Lyon tried to lure McQualter back to St Kilda

Shayne Hope and Justin Chadwick |

Current St Kilda coach Ross Lyon says he attempted to get Andrew McQualter (pic) back to the Saints.
Current St Kilda coach Ross Lyon says he attempted to get Andrew McQualter (pic) back to the Saints.

If Ross Lyon had his way Andrew McQualter would have been back at St Kilda this season as an assistant coach.

Instead, the ex-Saints player is settling in as Richmond’s caretaker after Damien Hardwick’s shock departure, having rejected an offer to reunite with Lyon at Moorabbin.

“I tried to pinch him to be honest. He probably never told the Tigers that,” Saints mentor Lyon said on Wednesday.

“We sort of went pretty hard. If I was going anywhere else I had him lined up to come – if I could get him.”

McQualter, a No.17 draft pick who played 94 games with St Kilda and Gold Coast, spent a decade working under triple-premiership coach Hardwick at Richmond.

Hardwick sensationally stepped away from the role this week, having lost some of the energy required.

McQualter was selected to lead Richmond ahead of fellow assistants David Teague and Ben Rutten, who both have senior coaching experience.

But Tigers senior adviser Neil Balme said it didn’t matter who the club picked to step up in Hardwick’s absence.

“We’ve got so many good (assistants) – all of our coaches could have done it,” Balme told SEN.

“But you’ve just got to say, ‘Well, what are we going to do? Let’s have a look at it’, and we thought it was worth just giving him the opportunity.

“That in itself is important to him, but it’s probably not important to us and that’s because all the other blokes could have done it.”

Richmond are already assessing the coaching market in the search for Hardwick’s full-time successor.

Ken Hinkley is out of contract at Port Adelaide, West Coast’s Adam Simpson is under pressure and Gold Coast’s Stuart Dew could be on shaky ground if he misses the finals again.

Former Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley has ruled himself out of the running, while Magpies assistant Justin Leppitsch has been touted for a possible return to Punt Rd.

Ex-GWS coach Leon Cameron, who led the Giants to the 2019 grand final and stepped down last year, has declared the itch to coach again “absolutely comes and goes”.

Hardwick’s resignation has sparked fresh focus on the stresses of coaching as clubs operate under a reduced football department spending cap.

Some coaches have renewed calls for the AFL to raise the cap back to pre-pandemic levels.

Fremantle’s Justin Longmuir said the league could also relieve some stress in the job by giving coaches extra security in their contracts.

“A lot of coaches and senior coaches, really we’ve only got six-month contracts (due to clauses), and that’s lucky,” Longmuir said.

“Some of our assistant coaches have one-month or three-month contracts.

“I think contracts are contracts and should be honoured, and that clause should be taken out, but that’s for the AFL to act.”