season in place of Lyon.

"It's clear for a number of reasons that as a club we haven't achieved as we should. The board has a duty to act in the best interests of its supporters and members. As a result, the club requires a new coach and CEO," Alcock said.

"Despite their contributions, Fremantle have not made the finals in the past four years. We need to change and we need to evolve. The search for a new coach and CEO starts today.

"We were concerned by not making the decision we have today, we would be treading water for 12 more months."

Lyon called his own press conference after he was dismissed and dropped some interesting information including that he had a feeling his sacking was coming when he was notified by head of football, Peter Bell that Steve Rosich would not be in the meeting on Tuesday morning

"I thought to myself 'ooh Steve's in trouble' then I thought I might ring my lawyer," Lyon said.

Despite not making finals in the past four seasons Lyon remained defiant in the wake of his sacking and was adamant that he still had plenty to offer the Dockers.

"I don't agree with the decision but I respect it," he said.

A Docker no more.
A Docker no more.

"I would have liked to have finished next year (when his contract was due to end), we have been in the finals, we beat Geelong last week with eight of our best 16 out, that's why I don't agree with the decision.

"It's an opinion business. I feel I could not have worked any harder."

Lyon also felt the board were being reactive to outside pressures around the recent lack of success of the club.

"The noise around that was a lot for them and they wanted some clean air," Lyon said.

"They made a decision a lot of it is a moot point, they acknowledged the challenges with injury, they weren't preparing to go through next year knowing they would not have extended me.

"The ride is worth the fall and I don't take it personally."

Asked whether he would continue coaching Lyon was unsure but did say he 'loves coaching' and had failed to achieve his goals but perhaps moist shockingly he fells the club are now in a good position.

That comes despite him being handed a great list when he came into the club and now having failed to rebuild the side into a finals contender yet again - though for now it seems he is looking at other areas other than coaching, revealing he has enrolled in a prestigious university course.

"I've already enrolled at Harvard last week, behavioural economics - the psychology of decision making," he said.

"I want to keep stretching myself and growing."

The club is expecetd to pay out Lyon's contract, which had one year remaining. It's been reported it will cost the club upwards of half a million dollars.

Lyon arrived at the club to meet with the playing group on Tuesday and left after roughly 10 minutes. 

Fremantle CEO Steve Rosich is also headed for the exit and will be replaced by Graeme Parker until a replacement is found.

"Given that we (myself and the board) cannot agree on some of the key directions of the club, we have mutually agreed that I will step down as CEO," Rosich said.

Fremantle currently sits in 13th spot on the ladder after an up and down season, but despite its struggles - which included four consecutive losing seasons - Lyon stuck firm, insisting he was the man for the job.

After a three-point loss to St Kilda in round 21, he expected the knives to come out for his job, but proclaimed "I feel like I've never coached better".

"I'm really excited about pre-season and what we can do to improve. Personally, I feel like I've never coached better. Delegating, calmness … personally I never think I've been a better package," Lyon said. "Both parties, particularly on the surface, are fully committed to turning it around."

Lyon's tenure at Fremantle began in 2012 after he stunned the league by leaving St Kilda after five successful seasons, including four finals campaigns and an appearance in the 2013 grand final.

With a senior job available at the Saints - and pressure increasing on SA-based coaches Ken Hinkley and Don Pyke and Essendon's John Worsfold - speculation will now turn to where the career coach lands next.


The timing of Fremantle's decision to severe ties with Lyon stunned the footy world.

But not everyone was upset. Australian football Hall of Famer Brad Hardie said it was the "best news I've heard in a long time, he's a self promoter".

Ex-Dockers champ Paul Hasleby said it was the right decision.

"I just haven't seen enough improvement from Fremantle to guarantee they were going to be a top eight team next year," he said.

"There have been some decisions made (during Lyon's tenure) that saw them go from top of the table to winning four games in a season."

The sacking of Lyon brings the number of AFL coaches shown the door this season to four.

He joins North Melbourne's Brad Scott, Carlton's Brendan Bolton and St Kilda's Alan Richardson.

All three were moved on with caretaker coaches taking over and lifting their respective teams back to relevance in the back end of the season.

Former Fremantle forward Shane Kersten walked away from the club last month following a falling out with Lyon and he didn't hide his thoughts after hearing the news of Lyon's sacking.

Meanwhile, the Dockers are facing a potential exodus of players following the 2019 season and after being officially eliminated from finals contention the club decided the time was now to move on.

Early contenders to replace Lyon at Fremantle are Collingwood assistant Justin Longmuir and former North coach Brad Scott.

Longmuir, who has worked in development roles at Fremantle and West Coast, was the Eagles forward line coach from 2012-16 and senior assistant in 2017 before joining the Magpies as a defensive coach, also played 139 games with the Dockers and it's that association which Tim Gossage believes will land him the role.

"I would not be surprised if Justin Longmuir isn't certainly the man to replace them," Gossage said.

"The fact is he's still well thought of down in Fremantle.

"Of course we're waiting for the official word but if and when it does come through, I'm sure Fremantle will be acting pretty quickly to move on from this day and will move quickly to sure up a coach and I think Justin Longmuir would be a 10-to-one favourite."


St Kilda (2007-11): 76 wins, 41 defeats, 4 draws; Runner-up in 2009-10

Fremantle (2012-19): 96 wins, 87 defeats, 1 draw; Runner-up in 2013

Magpies assistant coach Justin Longmuir is in the mix to replace Lyon. (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)
Magpies assistant coach Justin Longmuir is in the mix to replace Lyon. (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)
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