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Disgruntled Docker exits Freo in wake of clash with Lyon over Neale departure

Lyon is under increasing pressure despite a year to run on his lucrative Dockers contract, with tensions reportedly at boiling point between the senior coach, club CEO Steve Rosich and football operations general manager Peter Bell, who was given a contract until the end of 2022 on Tuesday.

Fremantle has lost five of its past six games to continue a trend of poor post-bye form under Lyon and face a rampant Geelong at Optus Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

What I do know is outstanding coaches don’t go out of form in the space of a couple of weeks or even a couple of seasons.

Chris Scott

But Cats coach Chris Scott, a former Dockers assistant, leapt to the senior coach’s defence on Wednesday, saying he still rated Lyon as one of the competition’s best mentors.

“I’ve got a great deal of respect for the football club. I spent three years here as an assistant coach, and I’ve got great respect for Ross Lyon as a coach as well,” Scott said as the Cats trained at Fremantle Oval.

“He was, along with Alastair Clarkson, amongst the premier coaches of my generation as I was learning my craft as a coach, and he has presided over the most successful era in Fremantle’s history.

“I’m sure it doesn’t feel like it to some right at the moment – it probably doesn’t feel like it to him, but to my observation it’s a fact …  a little bit of short-term pressure doesn’t diminish the respect I have for all of them.

Geelong coach Chris Scott (with captain Joel Selwood) was a former assistant at Fremantle.

Geelong coach Chris Scott (with captain Joel Selwood) was a former assistant at Fremantle.Credit:AAP

“What I do know is outstanding coaches don’t go out of form in the space of a couple of weeks or even a couple of seasons.”

Scott and Lyon went head-to-head in two finals campaigns, with Fremantle defeating the reigning premiers in a 2012 elimination final at the MCG and a stunning qualifying final upset the following season at Kardinya Park.

Geelong missed the finals in 2015 but now sit atop the AFL ladder, while the Dockers are still wondering when their four-year rebuild will finish.

After some listless performances in the past two months, questions have been raised about the support Lyon has from his players.

“I think it’s never been stronger, the connection with the player group,” Lyon told Channel 7 on his regular paid Tuesday night segment.

“Our effort all year has been incredibly consistent, even though it’s been a challenging last six weeks (with) our availability.”

Fremantle held a scheduled board meeting in Melbourne on Monday where Lyon was present to explain the team’s recent drop in form.

He feels the Dockers have improved this season and said injuries to key personnel Jesse Hogan, Matt Taberner, Alex Pearce, Stephen Hill and Aaron Sandilands have hit the club hard.

Digging in: Fremantle coach Ross Lyon with Dockers star Michael Walter.

Digging in: Fremantle coach Ross Lyon with Dockers star Michael Walter.Credit:AAP

“We were 7-5 and sitting in the eight,” Lyon said.

“One (win) out of the last six is far from ideal. There’s been some personnel challenges.

“We want to continue to grow our list, get deeper and be able to handle these challenges going forward … But we need to get better in a lot more aspects.”

The Dockers received a dose of good news on Wednesday when promising utility Connor Blakely re-signed for a further three years.

Geelong star Gary Ablett is likely to play despite injuring a hamstring at Optus Stadium last season, as is former Docker Sam Menegola.

“We’ve put a bit of thought into the surface, but that’s not why he did a hamstring in round three last year, we’re pretty certain of that,” Scott said of superstar Ablett.

“The surface is a slight consideration, but I think it’s more the cumulative effect for the teams that play here every other week.

“Whatever we do with the team, I can say with great confidence it won’t really be because of any issue we have with the surface.”

Watters slams Lyon over list management

Meanwhile, former St Kilda coach and WA footy star Scott Watters has made some bombshell comments about the state of the Saints’ list when Lyon left the club to coach Freo in 2012.

Watters, who was an assistant with Collingwood, took on the Saints role after Lyon despite being warned by Pies list manager Derek Hine the Saints had secured the least top-10 picks in a decade and retained the fewest of them.

Scott Watters surrounded by St Kilda players during a game.

Scott Watters surrounded by St Kilda players during a game.

“Something I didn’t know walking into that role is that three days after walking in we were $220,000 over the salary cap,” Watters told the Herald Sun’s ‘Sacked’ podcast.

“I was driving to a meeting with Chris Pelchen and we were trying to re-sign (full-back) Zac Dawson. At the time he was the only thing that resembled a key defender on our list.

“Zac wanted $35,000 more a season and we were basically in receivership. Under jurisdiction from the AFL not one more player on the list could be offered one dollar more.

“If you finished top five in the fairest and best, you would get a $50,000 bonus.

“But then that bonus would actually become part of your base package the following year, so over a five-year to 10-year period that is what caused (the issues).

“That is mismanagement, that is blatant mismanagement and it takes a long time to backtrack from that.”

St Kilda has not played finals since Lyon left in 2011, and had ninth-placed finishes in 2012 and 2016.

Brendon Goddard, Nick Dal Santo and Ben McEvoy were traded to free up the salary cap and revamp the list, which Watters said he warned club heavies was in decline.

“It had been declining since 2009 in reality, even though St Kilda nearly pinched the Grand Final. It’s easy to analyse the demographics of a list and see where it’s trending,” he said.

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