Ross Lyon's hard edge key to Saints' success in 2023

Morgan Hancock/AAP PHOTOS

Forget what you've heard from St Kilda's public relations department about the new "Cuddly Ross" Lyon.

The notorious taskmaster has maintained his famous hard edge in his second coming at Moorabbin.

And it's been crucial in driving the Saints into just their second finals series since Lyon's previous stint at the helm, which ended when he left for Fremantle way back in 2011.

"You hear stories of him in the past and that he was pretty hard," St Kilda forward Tim Membrey told AAP.

"He still is hard, for sure, but he just expects high standards.

"Everyone is on edge and if you're in the program you've got a job to do, which is how it should be.

"That's something this year that's been driven really hard and all the players have bought into that."

Two-time All-Australian defender Jack Sinclair has relished having Lyon at the helm, lauding the 56-year-old tactician's clarity of messaging since he replaced sacked former coach Brett Ratten at St Kilda late last year.

"He's got his simple laws that he lives by and he wants you to buy into that," Sinclair told AAP.

"If you do that, he respects you - and if you don't, you might be on the outer.

"We've really bought in as a group and he really wants us to work hard and commit to our way of playing.

"For big parts of the year we've done that."

Reliable defender Callum Wilkie, another All-Australian in St Kilda's back-line, said the "relatable" Lyon has driven high standards to get the best out of players since his return to Moorabbin.

It started in pre-season, when the majority of Saints set personal bests in time trials.

Wilkie said Lyon's process-driven approach had allowed the Saints to play with freedom, and without fear of making mistakes, as they learnt a new game plan.

Above all, effort is key.

"During that dull patch where we weren't winning as much through the middle of the year, the effort was still there but we just couldn't really move the ball," Wilkie told AAP.

"That's pleasing because then you can focus on what's actually going wrong.

"When the effort isn't there you can't really pick the game apart from a technical point of view."

Lyon has dubbed 2023 a "year of exploration" for St Kilda as they embark on a new era under his stewardship.

While not ideal, as Lyon would no doubt say, a loss to GWS in Saturday's elimination final would not be viewed internally as disastrous in the pursuit of long-term success.

"He just expects improvement. It's gradual, but you're just always improving," Wilkie said.

"That's been his message and he's not focused on the results.

"It's about the process and results are just feedback."