Ross Lyon

Ross Lyon (born 8 November 1966) is a former Australian rules football player and coach. He was the senior coach of the Fremantle Football Club in the Australian Football League (AFL), having previously coached the St Kilda Football Club from 2007 to 2011. He played for Fitzroy and the Brisbane Bears between 1985 and 1995.

Ross Lyon
Lyon in March 2016
Personal information
Full name Ross Lyon
Date of birth (1966-11-08) 8 November 1966
Original team(s) Reservoir (NFL)
Height 183 cm (6 ft 0 in)
Weight 89 kg (196 lb)
Club information
Current club Fremantle
Playing career1
Years Club Games (Goals)
19851994 Fitzroy 127 (112)
1995 Brisbane Bears 002 00(0)
Total 129 (112)
Coaching career3
Years Club Games (W–L–D)
2007–2011 St Kilda 121 (76–41–4)
2012–2019 Fremantle 184 (96–87–1)
Total 305 (172–128–5)
1 Playing statistics correct to the end of 1995.
3 Coaching statistics correct as of 2019.
Career highlights
Sources: AFL Tables,

Playing career

Lyon began his career with Fitzroy in 1985. After playing the last five games of the season and the first game in 1986 he missed the remainder of the season and most of 1987 due to groin and back injuries that was later diagnosed as spondylolisthesis. He returned to play 19 games in 1988 and ended up playing 127 games over the next ten years and a further two games with Brisbane in 1995 before retiring due to a knee problem. As a player, he battled injury but was renowned for his fearless approach to the game, particularly his strong tackling and fierce bump.[1]

Coaching career

After retiring as a player, Lyon began his coaching career as an assistant to Robert Walls at Richmond in 1996 before moving to Carlton in 2000. He spent five years at Carlton both as an assistant coach and as the club's VFL coach where he worked alongside respected coaches David Parkin and Denis Pagan.

In 2004 he joined Sydney as their midfield coach, working under his former Fitzroy teammate Paul Roos and was instrumental in helping the Swans reach consecutive grand finals in 2005 and 2006.

St Kilda Football Club: 2007-2011

When the St Kilda coaching position became available at the end of 2006, a list of candidates was drawn up. Lyon beat a total of 52 candidates for the job, including favourite John Longmire.[2] He succeeded Grant Thomas, who was sacked a week after the Saints were defeated in an elimination final by Melbourne.

Upon becoming coach of the club, Lyon hired his own assistants, with close friend and AFL Team of the Century fullback Stephen Silvagni, Anthony Rock, former Carlton assistant coach Tony Elshaug and John Barker all being appointed in assistant coaching positions for Lyon's first season. He also helped lure highly rated fitness coach David Misson to the club from Sydney. Silvagni spent a total of four years at the club as defence coach, leaving at the end of 2010 to work with Greater Western Sydney, whilst Elshaug is now the head of recruiting at St Kilda. Other notable assistants to have worked with Lyon in his time as coach include Leigh Tudor and Robert Harvey.

Lyon is the most successful St Kilda coach by percentage of games won, with a 64.5% winning record.[3]

2007 season

Lyon began his first season as coach with a victory against Melbourne in Round 1 of 2007 and the Saints then won four of their first seven games. Injuries hit the club badly in Round 8, however, with St Kilda having only 24 out of a possible 38 players to choose from against the Hawthorn Football Club. Lyon was criticised for flooding excessively and many became angry with the more defensive style of St Kilda over the subsequent weeks.[4]

After an upset victory in Robert Harvey's 350th match in Round 12 against West Coast, Lyon proceeded to guide the Saints to win three out of the next four matches and a drawn game against the Western Bulldogs. This left the Saints in eighth position on the ladder, a spot the side was unable to maintain after narrow losses to reigning grand-finalists Sydney and West Coast in the remaining five rounds . The club narrowly missed playing finals for the fourth consecutive season, finishing 9th with 11 wins, 10 losses and 1 draw for the year. Despite missing finals action the Saints finished the year strongly, winning 7.5 of the last 11 matches.[5]

During the 2007 trade period, St Kilda were widely considered to have traded very well, picking up Geelong premiership ruckman Steven King, Geelong forward Charlie Gardiner and Swans pair Adam Schneider and Sean Dempster for draft selections 26 and 90.[6]

