ROSS Lyon has shed glaring light on the complicated and emotional decisions St Kilda Football Club was forced to make in rejecting Ben Cousins as a recruit at the end of 2008.
A FAILED COACH? Ross Lyon bites back
In the launch episode of The Coach, Lyon, who coached 305 matches at St Kilda and Fremantle, revealed Saints players wanted Cousins, but others at the club, including himself, didn't.
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"It was a long time ago and it was very controversial," Lyon said.
"He was a star of the competition, and I was a young coach, and it was the end of '08 and we had just been smashed in a prelim.
"We had a good and experienced footy operations manager in Matthew Drain, who was keen to get him.
"We had a number of meetings with Ben. We flew over with Fraser Gehrig (a former teammate of Cousins at the Eagles) and a few others, met with Ben, had dinner with Ben.
"That was when he was really starting his rehab, and had some abstinence. Even in that meeting there, it was really simple – everything had been in the papers.
"I said to Ben: 'What are we really dealing with here'? And that's when he really opened up at being on cocaine for a long time and how it had graduated to a more serious substance, but that he was basically clean at that stage.
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"So, what I learnt out of that meeting was that he really needed AFL to give structure in his life.
"He was so engaging and football smart at the dinner that night that it was hard to equate the challenge he was going through."
In this episode of The Coach with Damian Barrett, Lyon said key Saints people had major reservations about the effect Cousins would have on the club.
"We took that back to the football club and there was a real uneasiness from the president Greg Westaway and myself," Lyon said.
"I did more research on drug addiction and the different substances.
"The players were really keen to get Ben, but really simply, there was a split view. We went to a board meeting at the top of Collins St, off site.
"Andrew Thompson was on the board, John Gdanski, some really good members.
"Commercially for the club, it was going to be a boon and a membership spike. But I had made my mind up as coach that I was out. And Greg Westaway was out.
"And it went to vote. But it became really simple once the president and the coach were out. Andrew Thompson was really strong. He said it was really simple. If they are out, we are out as a club."
The St Kilda playing group had made it known it wanted Cousins as a teammate.
"They were shocked, the next day I went in and they all had their heads dropped," Lyon said.
In this edition of The Coach, Lyon also returned serve on Gold Coast Suns chairman Tony Cochrane, who recently called him a "failed coach" after comments about the Suns.
Lyon was also full of praise for the reduction of quarters for matches in 2020, down to 16 minutes plus time-on.
All that, and plenty more in The Coach ….