Just four months into what was planned to be an off-field revolution for St Kilda, the man they hired to engineer the club's renaissance has resigned after just four months. Geoff Walsh, brought in as football manager in the wake of the Saints' decision to sack former coach Brett Ratten, has announced family circumstances have forced him to step away from the job.
Walsh was one of a number of new hires for St Kilda after the dismal end to their 2022 season, in which they squandered a top four position mid-year to miss the finals altogether. The Saints have reunited with former coach Ross Lyon, who coached the side to back to back grand finals in 2009 and 2010.
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Additionally, club champion Robert Harvey returns as an assistant coach, while former assistant and Calton great Stephen Silvagni has also come back on board at Moorabbin. Dave Misson, who returned to the Saints along with Lyon, will be their interim football operations manager.
In a statement released by the club, Walsh attributed his departure to rapidly changing circumstances at home, which required his full attention and could not facilitate full-time work in concert. He said he was confident in what had been achieved in his brief tenure.
"I have really enjoyed my time with the club, but with my personal situation very recently changing, I now need to focus on addressing that, which unfortunately will preclude me from devoting the necessary time to a full-time role in football," Walsh said in a club statement.
"In a short space of time, some significant change in systems, staff and structure have been undertaken in the football program and I have enjoyed playing my part in that. I expect 2023 will see the benefits of those changes.
"It has been a great experience building a working relationship with many talented people within the program, in particular Ross Lyon, who I know will be relentless in driving the program towards a strong future."
Executive General Manager of Football Geoff Walsh has made the decision to depart the club due to family reasons.
We thank Geoff for his expertise and contribution over this time and wish him well for the future.
— St Kilda FC (@stkildafc) January 30, 2023
Geoff Walsh will leave tomorrow as St Kilda head of football due to family reasons.
David Misson will step up as head of the department in his absence @7NewsMelbourne
— Mitch Cleary (@cleary_mitch) January 30, 2023
Dave Misson will be the Saints acting football boss, following the immediate and surprise departure of Geoff Walsh.
The Saints say Walsh has left for family reasons, nothing connected to recent appointments / changes
— Tom Browne (@TomBrowne7) January 30, 2023
Saints chief executive Simon Lethlean said Walsh had made a big impact in his short time at the club. "We have been incredibly fortunate to acquire his expertise and skills," he said.
"Geoff's knowledge and experience has allowed the club to make a strong start at implementing the recommendations of the (football department) review and embracing a new coach as well as many new staff within the program.
"Thanks to Geoff's stewardship and his rigour in driving standards and processes, we are confident in the early signs and feedback coming through from the football program and look forward to seeing what the team can produce in 2023."
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It's another setback for the Saints, who have already lost star forward Max King to injury in the pre-season. King is expected to miss almost the entire season after injuring his shoulder in a pre-season marking contest.
A proper timeline for his return will be established after surgery, but it is expected to be a long-term recovery for King, who is pivotal to St Kilda's forward line. Drafted fourth overall by the Saints in 2018, King missed his entire rookie season after tearing his ACL and requiring a knee reconstruction.
Walsh said there was no doubt King's injury was a bitter blow for the club. The timing couldn't be worse for the Saints, with the pressure on to show improvement under the returning Lyon.
"This is an extremely disappointing setback for Max," he said in a club statement. "He had come back for pre-season in really great condition, which is a credit to his professionalism; a trait we know will stand him in good stead as he works through his rehab over the next few months.
"The recovery and rehabilitation period for this injury will be a number of months, which we will provide updates on as he progresses through his rehab program. Suffice to say his return to play will not be until the season is well underway."
St Kilda will open their 2023 campaign with Lyon back at the helm in a grudge match against Fremantle - the club that sacked him three years ago - at Marvel Stadium on March 19.
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