2008 season

St Kilda started the season strongly by winning the 2008 NAB Cup, defeating the Adelaide Crows by five points at Football Park.[7] Despite this strong showing the Saints went on to have a mixed first half of the season with five wins and six losses. In the second half of the season, their fortune improved and they sealed a spot in the top four with a record-breaking 108 point victory against Essendon in the final round.[8]

The 2008 finals campaign, Lyon's first as coach, saw St Kilda lose to Geelong in the first qualifying final and then defeat Collingwood by 34 points in a semi final. In what would be veteran and club legend Robert Harvey's final game as a player, the Saints were well beaten by eventual premiers Hawthorn in a preliminary final, losing by 54 points.

2009 season

St Kilda made a number of changes to their coaching and playing staff in the 2008/09 pre-season, adding Geelong assistant coach Leigh Tudor as the forward coach. Over the pre-season Lyon worked on a new game plan based around forward pressure, midfield zone defence and pushing numbers behind the ball. This was the platform for a record-breaking year. St Kilda won 19 consecutive matches, including a game described by some observers as one of the best home-and-away clashes of all time in Round 14 against Geelong (who were also undefeated at the time).[9] Despite losing narrowly to Essendon and North Melbourne late in the season, the Saints finished two-games clear on top of the AFL ladder, winning the McLelland Trophy for the first time since 1997.[10]

The club won its first final against Collingwood before beating the Western Bulldogs by seven points in a preliminary final to advance to their first AFL Grand Final since 1997. Lyon became only the third man (after Stan Alves and Allan Jeans) to coach the club to a grand final since World War Two.

The 2009 AFL Grand Final was one of the closest and hardest-fought ever held. A record-breaking 214 tackles were laid in the match (118 by the Saints). St Kilda led the game at every quarter but fell short at the final siren, losing the match by 12 points. Several St Kilda players missed short range shots on goal and the team had three more scoring shots than Geelong for the match.[10] Four of St Kilda's scoring shots were rushed behinds; Geelong had none.[11]

Despite the grand final loss, Lyon was named the AFL Coaches Association Coach of the Year in 2009.[12]

2010 season

Controversy plagued the St Kilda Football Club in the 2009/2010 pre-season. Former club captain Luke Ball signed with rival club Collingwood and Lyon was criticised for failing to keep Ball and not gaining any compensation in return. The Saints chose to trade their first round draft pick for former Essendon footballer Andrew Lovett. It was hoped that Lovett's pace and skill would enable the Saints to win the premiership in 2010. Lovett never played a game for the club, being sacked after allegations of rape were made against him.[13]

Despite the controversy, the Saints managed to win 15.5 games in 2010 and finished 3rd on the AFL ladder. The season was notable for the loss of club captain Nick Riewoldt to a serious injury in Round 3. Riewoldt did not return for four months, but managed to come back into the team and lead them into another finals series.[14]

The Saints beat Geelong narrowly in their first final in 2010, and then comfortably won a Preliminary Final against the Western Bulldogs for the second year in a row. Lyon became the only man apart from Allan Jeans to coach St Kilda to multiple Grand Final appearances. The 2010 AFL Grand Final against Collingwood ended in a draw, with St Kilda coming from 24 points down at half-time to square the result at the final siren. The replay the following week saw the Saints beaten comfortably, and the club finished runner-up for the second year in a row.[14]

2011 season

St Kilda had their worst start to a season in almost a decade, only winning one and drawing one of their first seven matches. St Kilda then started their revival, defeating Melbourne in Round 9 and then only losing three more games for the remainder of the year. They also caused West Coast's only loss in the second half of the season when both clubs were on a winning roll. St Kilda finished seventh at the end of the season, following an elimination final loss to Sydney.

Move to Fremantle

On 15 September 2011, shortly after St Kilda's elimination from the 2011 finals series, Lyon suddenly signed a four-year deal to coach Fremantle, leaving Fremantle coach Mark Harvey abruptly and unexpectedly sacked. Both Lyon and Harvey had one year remaining on their respective contracts, with Lyon exercising a get-out clause and Fremantle paying out Harvey's final year. It emerged that Fremantle had head-hunted Lyon to take over after both coaches' existing contracts had expired at the end of 2012, but that when it was discovered that Lyon had a get-out clause, the possibility of an immediate move was discussed.

