Monday’s experts: R.Lyon is a successful coach with a successful method (or where would you rather be?)

Well I see them up the shops; I see them down the street (Monday Monday)

And when I go up the pub it’s nearly everyone I meet

They’re saying I should’ve done this or I should’ve done that

But by the time they’re finished talking well my beers are getting flat

– Monday’s Experts, Weddings Parties Anything.


It didn’t take long.

It’s commonly understood that history is written by the winners. W.Churchill, G.Orwell and J.Bonaparte among others, have such quotes attributed to them. Examples abound, of course (Aboriginal Australia, anyone?). I was surprised when one of those footy panel/couch shows selected Mick Thomas’ song “Monday’s Experts” as their opening theme. The whole song pours scorn on exactly those who would pretend to be knowledgeable after the event.  Historical revisionists.


The final siren had barely finished sounding on Saturday evening, when the tweets and the messages started flying around. The winners are branding history with their propaganda.

“Ugly grand final Ross’ fault”

“Need to score, Ross, not just block.”

“Freo ugly footy never going to win.”

Access to a combination of alcohol and social media may help to explain that.


But even today, Monday, the same message is being propagated in mainstream media. The winners’ version of history is becoming fact. “No offence Freo, but a winning score is as important as a good defence.” Jeepers creepers.

This kind of historical revisionism ignores the obvious: Fremantle’s method got it to a Grand Final. It’s too simple to say that because they lost on Saturday, the method is a failure. Some are pointing to R.Lyon’s record of defeat in Grand Finals as if that were justification enough for the argument that his methods are imperfect.

The counter, of course, is to point out that 16 other coaches and their clubs were not involved last Saturday. Where would you rather be?


To win the flag, any team that finishes the home & away season in the top four, needs a minimum of three finals victories, most probably against the other three of the top four.

This year Hawthorn (1) beat Sydney (4), then Geelong (2), then Fremantle (3) to win the flag.

Fremantle (3) beat Geelong (2), Sydney (4) and then lost to Hawthorn (1).

Hawthorn kicked accurately and took their chances.

Fremantle fluffed several shots at goal.

Is there more to it?

Maybe. Maybe Hawthorn was simply the better team this year (Ladder position 1 v 3). But it’s a bit cute to categorically blame Fremantle’s style of play for the Grand Final loss. The style works. It’s tough and it creates opportunities. Sydney played it. St.Kilda played it. Geelong played it at times. As did Hawthorn. And Collingwood. Mick had his Roman legion model of coaching. Reckon we should expect more. It works.


Monday’s Experts

Talking in the tea room

In the workshop and the office talking all around the place

Monday’s Experts

Hey they’ve always got the good oil

Pity you can’t put a bet on at the finish of the race

– Monday’s experts, Weddings Parties Anything


About David Wilson

David Wilson is a writer, editor, flood forecaster and former school teacher. He writes under the name “E.regnans” at The Footy Almanac and has stories in several books. One of his stories was judged as a finalist in the Tasmanian Writers’ Prize 2021. He shares the care of two daughters and a dog, Pip. He finds playing the guitar a little tricky, but seems to have found a kindred instrument with the ukulele. Favourite tree: Eucalyptus regnans.


  1. Stephen Cooke says

    Was thinking exactly the same thing. Fyfe miss crucial chances in the first quarter. Inaccurate kicking – cost the Saints in 2009 too.

  2. Malcolm Ashwood says

    E Regnans basically I agree with you 1 Lyon can’t personally kick the Goal
    2 Hard if not impossible to no which Players are not going to handle the pressure and Choke 1 Stat not in Lyons favour is coached 4 GFs for a return of 34 Gls I think Overall tho he is a bounce re Milne and poor Goal kicking this year from being hailed a Genius

  3. Wrong song choice. “Stage Fright” by Robbie Robertson and The Band said it better:
    “Your brow is sweatin’ and your mouth gets dry
    Fancy people go driftin’ by
    The moment of truth is right at hand
    Just one more nightmare you can stand

    See the man with the stage fright
    Just standin’ up there to give it all his might
    And he got caught in the spotlight
    But when we get to the end
    He wants to start all over again”

    Lyon is obviously a smart man and a good coach. But that totally defensive/hit them on the rebound game plan wins 20% of premierships. Teams with the ability to kick 12+ goals in a tight contest win the other 80%.

    Turning the game into a 3-2 soccer scoreline, relies on taking your chances from limited opportunities. Poor percentage return against top opponents.

  4. Ken Richards says

    I was thinking the same thing myself. But the weight of evidence is building that the Lyon method has an exploitable flaw. Three campaigns, three losses. The Lyon Style means margins will ever be tight. If behind, rarely too far. If ahead, sadly, not always far enough.
    We will have to wait and see if the ‘redemption factor’, plus a year more experience prevents the ‘deer in the headlights’ syndrome which afflicted some of Freo’s finest on Saturday. Of course they have to make it back to the big day first of course.
    Good luck and enjoy the journey.

  5. We are accustomed to thinking of 4 goals behind as being nothing in ‘modern football’. But when you set up so defensively it is a yawning gulf.
    The Dockers weren’t 4 goals behind at half time, they were 80% short of a winning score.
    The ‘rope a dope’ style of exhausting an opponent does not work if they are as physically strong as you.

