In an exclusive interview, Lyon also said:
- The AFL could remove the bump, to reduce the risks of concussion, since there were so few bumps today.
- The hiring of Brett Ratten by his old club, St Kilda, was “a great appointment”, that Ratten would be “better his second time around, more level probably”.
- Richmond was the team to beat this year, and could get better. “I could see them getting stronger. I think the top three on absolute talent and system – Richmond, West Coast and then GWS really did a lot of things right last year.” Collingwood and Geelong were ”up there” as well.
- The Saints had recruited “really well” in October. “[Ex-Docker] Brad Hill will be super for them, Zak Jones really good player – got speed – really rated Dougal Howard, not sure what happened at Port … I think Paddy Ryder just gives [Rowan] Marshall a chop out. I think they’re going to have some challenges playing both, because Marshall loves running around.”
Lyon’s call for 16-a-side follows a similar suggestion from others within the game, with Geelong coach Chris Scott having raised it as a potential solution for congestion and low scoring.
“The easiest way would be . . . to take the wingers off, so you know, just play with 16,” said Lyon, who has moved back to Melbourne from Perth.
”Just take the wings out. But then they’d just roll up, but then you’ve got no small forwards, small forwards pressure don’t they?”
Lyon said he understood the traditions of the game, but that the AFL could look at the old VFA and how teams ran in games with no wingers, in 16-a-side.
“But there’s some smart men coaching, they’ll always find a way,” he said.
Lyon’s other major suggestion – that clubs should have the ability to trade players, without consent – would be fiercely opposed by the players and their union.
“But I don’t think the AFL will do it. But I think it should be, I think it’s the NBA is it, where if you’re under contract they can trade you. Because there’s too many [players] walking in there, going – for whatever reason that may be.”
Lyon acknowledged, too, that clubs could hold their ground and keep a contracted player.
“Clubs can stand their ground. At the end of the day, with Lachie Weller … if you don’t get pick 2 or pick 4, he’s staying. Lachie Neale you don’t get what you want, he’s staying.
“So when you’re an AFL club and you’ve got a star player who the other club’s committed to, and they’re saying they’re going to get him, well you’re going to pay a price.”
On head knocks, Lyon stressed he did not know much about concussions, but said the AFL could remove the bump completely. “I think they could eradicate the bump. It’s almost gone now anyway – how often do you see a bump? Very rare, isn’t it?
“But I’m trying to think how many we see. It’s very difficult to bump, isn’t it?”
Lyon said he did not know when Fremantle would contend again for the flag, but said they should be aiming to play finals this year, having been 6-3 and then 7-5 at the break when injuries to key players struck.
He nominated Alastair Clarkson as the game’s “pre-eminent coach” while saying Chris Scott’s achievement at Geelong – winning a flag in his first season and keeping the Cats in the finals – had been “incredibly underestimated”.
Wednesday Footy Classified will air on Wednesday, March 18, at 10pm on Nine and 9Now.
Jake Niall is a Walkley award-winning sports journalist and chief AFL writer for The Age.