The coaching change was a surprise throughout the football world, as there had been no media speculation or reporting on any potential change prior to it occurring. As Lyon and Harvey were both managed by the same company, Elite Sport Properties, Lyon carried out the negotiations without his management's knowledge; in fact, his management had been actively negotiating a contract extension with St Kilda at the same time. The aftermath of the decision saw hurt feelings at both St Kilda Football Club and for Mark Harvey, as neither knew anything about the deal until it was done. There was a backlash from many in the football world about the way the deal was done and particularly about the manner in which Harvey was treated by the Fremantle Football Club.[15]

Lyon left St Kilda with the best winning percentage of any other Saints coach in the club's history and became the first person to coach the Saints to four consecutive finals series.

Fremantle Football Club

After starting the 2012 season strongly with a 5-2 win/loss record, including wins against reigning premier Geelong and Lyon's former club St Kilda, Fremantle struggled in the middle parts of the season, highlighted by big losses to Hawthorn and cross-town rival West Coast. As the season progressed the Dockers seemed to start coming to grips with Lyon's game plan. From Rounds 15 to 19 the Dockers went on a five-game winning streak, with the most notable win being a 65-point win over West Coast. The Dockers finished seventh in the regular season and defeated Geelong in their elimination final match to advance to the semi-finals, where they subsequently lost to Adelaide.

The Dockers improved again under Lyon's tutelage the following year, finishing the 2013 season in the top four for just the second time in their history. An upset win against Geelong at Simonds Stadium and a 25-point win against Sydney in the club's first home preliminary final booked them a place in the Grand Final, also a club-first. The Dockers went down to Hawthorn in the Grand Final by 15 points. Another top-four finish followed in 2014, however losses to Sydney and Port Adelaide sent the club crashing out of the finals in straight sets.[16]

Lyon coached his 200th AFL game in Round 6, 2015.[17]

Lyon coached Fremantle to its first ever minor premiership in 2015, after winning 12 of the first 13 games of the season. Fremantle defeated Sydney in their qualifying final, earning a home Preliminary Final, the first time ever both Preliminary finals have been held in the same state excluding Victoria. However Fremantle were defeated by Hawthorn by 27 points. After this defeat Lyon's game plan came under heavy criticism as he had coached four grand finals for only one draw and five Preliminary Finals for only three wins.

After failing to lead Fremantle into the AFL finals series in four consecutive seasons, on 20 August 2019 Lyon was sacked as coach.[18]

Coaching style

At both St Kilda and Fremantle, Lyon was noted for enacting the most structured and defensive gameplans in the league, with a particularly strong emphasis on the entire team applying defensive pressure when the opponent has the ball. Throughout his career, his teams have regularly been amongst the best in the league for points conceded, if not the best – in 2009, when St Kilda won the minor premiership, it conceded only 1411 points in the home-and-away season, a full 367 points fewer than the next best[19] – and have consequently performed well even when their points scored has been closer to the league average.[20] Despite its success, Lyon's game plan is not universally liked; many observers have criticised it as being 'boring' or 'ugly' compared with higher-scoring open game styles employed by some other teams, or by teams from previous eras.[21][22]


Playing statistics

 G  Goals  B  Behinds  K  Kicks  H  Handballs  D  Disposals  M  Marks  T  Tackles
Season Team No. Games G B K H D M T G B K H D M T
Totals Averages (per game)
1985 Fitzroy 2959957379429N/A1.81.811.47.418.85.8N/A
1986 Fitzroy 2911285132N/A1.
1987 Fitzroy 292319514021.
1988 Fitzroy 2919161316814130965230.
1989 Fitzroy 291413171495120061130.
1990 Fitzroy 2917151416811228059150.
1991 Fitzroy 2919151216715732455210.
1992 Fitzroy 2917121019113933060310.70.611.
1993 Fitzroy 291516101177218953261.
1994 Fitzroy 291812516814331164420.
1995 Brisbane Bears 28200171734640.
Career 129 112 93 1219 879 2098 454 177 0.9 0.7 9.4 6.8 16.3 3.5 1.4