  6. G’day & thanks gents.
    PB: nice argument. And a fine choice of musical accompaniment. I can’t agree with your statistical breakdown there. This ultra swarming defensive game plan has a fair record (he says without statistical analysis).
    Paul Roos coaching this method looses a close one to your Eagles. The next year (I think) he wins a close one and is hailed as a drought-breaking genius. Ross Lyon was very close to also being a drought-breaking genius at St. Kilda. He lacked a Leo Barry moment.
    The method appears to have a super percentage return against top opponents. Without it, the Saints, Swans, et al would not have made GF in the past decade. Of course, there is no definitive proof either way.
    Another song. Only the chorus relevant. The Cruel Sea:
    Blame it on the moon
    Blame it on the moon
    Blame it on that fucking moon
    Blame it on the moon

    Ken – In reference to your wishes of good luck – thanks, but I feel the need to ensure that you don’t think me a Freo supporter. No, no.
    Rather, an interested observer & peanut chucker. May the journey be fair and fine. Carna pies.

  7. Peter Fuller says

    Hawthorn were obviously deserved winners, on the day, across the finals and over the season. However the game had played out, it is likely that they would have won, as at several stages of the match they proved capable of countering what Fremantle came up with.
    However, let me propose a counter-factual.
    Fremantle’s warm-up was at the Richmond end. They had an opportunity to assess the wind impact at that end. Would they have found early set shots easier going that way? Given that general play was even during the first quarter, how might the game have evolved if Freo were on terms or ahead at the first change, and if their goalkicking confidence was up rather than shattered?

    Hawthorn’s decisive half-time lead also depended on two gifted goals, Franklin’s 50 metre penalty (did McPharlin really go over the mark, and how did that compare to Lake’s late hit on Walters without penalty) plus the atrocious 2nd quarter free to Rioli for Spurr’s (?) holding the ball.
    How may it have turned out if Freo had been in touch at halftime?

    I’m inclined to conclude that the Hawks had the answers and would probably have won, but the conclusion that this relatively modest (but significant) defeat means that Lyon’s approach is fatally flawed doesn’t seem justified to me.

  8. Luke Reynolds says

    Great point made about Hawthorn and Fremantle both having to beat two other top 4 teams just to make it. Then having to beat another one to win it. Finishing second seems to be the worst thing that can happen in this comp.

    It’s not like Freo lost by 10 goals. The final margin was 15 points. The Dockers were fantastic in the 3rd quarter but I thought their first term was very good apart from their kicking at goal. 2 of those shots go through and it’s a different game.

    ‘Monday’s Experts’. Cracking song by a great band.

  9. I thought it was a really ordinary game, but not from the so-called boring defensiveness – I just don’t think eiher side played all that close to their respective potentials.

    Freo had well-documented stage-fright and made simple skill errors as a result – but the fact that they almost won underlines that Hawthorn weren’t at their best either.

    Deserved winners as the Hawks were, they didn’t play anywhere near as well as they did in various H&A games (eg. I watched their 2 games against each of Syd, Coll & WCE, and they were briliant in all 6). If Freo had corrected just 3 of 20 shots (across the 14 points; I heard Lyon say they had 5 shots out on the full; Pavlich’s mega-shank just before half-time that landed 30m in-field), we’d be labelling the Hawks as 2-time chokers. Fickle business.

  10. Do you think the penny might drop for Lyon? Four grand final losses playing the same method? Its not revisionism, its logical. To win you need to kick more goals than your opponent.

  11. Lyon has lost three GFs.

    Part of his plan this time was to get players to kick set-shots out on the full. That kick back into play from near the point post is very difficult and the idea was then to lock the ball in the forward line. Early goals simply bring it back to a 50-50 situation.

    It’s logical.

    PS Kicking more goals than your opponent does not ensure victory. Getting more points does.

  12. Tasman Hughes says

    I actually find watching Freo play exciting. The pressure around the contests and the hard-hitting tackles; I actually find them more exciting than goals. On no account do I want footy to be become like rugby (to many tackles and not enough scores) but watching endless streams of goals with no challenge from the defenders is boring.

    I don’t know if it was just because Sydney wasn’t in it but I didn’t find this Grand Final as exciting as last year’s. The 2012 grand final was goal for goal right up until the end, while this one was actually pretty dull.

  13. History dictates that the better ranked offensive side wins (8 from the last 11). Sydney won in ’05 as a lowly ranked offensive side. Geelong beat the Pies in 2011 (but were ranked 2 for defence behind the Pies ranked first) and the Swans again in 2012 (ranked 5 for points scored).

    This year Freo were the 12 highest scoring team. Their strong defence almost got them the chocolates but not quite.

    Ross is clearly a very good coach.

  14. David
    I found it ironic that in the week leading up to the grand final, Ross Lyon was being hailed as a “genius” only for him to be berated for his coaching methods following the gf loss.
    History, truly, is written by the victors (and sycophants).

  15. The Cameo King says

    I think a lot of the noise post match hasn’t been as much “told you so” re his style, but more of joy that his negative and boring style of play wasn’t rewarded. When I whinge about his style of play to all and sundry and how it’s a scourge, one of the retorts I’m generally met with is that football is a business these days and it’s only about W or L. Fact is it’s an entertainment business, and at the moment with great regularity, not that entertaining.

  16. I’m with Peter B and the Cameo King re Lyon’s significant contribution to negative footy over “the journey”, as the parlance would have it… the other aspect rarely mentioned, even by his few critics, is that he has an absolutely gun starting 22 with all the athleticism and skills you could possibly want and yet they so often serve up the strangling, pressing squeeze to the detriment of letting it rip. But can guarantee you that all the GF losses will do nothing to stop the genius tag still being applied to Lyon, the Melb media seem to have a man-crush that knows no bounds…

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