Ross the boss: Fremantle has the best coach in the caper in Ross Lyon, who is intense and driven. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo
IF FEW finals results have surprised as much as Fremantle's upset of Geelong on Saturday, few postcripts have come as less of a shock than Dockers' coach Ross Lyon's reaction to it.
Lyon didn't so much pour cold water on the suggestion the win had marked a coming of age for the club as turn the fire hose on full throttle until the very idea was a soggy mess. "This is about one week, one final, that's all it means," he said. "We haven't achieved anything. So let's be very clear."
The romantics might have grizzled about the refusal to bask in the moment. But it's never about romance for Lyon, it's about a job. And for him and his side, it's a job only partially done.
Fremantle has the best coach in the caper, and that exchange demonstrated again why. A lot's been written and said about Lyon's tactical acumen and knowledge of opposition strengths and weaknesses, and it's all spot on. But it's that flinty, slightly intimidating approach to football that plays as big a part.
Lyon is intense, and driven. He won't be distracted one iota from his focus, the hype and hysteria that surrounds AFL football of the modern era all tediously irrelevant. And he has an unshakeable faith in his coaching philosophy, the value of which on Saturday night was borne out yet again.
It's strength that was never more obvious than in his implacable reaction to the outright local media hostility that greeted his appointment as the Dockers' coach a year ago, and the famously aggressive pack he faced at the public debut.
It was there again after Fremantle was smashed by its local rival mid-season, held to just three goals in three quarters and sitting a week later a mediocre 5-5 on the win-loss table and 11th on the ladder. And strength that will again play a critical role this week as the Dockers prepare for Adelaide away, and deal with any potential for a psychological letdown following a victory as momentous as that over Geelong.
Lyon simply won't tolerate anything less than total commitment from his troops. They're valued, but in the bigger picture just more cogs in a machine that, after nine wins in the past 10 games now, is ticking over brilliantly.
There are very real echoes of Lyon's first season at St Kilda in 2007 about Fremantle in 2012, the critical difference being that the Dockers' deeper well of individual talent at the lower end of the list has enabled them to make serious inroads into September this year rather than next. Like the Saints, it took Freo a while to get Lyon's lore to become instinctive practice. But boy, has the penny clearly dropped.
Saturday night was not only Fremantle's first away win in a final, but its seventh win from 11 road trips so far this season. There's a consistency of effort now with the Dockers, who haven't been blown away even in defeat since that round-nine debacle against West Coast.
Like he did at St Kilda, Lyon has prised performances surpassing most expectations from players seen to be terminally flawed. Adam McPhee was among the Dockers' best few on Saturday night, none of the poor decisions that have seen him regularly maligned in evidence. Ditto Zac Dawson, outstanding on Tom Hawkins.
A lesser-light such as Matt De Boer was more than competent as a defensive forward. Alex Silvagni, shunned nearly all season, slotted easily into the defensive structure, which coped brilliantly with the loss of Luke McPharlin.
But Lyon's set-ups make it easier for the more unheralded to make important contributions, evidence again that under him structures and religiously drilled method will triumph over mere personnel nine times out of 10.
While it's his way or the highway, you need only to look at the turnarounds in attitude and, consequently, performance of players such as Clancee Pearce and Michael Walters, critical to the win over the Cats, to know that the players see it, believe it, and are more than prepared to follow.
Fremantle's opponent on Friday night is the only team to have beaten it twice this year, Adelaide winning in Perth by 29 points in round 10, and at AAMI Stadium in round 20 by 28 points - the only game Freo has lost since June.
Skipper Matthew Pavlich, whose six-goal performance on Saturday night was clearly the most significant of his 278-game career, had his colours unusually lowered that afternoon by Rising Star winner Daniel Talia. Finding someone else to stop Pav in his current mood is a major issue for the Crows now.
Lyon's midfield is also firing far more shots than it was even a month ago, David Mundy, in particular, is in near career-best form. Patrick Dangerfield and Scott Thompson will pose their usual threat, but perhaps Lyon may turn tagger Ryan Crowley's attentions elsewhere, like he helped short-circuit Geelong's supply by targeting James Kelly.
That was another winning move. Lyon's got plenty of them. But there's still no coach less likely to be trumpeting that right now. It's his job. And there's still plenty of work to be done.