Ross Lyon looks dejected after a loss during round nine, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

VETERAN St Kilda coach Ross Lyon believes restrictions on AFL runners delivering on-field messages have left coaches feeling like "neutered dogs".

The Saints suffered their fourth loss in their past five games against Hawthorn on Saturday in Launceston, going down by five points in a scrappy contest.

Lyon, who got St Kilda to sixth last season after a few years away from head coaching, conceded criticism was likely after a "mundane" performance.


He also vented frustration at restrictions placed on runners delivering messages to players on-field.

After consultation with clubs, the League relaxed rules around runners for 2024, allowing them to deliver messages four times per quarter, plus after every goal.

HAWKS v SAINTS Full match coverage and stats

But Lyon believes the rules should be further eased.

"After coming back to coaching, there's a lot of pressure on us. There's a lot of pressure on me," he said.

"I’m happy for the AFL to hear this, it's not an excuse.

"We’ve had a lot of tight games. We get four messages a quarter, and with three minutes to go you can’t send a runner - I get that.

"(But) in my previous iterations (as a head coach) you could almost use a runner at will."


Lyon wasn't helped by his side kicking just seven goals and not making the most of its inside-50 entries.

"People say kick more goals and you’ll get more opportunities, but it's still limited. From my end I find that incredibly frustrating," he said.

"There'd be a lot of coaches (who agree). We’re like neutered dogs. You sit there and you can see stuff and ... you can’t fix (it)."

"I don't know what the (ideal) number is, but I'm tipping it's more than four (per quarter)."


The AFL softened its rules around runners in 2020 after criticism from Lyon and other coaches including Luke Beveridge, Chris Fagan and John Longmire.

The Saints, who made finals last season, now sit 3-6, with their only win of the past four weeks coming against winless North Melbourne.

"I don’t like how we’re playing at the minute," Lyon said.

"I spoke to them at half-time… I said we’re better than that, let’s get some overlap and go. Be bold.

"I’d like us to have a bit more than we’re displaying at the minute. It doesn’t sit very comfortably.

"People will go after Max King but I think he’s symptomatic of that problem.

"I sit here really disappointed."

Hawthorn coach Sam Mitchell said he was pleased with his side's ability to restrict scoring when momentum wasn't with them.

"There's some confidence that the work we’ve done is starting to show," he said.

"There are little glimpses of it … (but) it’s far from perfect.

"The best sides in the competition … they’re able to change the game much more quickly than we can currently, but we’ve definitely made some gains."