Yoshi Keeps Writing about Footy: Ross Lyon’s Play List

The AFL National Draft for 2014 is over and Australia still mourns Phil Hughes. Almanackers talk about footy less these days. But like the 1116 SEN slogan, I keep writing about footy.

On the same day when the National Draft was held on the Gold Coast, a Facebook page of footy analysing grabbed my attention. They analysed about play list at Ross Lyon’s Docker army.

It says that Fremantle is having 12 players aged 29 or over in the 2015 AFL season.

What a surprise. I have heard that Lyon did not blood many kids in his games for St Kilda, but now two thirds will become veteran players (if all of these players are included in his 18 players on a game day).

My liking analysing and curiousness of Lyon made me to take further analysing. Even I admit that my analysing may not be accurate because I do not think I have picked all players who have retired or been delisted or traded properly at these season, but here are my surveying play lists.

St Kilda Playing List in 2007 (the year Ross Lyon started coaching the Saints)

Number of veteran players (29 year-old or over): 5

Average age of players: 24

St Kilda Playing List in 2012 (the first year for Scott Watters who was appointed after Lyon’s departure)

Number of veteran players (29 year-old or over): 6

Average age of players: 26

Current St Kilda Play List

Number of veteran players (29 year-old or over): 6

Average age of players: 24

As for St Kilda’s player list, it is hard to see Ross Lyon has not blooded kids into the list from my analysing. However many players drafted in 2009 and 2010 have already left the club.

Six players were drafted in 2009, but three left within a year (2010, his debut year), one left the next year, and another one left in 2012. Rhys Stanley was the only one player who played for the Saints in 2014, but was traded to Geelong after the 2014 Season.

Similar circumstances occurred for boys who were drafted in 2010.

Then Lyon created a gap in ages. St Kilda had fewer players between 20 and 24 in 2012, the first season for Scott Watters. Young players needed more experience and players around 24 or 25 would have gained more experience so they would contribute well to the club. I guess that making the best play list would be hard for Watters.

Let’s see the Western Australian club’s status.

Fremantle Play List in 2012 (Unexpected one Mark Harvey left for Lyon)

Number of veteran players (29 year-old or over): 5

Average age of players: 24

Current Fremantle Play List

Number of veteran players (29 year-old or over): 12

Average age of players: 26

I heard that Lyon’s style not blooding kids continued at Fremantle. This data shows it obviously.

When I surveyed the current Fremantle play list, I learned that young kids drafted last year only played a small number of games this year. They must have played as subs.

Many footy fans reckon that Lyon has been doing the same as what he has done at St Kilda. Even some people think Lyon would jump on a ship to move to somewhere else when his Dockers get older.

But on the other hand, Lyon pushed up the ladder at both clubs and coached four Grand Finals (three at St Kilda including the replay in 2010 and one for Fremantle). It is good stuff, but not having kids on his list is not good for clubs as long terms.

He can be a fix termed coach, like Melbourne’s Paul Roos who have been contracted with Demons for two years (His contracted was extended to three years during the 2014 Season) to guide a club to Grand Final. However if Lyon does not blood kids during a few year coaching, then the club is likely to face rebuilding. This idea will not be a good one if a club is seeking long term solutions.

If I were managing an AFL club in an average or good side but struggling with appearing in the Grand Final, I might hire Lyon to achieve the long term goal. But I would not appoint him as a senior coach although he could be a co-coach like what Essendon had thought about James Hird and Mark ‘Bomber’ Thompson. Or I would offer Lyon as a developing coach or advising coach to work alongside a senior coach who is willing to train and develop young players.

During the 2014 Season, I heard that Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson was seeking to develop young blokes while maintaining good footy. It is a good decision and Clarko is learning from Lyon’s mistakes.

Coaching an AFL club is a very skilled job and unique, I guess. They are expected produce good records and to develop young players too.

About Yoshihiro Imagawa

Love, passion and pride are seen on the footy that is the biggest part of my life. 1. St Kilda Club member: I am a passionate and crazy Sainter. Just hope we will win the second flag soon, especially after Dogs and Tigers having ended long premiership draughts. 2. The Osaka Dingoes Player and Public Relations Officer: Player number 44 that I chose to honour Stephen Milne with my wish being like a small forward like him. Lenny Hayes' hardworking attitudes are adopted on my trainings and practices. Nick Riewoldt's great plays are in my player audiobook too. 3. Writing: Here on the Almanac and also on the World Footy News. My skills utilise on great footy websites.


  1. Well put Yoshi.

    Is it because Lyon puts so much emphasis on playing a heavily structured style that requires reliance on consistent responses that younger players are less capable of delivering? Essentially a lack of trust. Or is it something beyond that?

    I strongly believe that the consequences of the Lyon years were not worth the short term gains of getting to GFs. Maybe this opinion would be different if they won one…

  2. G’day Gus,

    I reckon that Lyon relies on experienced players to win more games and his sight is narrow (he focuses a lot on guiding his club to the Grand Final) – yes to your first question. But it’s only my guessing as I have been following footy only for about three or four years.

    Yes, Lyon would be respected well if he won any flag by this time…



  3. Hi Yoshi. A great piece. It’s so refreshing to see someone take the time to do some research, look at the actual numbers and make a judgement instead of some journalists and experts who try to sound smart, but don’t offer any evidence behind their theories.

    Maybe he’ll blood some new talent in 2015, but as your numbers suggest, he’s got proven form for working with what he considers to be his best 22, while dropping the ball on the ‘next generation’. Hawthorn and Sydney look like they have the delicate balance between the ‘now’ players’ and ‘next generation’ players sorted out.

  4. Hi Steve,

    Thanks for your compliment on my writing and researching. While I was undertaking an online course in English Language and Literature, I learned that research was important in writing and article must be reasonable (seeing different points of views for the same issue is important). I agree with you about some experts and journalists – it is really sad to see. What I gained writing skills through the online course have to be used to write articles even if they are interests based. I wish I can be a professional author on one day working in Melbourne although a writing work may not be a full time job.

    As for the Fremantle play list, your point of view is good and I think so too. And distinction between the Dockers and top two clubs in 2014 (the Swans and Hawks) is true. It is also different between Lyon’s old club, St Kilda and these two clubs.



  5. Spot on Yoshi. Will you be popping around for the Perth Almanac BBQ next Wednesday evening? I’ll keep a Sapporo on ice for you.
    Everett, Zampatti and Gorman want to meet you (armed with coshes and knuckledusters). Don’t worry the Avenging Eagle and Shandy the Wonder Dog will protect you.
    The Dockers don’t want to talk about “the elephant in the room” (and with 12 veterans that is more than just Sandilands).

  6. G’day Peter,

    Thanks for your comment with your thoughts.

    I wish I could make a way to Perth for the Almanac barbeque. Sadly it would not happen, I am afraid to say. But I am glad that some great Almanackers want to meet me. I heard that Perth was a beautiful city, so I want to visit one day! Can you buy Sapporo Beer in Perth?

    Some Freo fans might be worried of play list, I think.

    All the best


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