Lyon's second coming at Saints set to be a show stopper

"Strap yourselves in."

Ross Lyon isn't a prolific Twitter user. In fact, he's only posted 10 tweets since joining the social media platform in 2013.

But this rare tweet from him in 2016 proved prophetic, and it stands the test of time ahead of his second coming at St Kilda.

Lyon's message signalled the news he had committed to Fremantle for a further five years.

That bumpy ride was brought to a premature end in 2019 when he was axed following a fourth straight season out of finals action.

Many celebrated the demise of a man dubbed 'Ross the Boss'. Some of his own players even felt relieved.

Lyon's abrasive style doesn't work for everyone. You can only be pushed so hard for so long before you begin to crack - mentally and physically.

But it always seemed a matter of when, not if, the self-proclaimed career coach would be thrust back into the coaching hot seat.

Lyon looked set to join Carlton at the end of 2021, but pulled out after telling club president Luke Sayers he wasn't interested in being involved in the selection process.

His name was briefly linked to Essendon last year.

A return to St Kilda was never on the cards.

But when the Saints sensationally axed Brett Ratten just three months after handing him a two-year extension, the stars aligned for Lyon to return.

The Lyon that left St Kilda in 2011 was an unrelenting taskmaster who had a reputation for getting the best out of his players.

But with those unrelenting demands came the predictable burnout - for his players and staff.

He led St Kilda to two grand finals (three including the replay against Collingwood in 2010) before the Saints started to falter.

At Fremantle, his unrelenting ways continued. Perhaps they were even enhanced.

It bore fruit, with the Dockers reaching their first grand final in 2013, and claiming the minor premiership in 2015 during the club's greatest era of success to date.

But when his players started burning out, the crash and burn came quickly.

Fremantle fell off the cliff in 2016, losing the first 10 games of the season on the way to a 16th-placed finish.

For the first time in his coaching career, Lyon was facing the prospect of leading a complete rebuild from the ground up.

Lyon did his best to embrace the challenge of what he dubbed a "restump, rewire, replumb".

The results were poor - as you'd expect with a young rebuilding side.

But it is within these struggles where Lyon started to evolve - not only as a coach, but also as a person.

Lyon is renowned for being difficult - both with the media and even his own coaching staff and players.

Rumour has it he even had a few tiffs with his former Dockers assistant Peter Sumich - one of which almost turned physical.

But in the final 18 months at Fremantle, something shifted in Lyon.

Perhaps he was swayed by the youth around him, perhaps he was humbled by the continued poor results.

Whatever it was, Lyon started displaying more human emotions.

There was more affection, he became more expressive.

He started hugging his players more, embracing a fatherly-type role.

Dare one say it, he even became likeable.

Once his days at Fremantle were brought undone, Lyon took up roles in the media.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, the AFL website told Lyon they wouldn't be able to afford his services.

Lyon reflected, came back to the website and told them he would do it for free.

Maybe he did it to stay relevant in the public eye. Maybe it was out of the goodness of his heart. Or maybe it was a combination of both.

All in all, the signs are pointing towards St Kilda inheriting a more well-rounded Lyon this time around.

Things won't be perfect of course.

One can only wonder what Lyon was saying about his own players in the coaching-box audio that was accidentally uploaded to a league-shared Dropbox server last week.

That mistake wasn't Lyon's fault - nor was it his fault that St Kilda football boss Geoff Walsh quit his post just three months after landing it.

Lyon faces a huge task to help St Kilda become relevant again.

The Saints haven't been a legitimate premiership contender since the Lyon-led sides of 2008-2010.

Their list looks thin, and Max King is among a 14-strong injury list that has the potential to derail their 2023 campaign before it even starts.

But one of the things that Lyon does best is instil confidence, and captain Jack Steele has already noted the Lyon effect.

"He just demands very high standards and that's been evident from the very start of the pre-season," Steele told AAP.

"He wants everyone to give 100 per cent effort and a never-say-die attitude.

"To have someone instil that in our playing group from day one is pretty powerful.

"All the players are really buying into what he's bringing. Our relationship is growing and I'm sure it'll continue to do so when we play games of footy and, hopefully, win some games this year."

But what about the classic Lyon sprays?

"There's definitely been sprays here and there but nothing too personal," Steele says.

"It's always about the action and the behaviour and he makes that clear from the start.

"That's quite important. To create an environment to feel like you're not getting personally attacked is important.

"He's had his moments where he's been quite clear with certain players, but nothing directly at the player."

Time will tell as to whether Lyon will continue to evolve or merely fall back into old habits.

Whatever the case may be, strap yourselves in, because it promises to be one hell of a ride.