AFL press conference coaches

AFL coaching press conferences - sometimes informative, sometimes boring, occasionally pure gold.

Sit an AFL coach down in front of a stack of cameras and reporters and some odd things can happen.

At one end of the spectrum you have John Worsfold, a Sergeant Shultz approach and a coach who sees or hears very little (Reporter: "John, it looked like Nic Naitanui took a machine gun out of his sock, shot three Collingwood players and then went back into the ruck." Woosha: "I was pretty busy concentrating on the game, so I couldn't really comment on that.").

At the other, you have Brett Ratten's understandably tetchy response when asked about his future at Carlton after Saturday night's shock loss to the Gold Coast. I'm not sure you can realistically hope to answer a journalist's question by asking one of your own but Ratten at least gave it a red-hot go (a better one than his players, anyway).

Somewhere in between lies Ratten's predecessor Denis Pagan, who in his final press conference at Carlton was asked whether he had erred by not playing Eddie Betts in a 117-point loss to Brisbane. "Eddie Betts???" Pagan spat out incredulously, as if the reporter had, to borrow the coach's famous phrase, urinated down his back without even having the good grace to make pretend it was raining.

And then there was the the Ross Lyon "welcome to Fremantle" press conference.

In a little more than a fortnight it will be a year since Lyon replaced Mark Harvey in what might kindly be termed controversial circumstances.

By the time the anniversary rolls around Fremantle's season may have stretched into a second week of finals and what was a pretty unwelcoming initial reception will largely be forgotten.

In truth, so circus-like was Lyon's first appearance as Dockers coach that I doubt anyone who was there would ever forget it.

An openly (and in hindsight - hysterically) hostile approach from several reporters; 15 TV cameras and at least twice as many journos and photographers; the new coach being addressed as "Mr Lyon" (surely a formality done away with in the 1950s); not-so-subtle questions revolving around "back-stabbing", "honesty" and "integrity"; a grim-faced Lyon sternly (again, in hindsight - stoically) defending his reputation.

My recollection is of the public reaction to Lyon's appointment being similarly hostile but going back through stories published at the time it's apparent that my memory deceives me a little.

For every Bruce commenting on this website that "This is a decision of staggering incompetence that is likely to condemn us to the bottom half of the league for the next decade", there was a Damien who volunteered "a difficult but excellent decision by the Dockers."

For each amusing tweet from a @Matt_Fawcett saying "MRP have cited Fremantle for knifing Mark Harvey yesterday. Incident was deemed to be intentional, in the back and high impact"; there was counterpoint from a @mattys123 like "I actually like that Fremantle has finally grown some balls and made a move".

Eleven-and-a-half months later and the Dockers are about to play finals for only the fourth time and Lyon ought to be seriously in contention to succeed Worsfold as the AFL Coaches' Association's coach of the year.

First to the other contenders: Brenton Sanderson (taken Adelaide from 14th to a potential top-two finish), John Longmire (Sydney - sixth to second spot headed into round 23), Brad Scott (first finals appearance for North in four years, nine wins from past 11 games) and Mark Neeld (turned up to work every day in full knowledge he had to coach Melbourne).

Lyon, meanwhile, has squeezed seven wins out of Fremantle sides that didn't contain Aaron Sandilands, helped transform Michael Walters from a player deemed not fit to train with the senior side into an X-factor small forward, completely rejuvenated Michael Johnson, smiled at least a couple of publicly documented times and, not least of all, turned the Dockers into the second most miserly team in the league (on track for a club record low for points conceded).

Admittedly, there have been low points (May's derby caning, a very ordinary home loss to Carlton), some bulldust (saying on radio after the derby loss that "there was a lot to like") and at least one slightly misleading statistic (an all-time Freo-best six away wins will include only one against another top-eight side).

There was also a horrible rookie mistake during the last quarter of Sunday's win over North Melbourne, when Lyon failed to send out a runner to tell the Fremantle players to slow down as they verged on kicking away their chances of a "home" final date against West Coast.

But overall it's been a good enough 2012 that if Lyon held a press conference two weeks from Friday to celebrate his first Freo birthday, you'd hope his guests might be a bit more friendly this time.

And that they might even just call him "Ross".