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Richardson announced as St Kilda coach

Alan Richardson makes his first statement to the media as head coach of St Kilda Football Club after the announcement of his appointment Thursday night.

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Alan Richardson's appointment as St Kilda's coach for the next three years could prove to be as bold and sensible and forward thinking a decision as the club has made since Ross Lyon came out of left field eight years ago to take the job.

Three years from now the end result of this very strange selection process could justify the means. But what a disappointing process it was - a process punctuated by deception and half-truths and one which claimed several victims along the way.

The Port Adelaide Football Club has lost its director of coaching at a time when he is impossible to replace and after it was midway through negotiations to extend his deal until the end of 2017.

Alan Richardson

St Kilda coach Alan Richardson. Photo: Wayne Taylor

Having funded Richardson's relocation from Melbourne, a leadership course in Europe midway through the year and holding a contract demanding a six month no-compete clause, Port was right to feel a little duped by Richardson.

Not because he had ultimately succumbed to the great and powerful senior coaching drug that lures so many passionate football men, but because Richardson had continued to insist to all at the club he was not in for the job.

This was simply not the case. Saints football boss Chris Pelchen and Richardson's manager, Gerard Sholly, had remained in negotiations from the start. If your manager is talking to the club then quite clearly so are you.

Sholly made it clear to Pelchen that Richardson would not be interviewed for the position - having narrowly missed out two years ago - and he never was, certainly not in any formal sense and not without knowing the job was already his.

Port chief executive Keith Thomas spent much of Thursday negotiating with outgoing Saints boss Michael Nettlefold and president Peter Summers following some tough warnings delivered early in the day by Port president David Koch via his Channel Seven breakfast program.

Port had hoped for a six-figure settlement that would respect that six-month clause in Richardson's contract but the AFL intervened at some point during the day - given that head office would have been forced to provide the money in the end - and made it clear this was not a precedent with which it was comfortable. Port received a five-figure settlement that the Saints claim was as little as $20,000.

Which again reinforces the worthless nature of so many AFL contracts. Port found itself in the same uncomfortable position of Richmond one week earlier.

Although in Port's favour was the fact it had lured Phil Walsh back to the club and remained content in the knowledge that as good as Richardson had been in his role, the club had seen enough of Hinkley to understand he could cope without a coaching director.

Mark Williams was another victim of the Saints' double-dealing. It is disappointing that the club chose to leak to senior AFL personnel, media and other club staffers that Williams had botched his interview and demanded too much of the struggling club.

Whether or not this is true - and parties from both sides have a different version to that reported publicly - Williams was never alone in being a favourite for the job, given that Richardson was always at least an equally preferred candidate. There was no late move for Richardson because he had always been in the running.

Having now been burnt by Essendon, Greater Western Sydney and Melbourne along with St Kilda, you would have to wonder where Williams turns now. Certainly Richmond seemed happy in recent days when the Saints' double-dealing was revealed and it was clear the Tigers would retain their popular development coach.

And the double-dealing appears to have been internal where the Saints were concerned. Club directors and other key figures on the coaching panel continued to insist as recently as Thursday that Richardson and Williams were both in for the job as late as Wednesday night, long after Fairfax Media had reported Richardson would coach the Saints.

This is despite the fact Richardson had told trusted Port Adelaide staffers on Wednesday morning that he had the job. He told other confidants during that day.

Clearly Pelchen had communicated to him that he had the job. Perhaps the Saints football chief had forgotten to tell the remainder of his coaching panel that he had already appointed Watters' replacement before they met to ratify the decision.

Perhaps the communication breakdown that haunted the Saints throughout 2013 has not yet been rectified.

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