ROSS LYON will enter the forthcoming season with the equal best winning record of any coach not to win a premiership.
In 218 games in charge of St Kilda and Fremantle, Lyon's winning record is 66 per cent and according to new figures published in the just released 2016 AFL Record Season Guide of all those to have coached at least 100 games, only Geelong's Peter Pianto between 1966 and 1970 can match that.
But you won't find the Freo coach feeling, as he says, "tortured" about having a series of teams that have contended strongly year after year, without winning the ultimate prize.
Buoyed after a busy off-season and refreshed after a family holiday in Vietnam, Lyon told AFL.com.au that he feels terrific just 15 days out from the NAB Challenge opener against Richmond.
"Personally I have never felt more in control, more settled and more enthusiastic, fitter and healthier than I am now, so personally I think my best is yet to come," he said on Thursday.
But he understands the talk about the Dockers, who flew from the blocks last year with 12 wins from their first 13 games. The second half of the season became a struggle and their season ended on a limp note with a 27-point loss to eventual premier Hawthorn in a home preliminary final at Domain Stadium.
The Hawks have been at the forefront of his mind for much of the off-season. He mined the three-time premiers for two of his new assistant coaches, with David Hale joining the club within weeks of his retirement and Brent Guerra coming across after some part-time roles elsewhere since he finished playing at the end of 2013.
Former North Melbourne premiership player Anthony Rock has also reunited with Lyon, having worked under him at St Kilda and then coaching successfully in his own right in suburban football after that.
"Premiership experience is really good because you know they’re hard workers with good character and they stand up under pressure," Lyon said.
Hale was particularly sought after.
"It's hard to get ruck and key forward coaches, so that was a preference," he said.
"He's been in a great system and has a teaching background. Coaching is teaching so that fits the model of where we want to go as a club."
Lyon has changed things up in 2016. Peter Sumich moves to a development role, Mark Stone from stoppages to the forward line and Marc Webb and Simon Eastaugh into the midfield. Brett Kirk has moved back to Sydney, but all up, the Dockers have one more coach than they did last season.
This has led to different thinking and different stimulants and as Lyon noted, exposure to the Hawks, who he said have the "best systems", which has been "invigorating for the coaches and helped shift our program a bit."
The Dockers aren't deterred despite having coming close the last three years.
"We sit short of where we want to be, but I think with three finals series in a row and three double chances, we're in the space we want to be, but we need to build and improve," he said.
"You can be defeated but you're not beaten till you quit, so I think we are reimagining ourselves, we are building and we have more pieces of the puzzle to add."
But Lyon also hears the chatter about Fremantle that will become more deafening as the season draws closer.
"I understand the commentary. We've gone close but no cigar. I don’t shy away from that. It's a fact," he said.
"But we’re thereabouts. Our goal is to be consistent, to play finals and to challenge and we think we’re doing that."