LATE last week when some sections of the media thought they had a "gotcha" moment, with a photograph of Nat Fyfe on a West Australian beach during the COVID-19 shutdown, the reigning Brownlow medallist received a text from his former coach Ross Lyon.
"This too shall pass," the text read.
And so it did, once everyone realised Fyfe was within his rights to be surfing.
The Fyfe-Lyon relationship has remained strong, even since Lyon's sacking as Fremantle coach last August. Upon accepting his second Brownlow Medal last year, a month after the axing, Fyfe was quick to praise the man who coached him for eight seasons.
"And so he should've spoken glowingly, I love Nat," Lyon joked in the latest episode of The Coach, with Damian Barrett, on AFL.com.au.
"I saw the headlines, 'surfing', and just thought, 'Oh'. We had a couple of texts. I said: 'This too shall pass'.
"He was driving a road train, which I knew. When you are sitting down in a road train for 14 hours, you've got to get up, loosen your body, and I'm not sure he went to a Bondi Beach with 25,000 people on it, it would've been Margaret River, two white pointers and his mate.
"Nothing throws Nat."
>> WATCH THE FULL EPISODE OF THE COACH IN THE PLAYER BELOW
Lyon revealed Fyfe to be an extraordinary behind-scenes leader.
"I think some of the criticism of his leadership … what he does is prepare individually," Lyon said.
"If you're talking about taking players in, first-year players, mentoring them, helping them, improving them, then he's as good as I've seen.
"There's some nasty press, but I just think it is jealousy. He is growing to improve. I think it has been misplaced and mistimed, at times. He needed to learn and grow. Sometimes the tall-poppy syndrome kicks in, especially in small towns.
"… We have a great relationship. I didn’t know Nat from a bar of soap when I went over there (at the end of 2011), and he was injured, a really significant shoulder injury.
"I'd had [heard] a lot of noise about Nat, and in his first game back after 14 weeks off, he had 20 possessions in the first half and kicked two goals against Port Adelaide, and I thought, 'he's handy'.
"He's very driven. If there is zero to 100 in the AFL, he sits outside of that. He was hellbent on performance, and I always felt he would do anything for the team."
"He's different, he's not exquisite with the ball like a Pavlich, Goddard or Dal Santo. He is just a competitive beast, and he just takes people by awe."
In episode three of The Coach, Lyon also:
- Reveals an "elephant in the room" meeting at St Kilda early in 2010, a month after an infamous match against Collingwood, the team which was to beat it in that year's second Grand Final
- Adheres to sage advice from coaching great Allan Jeans when analysing the extraordinary talents of Nick Riewoldt and Matthew Pavlich