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Soup of This Day #69: Looking So Bereaved And So Bereft

September 16, 2011

Altai Mountains, Kazakhastan and Southern Siberia
The Altai Mountains, home to the Siberian Yeti, Russian boxers and deposed Dockers coaches – Photo: Dmitry A. Mottl, 2008. Dmitry A. Mottl has no affiliation with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

Some time back (Aug 30), back when the Red Sox were good, I wrote Soup #59 and in it I took a look at the Fremantle Dockers’ injury list. It had reached epic proportions by the end of the penultimate game of the 2011 season with 23 of 46 squad players unavailable for the last match. I compared this with premiership favourites and minor premiers Collingwood, who had 7 out of 46 squad players. West Coast had finished bottom last year. This year they made it to 4th and finished with only 6 out of 46 players unavailable.

The stats were so compelling I told them to my wife. Mostly, as I recall, while she was in the shower and unable to escape. Although I do remember that she did the ‘soap in the ears, can’t hear you’ thing for a bit.

She eventually patiently heard me out though and asked a pointed question: ‘Why so many injuries?’ A combination of bad luck and being forced to use underdone players, who are more prone to injuries, was my vague reply. Sort of a self-perpetuating scenario – Key players get injured, you’re forced to backfill with younger players who are not yet physically prepared for the bigtime or maybe even players who have had to be rushed back from layoffs.

My wife though seemed unconvinced. She muttered something like, ‘There has to be a better reason. Cow Szechuan ears are flowering.’

On reflection that last bit may have been along the lines of ‘Get out of here, I’m showering’.

Still there was merit to the argument that the injuries weren’t the whole of the story. Following this conversation I went back to the post and added:

In spite of this substantial handicap there has been an element in the Dockers’ meek capitulation over the past 7 weeks that has been unflattering and worrying. They need to look for more out of the ashes of 2011 than ‘We got hard done by’.

Yesterday the Fremantle Dockers hierarchy seemingly agreed with both my wife and I. They sacked head coach Mark Harvey, a shock move that almost nobody saw coming, including apparently Mark Harvey. Last year, he took the Dockers to the Finals and won a 2 year contract extension. This year there were the injuries and Freo narrowly avoided making the Finals again. ABC News speculated:

‘An early theory behind Harvey’s demise was possible tensions between him and the club’s medical department.

On numerous times this season, Harvey rushed back players who may have been underdone.

Midfielder Michael Barlow (leg), Nick Suban (leg) and Sandilands (toe) required more time on the sidelines after being rushed back from their respective injuries, while veteran Adam McPhee failed to fire after being rushed back from a knee injury.’

So maybe there was concern that Harvs did not manage the injury crisis well. He seemed to do ok on most of the other stuff – The media in particular loved him. They loved him over east because he was 1 of them and they loved him out West because he was comfortable talking on radio, TV, to the papers, the Internet and my grandmother’s cousin’s nephew’s garbage collector. With him at the helm he won some games too. Around 40% of them. And he blooded a new young crop to take Freo forward.

Ross Lyon, his replacement, by contrast does not do the media stuff well. He’s a serious, driven guy with a permanently furrowed brow and an apparent obsession with success. He’s more about building success today rather than the constant eye to the future that the Dockers have been obsessed with. A well reported stat today is that of the current crop of AFL coaches, who have been in the job for more than a year, he has the best winning percentage at 63%. Which goes along with his 2 Grand Finals across the past 2 seasons, including last year’s tied and ultimately failed effort. No question that there are some big ticks in the positive columns here. Ross Lyon wins stuff, yet the media have turned on him in this instance.

The problem is that St Kilda, where he had coached up until yesterday, thought they had him on deck for next year. Instead he had been quietly talking to Freo it seems, from as long ago as the 4th of September. So quietly that he had excluded his agent, which is understandable as it’s the same agent that Harvs has. His agent has promptly terminated the relationship, presumably because… Nobody cares really. Rosco gets another tick from me for shafting an agent.

Unfortunately, he’s also been accused of having shafted Harvs. The logic goes that Freo, having secured agreement from Lyon, promptly sacked the media-savvy Harvey so in a sense Lyon’s maneuvering did his colleague out of a job. The always passionate and generally thoughtful Gerard Wately has gone dramatically early, writing for the ABC last night he describes Lyon as having ‘spectacularly pulled the emergency chute and jettisoned out of the Saints in a cloud of duplicity and deceit.’ Rising to fever pitch he then decries, ‘In time Lyon will surely come to regret his actions. His reputation should be permanently dented. How he remains in the fraternity of senior coaches and within the Coaches Association is a little beyond me.’

Because they’re such a principled lot.

The relatively sanguine Mark Duffield, writing for The West Australian stated that the sacking ‘should leave everyone involved with a sick feeling.’ Confusingly he then goes on to say of Lyon:

‘He is ruthless, methodical and intelligent. Hard as nails. If you wanted a coach to stake a run of sustained success in the AFL on, Lyon stacks up alongside most.

That just leaves the way Harvey was deposed and, unfortunately, the method chosen was nigh on unforgivable.’

By which I think he mean’s that no matter how good Lyon is, this was wrong because it was done outside of the establishment, without input or notice to the hacks.

In fact Harvs had addressed the media yesterday morning at The West Australian Newspaper’s Footballer of the Year Breakfast, without knowing, or therefore commenting on his fate to an exclusive audience. Changing coaches without management companies and without involving Perth’s fishbowl media seems to be Rosco’s big sin. That and apparently shafting Harvs.

But wait… As it happens Lyon is now claiming that he was head-hunted. He points out:

‘An attractive offer was put in front of me, I’m an AFL career coach, I’ve a young family … I had no involvement or no understanding of the relationship between Fremantle Football Club and Mark Harvey.’

Which seems fair enough and less like Ross Lyon shafting Mark Harvey than say, Freo shafting Mark Harvey. Rosco responded to an offer, ignored his agent and The West Australian and is threatening to bring a sustained record of success to the Dockers.

I practically love this man already. This move makes sense. In a business that is about winning we just exchanged a 40% guy with a 63% guy.

So now it’s less about Freo shafting Mark Harvey and more about Freo hiring a coach who’s, ‘professional attributes and coaching style are founded on a demanding worth ethic highlighted by his professionalism, diligence and a ruthless will to win.’ That was from Fremantle President Steve Harris. What he means is that we upgraded. Took the next step even.

So here’s the really shocking thing – Not that Mark Harvey got sacked, which is never a nice thing. Not that he got replaced by a better candidate in the ruthless world of professional sport, which he surely did. No, the shocker here is that it is sensible yet nobody saw it coming.

Unlike the Siberian Yeti (Chuchunya), which some people believe they have actually seen coming and going yet it’s current existence seems a little unreasonable.

Former WBA Heavyweight Champion Nikolai Valuev isn’t 1 of those who have seen it but he seems to be a believer, to the point where he is currently participating in an expedition that is searching for the indomitable snow humanoids in the mountainous Kemerovo Region of Siberia.

Apparently Valuev believes ‘that miracles only happen at Christmas time’ so isn’t expecting to run into 1 of the beasts on his 2 day trip but if he does he wants to ‘talk to the yeti about life’. He’s also considering coming out of retirement.

Boxing, this is why people don’t take you seriously anymore. This, the corruption and the high incidence of brain damage. Ok, mostly those last 2 but Siberian Yeti hunts are probably not helping.

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