Ross Lyon's telling admission after return as St Kilda coach

Ross Lyon is pictured entering his introductory press conference as coach of St Kilda.
Ross Lyon says he felt emotional upon returning to St Kilda headquarters to pitch his case to coach the club again. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Ross Lyon has admitted returning to St Kilda headquarters to discuss a shock return as head coach left him feeling emotional, pledging he has 'unfinished business' with the Saints.

Some 11 years since walking out on St Kilda to join Fremantle, who subsequently made the 2013 AFL grand final, Lyon will once again coach the club after agreeing to a contract through to the 2026 season.

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St Kilda president Andrew Bassat said the club had only engaged in discussions with Lyon after their controversial decision to sack former coach Brett Ratten, who they had signed a two-year extension with last season.

The Saints president and recently promoted CEO Simon Lethlean were on hand alongside Lyon for his introductory press conference, announcing he is set to begin in his new role alongside incoming football manager Geoff Walsh.

The 55-year-old said he had unfinished business at the club after coaching them to within one point of their second premiership - in their 2010 grand final draw with Collingwood, which was followed by a 56-point defeat in the replay.

"Once this opportunity came up, I've reflected on the special bonds and friendships I have with past players and staff that I've maintained since 2007 to my departure (in 2011)," Lyon told reporters.

"When I presented to the board and how I felt about St Kilda, I did get very emotional and it sort of unleashed a lot of memories, the highs and the lows.

"That sort of really validated how I felt about the club."

Bassat and Lethlean held a media conference to explain St Kilda's ruthless sacking of Lyon's predecessor, Ratten, which came less than 100 days after the club had handed him a contract extension.

"We have spent the last 10 days talking extensively to Ross. He has presented to our Board and met multiple times with myself, Simon Lethlean and Geoff Walsh to share his vision for the future of our program," Bassat said.

Ross Lyon tasked with establishing 'culture' at Saints

In his letter to members, Bassat said Lyon was appointed to develop a winning culture at the Saints.

"Ross' unwavering pursuit of on and off-field excellence is exactly what we believe we need to take this club forward," Bassat said.

"While his senior coaching record and reputation as a leader speaks for itself, Ross has a clear passion for St Kilda and is determined to bring the club and its people long-awaited success.

"Ross is aligned in our vision, and his experiences within the industry - particularly as someone with such in-depth knowledge of St Kilda - should give our members a high level of confidence moving forward."

Lyon is intent on building credibility for St Kilda, after twice leading them to losing grand finals during his previous five-year tenure.

Ross Lyon is pictured with former St Kilda players Brendon Goddard and Nick Riewoldt
Ross Lyon coached St Kilda to consecutive grand finals in 2009 and 2010, but left the club in acrimonious circumstances after the 2011 AFL season. (Photo by Jonathan Wood/Getty Images)

The Saints are in the midst of the competition's longest premiership drought, dating back to their only VFL flag in 1966.

St Kilda's treatment of Ratten was labelled "disgraceful" and "demeaning" by former A-League coaching great Ernie Merrick, who spent most of the 2022 season as a part-time coaching mentor at the club.

Ratten's sacking was the result of a football department review during which Merrick backed the then-coach to keep his job.

Lyon was sacked as Fremantle coach in 2019.

Upon returning to St Kilda, Lyon becomes 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.

With AAP

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