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Is Ross Lyon the most powerful coach in the AFL - and is that good for St Kilda?


Following the departure of CEO Simon Lethlean at St Kilda, does Ross Lyon have too much power at Moorabbin?

Kane Cornes has pondered the question, given the revelation that Lethlean had next to nothing to do with the football department following Lyon’s appointment.

Sam Edmund explained how it all played out and the reaction from other chiefs around the AFL.

“What is fact is the outgoing CEO Simon Lethlean was having less and less and less to do with the football department all the time,” Edmund told SEN Breakfast.

“The role had changed massively from when he signed on. Now, they didn’t have a bad relationship because they didn’t have a relationship at all. This is between the CEO and the coach.

“I canvassed the opinion of a few CEOs in the industry to see if this is unusual and they said you just cannot do your job as a CEO if you don’t have eyes on the football department.”

Cornes wonders whether any coach in the AFL has as much sway as Lyon and whether anyone internally will challenge him across the season.

“Is he the most powerful coach that we’ve got right now in terms of influence at his own club? I can’t think of another one since Alastair Clarkson at Hawthorn,” Cornes told SEN Breakfast.

“He’s coach, he’s footy manager, he’s fitness – that’s what it seems like to me. Or if he’s not happy with those areas, he will get what he wants so that he is happy with it.

“Is it risky when one person has so much say over the football program and who challenges Ross at the Saints?

“It’s a really unique situation. Brendon Goddard, Robert Harvey, Lenny Hayes, Dave Misson, they’re saying Carl Dilena will be the next CEO but won’t have much to do with the football department like Lethlean and then you’ve got Graeme Allen and Stephen Silvagni doing their own thing in terms of building the list without the input of the coach.

“I think I would be too scared to challenge Ross Lyon to the point where you might get him offside and then bang you’re gone.

“Don’t you need, in a high-performing environment, where you’ve got game plan, you’ve got issues in game, in the moment, you’ve got to challenge each other.

“And maybe I’m not giving Ross enough credit and maybe he welcomes challenge and he welcomes ideas and in the end like all good coaches he absorbs all the information and makes the call and he’s the one with final say, which is the way it should work.

“But around the club, I think you need a strong CEO who does know football and is willing to challenge the coach.

“You certainly need a strong head of football who is willing to do that as well and the coach has got to report to both of those. It feels like it’s Alastair Clarkson, it’s Bill Belichick in the NFL … but the Saints don’t have Luke Hodge and Lance Franklin and Jarryd Roughead.

“If it works, I think it’ll work for a short period. Whether it’s good enough to get you to a premiership, I think it’s a short window. I’m not sure you can have a Damien Hardwick 13-year run with this setup because it’s going to become tiresome.”

St Kilda will host Essendon at RSEA Park in their first pre-season scrimmage on February 23 before taking on North Melbourne the following week.

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