Man of the people loses to the AFL industry

OPINION: There are lots of armchair warriors throwing rocks at Ross Lyon in the wake of his dismissal as the Fremantle Dockers coach.

It’s an Australian mentality to kick people when they are down, especially outstanding people who in the main have only done great things.

When it comes to backing Indigenous players, Lyon was one of the best. Fremantle has always had a proud tradition of having a lot of Indigenous players on their list.

Lyon embraced this tradition, and this transcended to having an Indigenous Assistant Coach. One of only three in the AFL system.

When the disgraceful Adam Goodes booing saga started, Lyon was one of the first to call it for what it truly was, “racist,” and asked that this sort of behaviour be stamped out of the game.

The AFL instead dragged its feet and murmured and muttered in a nonsensical fashion. It was only later that the AFL had the courage to echo Lyon’s sentiments, in no small part due to the appointment of AFL General Manager of Inclusion and Social Policy, Tanya Hosch.

But by then the damage was done, and we had lost Adam Goodes, an icon of the game and an outstanding Australian.

Lyon was loved by the Indigenous players because they knew he had their back and wasn’t going to let them be treated like second class citizens.

He was sensitive and intelligent enough to embrace their cultural obligations and strong enough to push them to be elite both on and off the field – a rare combination.

It was ironic that Lyon was going to meet with Harley Bennell, an Indigenous ex-player of Fremantle when he was called and diverted to the Club to be told his services were no longer required.

Bennell has had more than his share of critics and detractors but Lyon has stood by him through thick and thin. It’s a damn shame there aren’t more Ross Lyons.

Let’s hope that Ross Lyon is not lost to the game the way Adam Goodes was.

A person of his integrity and moral values deserves to carry on, and in the meantime let’s applaud the man for his achievements, not kick him and degrade him.

As Indigenous people we know exactly how that mistreatment feels, unpleasant, heartbreaking and soul destroying – just ask Adam Goodes.

By Clinton Wolf

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