Mountain out of a molehill: Why the Bombers aren't 'missing out' on Ross Lyon

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Football media is big on a continuing narrative, and few stories in recent times have served that purpose better than the Essendon Football Club's descent from powerhouse to at times a laughing stock.

I've written and spoken extensively on the subject myself, so I've been part of it as well. But at some stage in what is now amounting to a virtual remaking of an entire football club, the media should be recognising changed circumstances, and that a different story is required.

And so far, it is failing to do so.

Essendon's failure to even have sounded out Alastair Clarkson for its coaching position informally before the "revolution" at the top of the club was a grave error. But this week's decision by Ross Lyon to scratch himself from the field for the job was anything but.

The resultant portrayal of that moment by some more hysterical or shallow AFL media types as another "Comedy Capers" moment in an on-going farce is disingenuous and plain wrong.

The Bombers have done the right thing in instituting a thorough 'due diligence' process for those interested in the job. They've chosen a well-balanced selection panel with a range of different ages, experiences and expertise.

That's evidence that the club is finally getting its act together. Moreso, however has been the lack of targeted leaks from within the place to selected media representatives to further specific agendas.

Indeed, when it comes to AFL club coaching appointments, such leaks are often a standard trick of the trade. You can tell when speculation begins and the "usual suspects" are rounded up in the discussion, but a name suddenly appears from left field out of the blue.

That's not happening in this case. In fact, it's also the case with news about the club on a broader level. Which might well be achievement No. 1 for new Essendon president Dave Barham.

That's frustrating for those media relying on a constant stream of fresh content, which now encompasses way more opinion than actual news, even when there's precious little news about which to have an opinion.

Which made it easier for some after the news about Lyon to continue the "Essendon basket case" line, the former Fremantle and St Kilda coach's decision not to be part of the process and his comments that "Essendon wasn't vibing. There was no vibe," fodder for the convenient story that another highly-credentialled candidate had turned up their nose at a club on the nose.

Lyon of course is entitled to form an impression based upon how Essendon has been. Perhaps another view, and potential storyline, however, is that he failed to form an impression of what a new-look Essendon might be (note the use of the future tense).

Lyon's historical aversion to such coaching processes (Carlton last year) was always going to make Essendon's prospects of securing him difficult. His comments in various media outlets also don't portray a man desperate to dip his toe in the coaching waters again.

AFL head of football Brad Scott is also reportedly not interested in the Essendon job. The "no" from both makes it harder for the Bombers to end up with the experienced coach they publicly stated they were after, but it also makes it a lot easier for the appointment process to deal properly and formally with candidates who are actually enthusiastic about the prospect and not needing to be convinced.

This is a club, remember, whose last coach Ben Rutten was appointed as part of a face-saving handover from previous coach John Worsfold, who'd been prematurely reappointed by former chief executive Xavier Campbell.

Worsfold himself, of course, had been appointed unilaterally by former president Paul Little after the departure of James Hird, who'd been installed by a group of big Essendon names to replace Matthew Knights, arguably the last Bomber coach to be the product of any sort of process. And that was in 2007, 15 full years ago.

While I believed Lyon would have been a good appointment, his "no" could actually help expedite the sort of cultural change Essendon so desperately needs. It's for similar reasons I'd personally argue against the prospect of James Hird returning as coach. It's extra baggage the club doesn't need.

But any mention of Hird and Essendon in media is inevitably going to produce a fiesta of "clicks". So don't expect realism to intrude too heavily on even the remotest possibility of a Hird comeback if eyeballs are to be attracted by those reporting such.

And of course the identity of the new coach is the "sexy" storyline here. It's not the most important one, though. That is coming courtesy of the other panel Essendon assembled to externally review an entire club's operations.


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Its findings won't attract nearly as much media attention, but it's how the chief executive's office, the board, the football, commercial, and media departments are to be run which will determine even more than the identity of the new coach what sort of on-field success Essendon ends up having over the next generation.

Populist football media's obsession with big names means that Lyon and Scott having said "no", or Ken Hinkley, Leon Cameron, Adam Simpson, or any man who has coached at AFL senior level, is seen as a big loss for Essendon, and the possibility of an Adem Yze, Daniel Giansiracusa or Jaymie Graham very much a consolation prize.

Just why that remains the case after the successful appointments of (then) unheralded names like Luke Beveridge, Chris Fagan, Justin Longmuir and now Craig McRae, the latter at a club previously obsessed with big names, escapes me. But it's getting pretty old hat.

The football and coaching landscape has shifted significantly. Even Essendon has finally recognised it. Some of those reporting on the game might need the wake-up call, too.

You can read more of Rohan Connolly's work at FOOTYOLOGY.