Caroline Wilson sticks boot in over 'terrible' St Kilda situation

AFL journalist Caroline Wilson says the St Kilda football club has been run poorly for a long time. Pic: Channel Nine
AFL journalist Caroline Wilson says the St Kilda football club has been run poorly for a long time. Pic: Channel Nine

Respected AFL journalist Caroline Wilson has delivered a scathing assessment of St Kilda after claiming the AFL club "has been run so badly, for so long".

The Saints are set to announce Ross Lyon as head coach by the end of the week, marking an extraordinary return to the AFL club he dramatically walked out on 11 years ago.

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Lyon's imminent appointment comes after a particularly messy saga for St Kilda, following the sacking of former coach, Brett Ratten.

St Kilda bosses fired Ratten less than 100 days after he signed a two-year contract extension, following an extensive football department review into the club.

Saints powerbrokers say they regretted granting Ratten a contract extension on July 8 but did not go into detail about the review that sealed the coach's fate.

Ratten was reappointed when St Kilda looked finals-bound with a 9-6 record. They won only two of their last seven games to finish 10th.

St Kilda's season went from bad to worse after a quiet trade period that also saw them miss out on top target Jordan De Goey, from Collingwood.

Wilson says the Ratten mess was just a number of glaring mistakes that St Kilda has made in recent times, and that current CEO Simon Lethlean was responsible for a number of them.

Pictured here, St Kilda CEO Simon Lethlean speaking at a press conference.
St Kilda CEO Simon Lethlean has come under fire from Caroline Wilson amid the recent drama at the club. Pic: Getty (Quinn Rooney via Getty Images)

Lethlean rose to his role as the club's CEO having first been appointed GM of football at St Kilda.

He came to the Saints after being forced to quit his role as an AFL executive over inappropriate relationships with younger staff members.

Lethlean and Saints president Andrew Bassat admitted Ratten was "blindsided" by his axing at the club, and was given the chance to plead his case to stay on as coach, before the board met to decide his fate.

Wilson described the messy saga as a "terrible" look for the Saints, pointing the finger squarely at Lethlean and how the club has been run.

“What probably made Ratten worse is that he was re-signed only 100 days or so ago on a two-year deal,” Wilson said on her Don’t Shoot the Messenger podcast.

“If you are a club that receives money from the AFL and owes a lot of money and has the worst debt in the AFL, they aren’t allowed to sign long-term contracts, there would have been a six-month payout.

“But still, that six months for a club that has got not much money, the footy boss (Lethlean) at the time is now the CEO, I don’t know whether he’s saying it was the old CEO’s decision to re-sign the coach, I hope not because he was the head of footy and would have had a big say in it.

“One of the problems is you’ve got a guy who has come in as head of footy in Simon Lethlean who has had issues at the AFL as we know and had to leave the AFL when he was on a trajectory there, he’s come in as footy boss and he has made some bad calls as head of footy.

"The first one was getting Dan Hannebery from the Swans. The recruiting has been pretty abysmal.

“They’ve brought in (football manager) Geoff Walsh over the two men Lethlean wanted to run things. They’ve basically knocked back his first envisaged structure of the footy department.

“Now they’ve decided they want Ross Lyon to coach. This review has been going on since early September and I gather the president was telling people about it on Lindsay Fox’s yacht and you’ve got all these former club presidents there.

“They’re a terrible football club. They’ve been run so badly, for so long.

“I just think – to make Ratten go in and plead for his job after being told he’s come out badly in the review and then pretty much making him wait outside the door while the board meets for a few more hours before they emerge and tell him he’s gone anyway. It’s not pretty. That was bad.”

Ross Lyon set for St Kilda reunion

Lyon looks set to take over from Ratten after meeting with St Kilda's president and CEO for four hours on Monday.

The parties sat down again at St Kilda's Moorabbin headquarters on Wednesday to further discuss the unlikely reunion.

"I'm just going to meet with the board so it's just part of it," Lyon told the Seven Network on Wednesday before entering a meeting.

Seen here, Ross Lyon during his time as head coach of Fremantle.
Ross Lyon is set to be appointed for a second stint as head coach at St Kilda. Pic: Getty (Matt King via Getty Images)

Lyon coached St Kilda to grand finals in 2009 and 2010 before his bombshell defection to Fremantle at the end of 2011.

In one of the biggest AFL stories this century, the Dockers abruptly dumped Mark Harvey as coach before 24 hours later naming Lyon as their new leader.

Lyon led the Fremantle to the club's first and only grand final appearance in 2013 but was sacked in late-2019, having missed the finals in four consecutive seasons.

He has since held media roles and spent time focusing on business interests.

If Lyon does return to St Kilda, he would be the first coach since David Parkin in 1991 - following a six-year break from Carlton - to have a second full-time stint in charge of an AFL club.

James Hird was forced to sit out the 2014 season as a result of Essendon's supplements saga but never actually quit the Bombers.

Lyon said on Monday it was a "delicate time" and claimed he was still weighing up whether he wanted to coach again after three years out of the system.

A number of retired St Kilda heroes, including Brendon Goddard and Stephen Milne, have come out in support of Lyon returning to Moorabbin.

Since Lyon led St Kilda to four-straight finals appearances between 2008 and 2011, the Saints have made the top-eight just once - a fifth-place finish in 2020.

with AAP

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