Why these are the three most important games of Ross Lyon’s career

Ross Lyon. Photo: Getty
Ross Lyon. Photo: Getty

“FAILURE is feedback.”

Ross Lyon’s been saying it for years.

The danger is that after Fremantle’s last three seasons, he’s developed tinnitus.

Heading into 2019, Lyon – that most polarising of AFL coaches – is at the crossroads.

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Fremantle have been handed three winnable games to start the season, and there’s lots of talk around town that they could be 3-0 heading into the season’s first Western Derby in Round 4.

North Melbourne, Gold Coast and St Kilda – hardly a murderers’ row of opposition.

But the problem with “winnable” games is that they are also loseable.

Ross Lyon in his St Kilda days. Photo: Getty

Should the Dockers drop their opener against the Kangaroos on Sunday the doubts formed by three years of getting smashed will be amplified.

Gold Coast in Carrara is no picnic, and St Kilda are like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get. (Ok, a cheap box of chocolates…)

The Dockers’ draw to start the season is a good one – but these three games shape as the most important of Ross Lyon’s coaching career.

Yes, even more important than Grand Finals in 2009, 2010 and 2013 – because you don’t get sacked for losing Grand Finals.

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In a press conference Lyon cuts a mystifying figure: a self-help guru, a walking maxim, with eyes constantly flitting left and right as if on the lookout for grenades from the assembled scribes.

You can hardly blame him.

In his first outing as Freo coach, one hard-nosed reporter waited for the preamble from Steve Rosich to wind up then bowled some chin music: “Ross, do you feel that you’ve stabbed Mark Harvey in the back?”

Happy days: Lyon’s first press conference as Fremantle coach, September 2011. Photo: Getty

Welcome to Perth.

“Not particularly, no” he said with practiced nonchalance. “I’ve been headhunted by the Fremantle Football Club.

“I’m an AFL career coach.”

Lyon said recently he can’t see himself getting sacked.

But they all get sacked. Sheedy, Malthouse, Matthews, Pagan – all were shown the door. And they all won flags.

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It’s rare an AFL coach walks away happy.

“I’m really enjoying the grind and the burn to help turn a club around,” Lyon said in a recent interview with 7West.

“I’ve never doubted myself.

“And I feel, in a real sense, I’ve never coached better.”

Lyon, who possesses a better sense of humour than most give him credit for, also addressed his recent experience running out of petrol on the way to a pre-season game in Mandurah.

“I get that distracted on the job at hand, you can tend to ignore that flashing orange light,” he laughed.

Should season 2019 not pan out well for Fremantle, how long will the club continue to ignore that flashing light?

greig.johnston@communitynews.com.au