Coaching statistics

Statistics are correct as at Round 22 of the 2019 season[24]
 W  Wins  L  Losses  D  Draws  W%  Winning percentage  LP  Ladder position  LT  League teams
Season Team Games W L D W % LP LT
2007 St Kilda 221110152.3%916
2008 St Kilda 251411056.0%416
2009 St Kilda 25223088.0%116
2010 St Kilda 26177269.2%316
2011 St Kilda 231210154.3%617
2012 Fremantle 24159062.5%718
2013 Fremantle 25186174.0%318
2014 Fremantle 24168066.7%418
2015 Fremantle 24186075.0%118
2016 Fremantle 22418018.2%1618
2017 Fremantle 22814036.4%1418
2018 Fremantle 22814036.4%1418
20191 Fremantle 21912042.86%1318

1 - Ross Lyon was sacked from Fremantle after the Round 22, 2019 loss to Essendon.

Personal life

Lyon grew up in the northern Melbourne suburb of Reservoir with his four sisters and parents Maurie and Louise Lyon.[25] He attended Lakeside High School and in 1984 was selected to tour Ireland with the Australian schoolboys team.[1] His father played four games for South Melbourne in the 1953 VFL season.[26] His mother died from motor neuron disease in 2004.[1]

After retiring from playing football he married Kirsten Woods, sister of former footballer Tony Woods. They have two daughters and a son. His eldest daughter was born the day before he was an assistant coach for Sydney's 2005 AFL Grand Final victory.[1]


  1. Keenan, Amanda (24 March 2012). "Lyon Heart". West Weekend. pp. 10–12.
  2. "Ross Lyon is Saints' new coach". Herald Sun. 11 October 2006.
  3. "St Kilda Coaches". AFL Tables.
  4. Robinson, Mark & Stevens, Mark (22 May 2007). "Kennett slams Lyon, Clarkson". Herald Sun.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  5. "2007 Season Scores and Results". AFL Tables.
  6. "Steven King Heads to St Kilda". The Age. Melbourne. 12 October 2007.
  7. "AFL 2008 NAB Cup Grand Final – Adelaide v St Kilda – St Kilda coach Ross Lyon and Justin Koschitzke hold the 2008 NAB Cup". Slattery Media Group. 8 March 2008. Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 8 November 2009.
  8. "2008 Season Scores and Results". AFL Tables.
  9. Ralph, Jon (5 July 2009). "St Kilda Saints move clear from Geelong Cats in thriller". Herald Sun. Retrieved 2 May 2012.
  10. "2009 Season Scores and Results". AFL Tables.
  11. "St Kilda defeated by Geelong Grand Final, MCG, Attendance: 99251". Footywire AFL Statistics.
  12. Hogan, Jesse (23 September 2009). "Coaches agree, Ablett is No. 1". The Age. Melbourne.
  13. "Andrew Lovett found not guilty on two counts of rape". Herald Sun. 25 July 2011.
  14. "2010 Season Scores and Results". AFL Tables.
  15. Nicholson, Rod (16 September 2011). "Ross Lyon says he holds his head high after shock departure to Freo". Herald Sun. Melbourne, VIC. Retrieved 27 November 2011.
  16. Unbelievable as Cats and Dockers crash out in straight sets, The Roar, 14 September 2014
  17. Dobson, John (6 May 2015). "Respect for Ross". Fremantle Football Club official website. Retrieved 11 May 2015.
  18. Niall, Jake; Hagdorn, Kim (20 August 2019). "Ross Lyon sacked as Fremantle coach". The Age. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  19. Costa Kastanis (29 May 2013). "The three phases of Ross Lyon's game plan". Retrieved 1 November 2014.
  20. Callum Goode (4 September 2014). "Dockers must score, not strangle, their way to the flag". Archived from the original on 1 November 2014. Retrieved 1 November 2014.
  21. Stephen Alomes (26 September 2013). "The game's turned ugly - and I wouldn't be Lyon". The Age. Melbourne, VIC. Retrieved 1 November 2014.
  22. Jay Clark (1 May 2010). "Ross Lyon hits out over criticism of St Kilda's style of play". Sunday Herald Sun. Melbourne, VIC. Retrieved 1 November 2014.
  23. "Ross Lyon". AFL Tables.
  24. "Ross Lyon's coaching profile". AFL Tables.
  25. Connolly, Rohan (6 June 2009). "Drawing out straight Lyon". The Age. Melbourne.
  26. Maurie Lyon's playing statistics from AFL Tables
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