St Kilda has condemned itself with its own words.
Senior figures have been left looking like hacks after the club sensationally sacked coach Brett Ratten on Thursday night in a move almost nobody saw coming.
The football club is yet to publicly confirm the move which has seen Ratten terminated just months after signing a contract extension through to the end of 2024.
Multiple outlets have reported that the findings of a review of the club’s football operations has seen the veteran coach axed on the spot.
Ratten signed a two-year contract extension in July when he was about to come out of contract, in a deal which committed him to the club until the end of the 2024 season.
It has been reported by The Age that it is standard in situations like this that Ratten would receive a pay-out of around the equivalent of six-months worth of wages.
It comes as Fox Footy analyst David King said on Friday morning the officials involved in the club’s recruitment, including chief executive Simon Lethlean and list manager James Gallagher, should also be held accountable for the club’s failures.
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The timing of the announcement has only increased speculation St Kilda has already found a replacement for Ratten. However, Channel 7’s Tom Browne reports the club did not have another coach lined up when the decision was made.
Contenders for the coaching job include St Kilda great Lenny Hayes, departing GWS assistant coach Mark McVeigh and highly-rated Melbourne assistant Adam Yze.
In the hope of avoiding a fan revolt, the club had best have a rabbit up its sleeve.
Club president Andrew Bassat has not yet had an opportunity to explain the decision in public, but the backflip on Ratten’s abilities as coach looks damning as things stand.
The football club has scheduled a media announcement for 11.30am (AEDT).
He now infamously said in July as the club celebrated Ratten’s contract extension: “As the leader of our men’s program, Brett has secured significant buy-in from his fellow coaches, staff and players alike.
“In addition to his strong football IQ, our players appreciate his ability to develop strong relationships, which he uses as a foundation to challenge each individual to get better and to deliver their role for the team.
“This balance, and the ability to unite his coaches, players and staff in a relentless quest for excellence makes Brett the best person to lead us towards our much longed-for second premiership.”
Bassat also said earlier this year “the trust is pretty high” between the club and Ratten.
“We’ve always said that Brett Ratten will be our long-term coach and the coach who hopefully takes us to our long-awaited second flag,” Bassat said.
“He’s not in fear of his contract.”
He also spoke in glowing terms about Ratten’s coaching abilities in December, saying: “I fully expect Brett to be our long-term coach”.
Famous last words.
Ratten’s sacking comes after some big changes at the football club this year with veteran football manager Geoff Walsh this month appointed to the new position as executive general manager of football.
It was Walsh who led the review that has ultimately ended with Ratten’s sacking.
The club has also seen Simon Lethlean move into the position as chief executive after announcing earlier this year Matt Finnis would leave.
Walsh last week spoke boldly about his ambitious plans for the club in a radio interview, saying he hopes to drag St Kilda out of the “degree of irrelevance”.
“One of the things I’d like to think I can bring to the table is the willingness to make a hard call, to not walk past something if you see it and know it’s wrong,” he told SEN.
“This might sound abrasive and Saints fans might get upset, but one of the things I think, when asked about how do I see St Kilda, I think the competition would say there has been a degree of irrelevance.
“That should be abrasive, that should choke down people’s throats. I hope that going forward I can contribute to a profile that gives the Saints the due respect they crave.”
Instead, they had a quiet trade period, missing out on the big-name signature of Collingwood midfielder Jordan De Goey.
The club was able to pick up Zaine Cordy from the Western Bulldogs through free agency, but utility Ben Long left to join the Suns.
Ratten took over as caretaker coach midway through the 2019 season when Alan Richardson was sacked as coach and has had three full seasons in charge.
He led St Kilda to the finals in 2020, which saw the Saints win an elimination final against the Western Bulldogs.
But St Kilda have not made the top eight since then, finishing 10th in both 2021 and 2022.
The Saints started the season with a 5-3 record but faded badly, losing eight of their 11 matches.
Ratten was previously the coach of Carlton between 2007 and 2012. He was surprisingly sacked after the 2012 season when the Blues came 10th.
He served as an assistant coach at Hawthorn from late 2012 to 2018 before getting the rare opportunity to be a senior coach at a second AFL club.
St Kilda has the longest premiership drought of any team in the AFL, with their last triumph coming back in 1966.
Football world reacts to bombshell
North Melbourne great David King says Ratten was doomed as a result of a lack of quality players on the club’s list.
Football commentators have flocked to social media to defend Ratten and express sympathy after being sacked for the second time in his coaching career.
King told SEN on Friday morning: “For the last four years he has been taking a knife to a gun fight.
“They have not been stacked with the artillery that is required to win consistently.
“Their roster is full of mediocrity and I think that has even been a concession from James Gallagher since the trade period finished.
“So what do you expect from your coach? They have said this is not a premiership-winning list. Geoff Walsh has been there five minutes and said things need to change here.
“I don’t expect this to be the last port of call for St Kilda. I would be surprised if it was only Brett Ratten (who left) and I would challenge those to put their hand up or head up, guys who have been there like Simon Lethlean, James Gallagher, and all of those guys who have made those decisions which have affected the list.”
Football broadcaster Andy Maher posted on Twitter: “Impossible not to feel for Brett Ratten. Loads of really decent people in the caper. He’s one of them”.
He said the club’s sudden backflip against Ratten was a “staggering turn of events”.
Sports presenter Nick Quinn wrote on Twitter: “Hard not to feel sorry for Brett Ratten. Coaching is a brutal brutal industry”.
Football journalist Tom Browne reported on his Twitter account: “This seems very unfair on Ratten. He was given a contract by new CEO Simon Lethlean in the middle of the year, who to date has been charge of the footy program.
“Ratten didn’t have enough top end talent, many of their issues seemingly list management.”
He reports the club did not have a new coach lined up when the decision to axe Ratten was made. “I’m told it’s all very raw tonight, and there is no other coach,” he wrote.
Sports reporter Oliver Caffrey wrote: “Brutally axed as a senior coach twice, you can’t help but feel for Brett Ratten. Simply baffling decision”.
The Herald Sun’s Jon Ralph wrote: “Saints have torched hundreds of thousands of dollars sacking Brett Ratten less than 100 days after re-signing him.
“He would feel so blindsided. The club admitted yesterday its list wasn’t that good.”
Channel 7’s Cameron Luke wrote: “The brutality, suddenness and timing of the Ratten sacking makes me believe they have something huge up their sleeve! If they don’t then it’s going to be very hard to sell hope to fans who have long been frustrated and starved of success”.
Footy comedian Titus O’Reily also joked on Twitter: “St Kilda sack Brett Ratten after extending him in July for two years. It’s the millionth time St Kilda has St Kilda-ed since they started St Kildering”.