St Kilda chairman Andrew Bassat and chief executive Simon Lethlean have faced the media firing squad over the sensational decision to terminate Brett Ratten.
The club produced a bombshell on Thursday night as news leaked the Saints have sacked the coach just 97 days after he was handed a two-year contract extension through to the end of the 2024 season.
There has been widespread condemnation of the brutal move after Bassat just months ago spoke glowingly of Ratten’s ability to lead the club in the future.
Bassat and Lethlean on Friday said the club would not be addressing what it will now do to replace Ratten, admitting the club does not have a coach ready to step into the role.
Early speculation has suggested contenders for the coaching job include St Kilda great Lenny Hayes, departing GWS assistant coach Mark McVeigh, highly-rated Melbourne assistant Adam Yze and former St Kilda coach Ross Lyon. Lethlean said the club has not contacted Lyon.
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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.
Lethlean on Friday insisted Walsh was not involved in the review that has ultimately cost Ratten his job. He said the decision was made by a review committee which was made up by Bassat, Lethlean, Jason Blake and former North Melbourne coach David Noble.
Bassat also defended the club’s decision to hand Ratten a long-term contract extension before its dramatic flip this week.
“I think you’re talking in hindsight. I think at the time, it was less criticised,” he said.
“As we started to lose games, people started to criticise the decision more and more.”
He said he met with Ratten on Monday to give the 51-year-old a chance to convince the club he deserved to remain coach before pulling the trigger.
Lethlean said during the press conference the decision to axe Ratten was not the result of player unrest.
“Brett’s got great respect from the players,” he said.
“I would say they are saddened by the decision because they are close and they love and respect Brett, but they understand that they have to dig a little deeper. They have to turn their minds to getting better and we’re going to provide a football program that asks more of them.”
He admitted in hindsight the club made a mistake in extending Ratten’s contract in July.
“If you crystal ball it, maybe in hindsight that’s the wrong decision, he said.
“But the wrong decision now would be to keep going forward when we thought we needed to do better.”
Bassat 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.
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.