Ross Lyon is so close to the prize he can almost taste it.
It’s now or never for The Fremantle Dockers coach and his team.
Lyon has been on a mission to claim AFL footy’s only prize for close to a decade. At times he has come so close to realising his dream he must surely still wake some mornings and wonder why the gods conspired to deny him.
Lyon hasn't been broken by such heartache. Steadfast in his conviction, he has redoubled his efforts and carried on.
After all, what else is there to do? Such dreams don’t simply realise themselves.
And time is no man’s friend.
As Lyon prepares for yet another finals campaign - his 7th in 8 years as senior coach - he must know that opportunity is once again being eroded by the waves of age and injury that will inevitably claim his finest players.
For Lyon, the next month of football will deliver a verdict on his status in the game.
Is he the master coach his devotees insist he is? Or will his detractors, who see him as a miser who punishes artistry in favour of the dark arts of defence and denial, be vindicated?
Until he wins a premiership his reputation as a great coach will remain in question. AFL football is no place for nuisance and mitigating circumstance. Make no mistake, come October, the verdict will be in.
Lyon’s remarkable win/loss ratio over 215 AFL games sits at 67%. He has taken his team into 4 Grand Finals and seen 3 of those games be up for grabs until deep into the final quarter.
Lyon has produced teams of such defensive steel that over the 8 years as coach they average 75 points conceded per game. His teams are disciplined, committed and relentless.
These are the virtues upon which greatness is built. And yet the prize eludes him.
Ross Lyon is a pragmatic warrior. He eschews the sentimental and has no time for fools. When he talks about football as an “industry” you get the sense he sees it like Henry Ford did building cars.
Maximum efficiency, relentless output, excellence and durability that can be replicated and adapted but never bettered.
There are many hoping Lyon fails. They see his brand of football as a type of martial law that unleashes a virus of negativity into the lifeblood of the game and attacks the artistry at its heart.
Others see him as a bloodless careerist who walked out on St.Kilda after the battle was fought valiantly but fruitlessly. The captain who didn’t go down with his ship.
I’m not one of those. That type of bitterness is a long road to nowhere.
Does Lyon have one more card to play? Will the indifferent form his Dockers have displayed in the backend of the season dissipate as September unfolds?
Can he find that extra ingredient that has been missing from his recipe for success?
It is now or never for Ross Lyon.
Greatness awaits. And heart breaking failure is a well known companion.
Which will greet him when it’s all said and done?