The Saints made the shock axing on Thursday night, ending Ratten’s tenure after four seasons in charge. He had been reappointed for a further two years in July, but the Saints missed the finals, sparking a major club review, the panel including David Noble, who was sacked as North Melbourne coach earlier this year.
They lost eight of their last 11 games, having been firmly in the top-four mix at the midpoint of the season. It was assumed Ratten, 51, was safe, having been reappointed less than 100 days ago, but the Saints believed they needed major change. The Saints made the finals only once – in 2020 when they beat the Western Bulldogs in an elimination final – under Ratten.
Bassat admitted Ratten had been “blindsided” by the decision, although the two parties had been in discussions since Sunday, when Ratten was first given the opportunity to respond to the findings of an extensive internal report. This culminated in his axing at a board meeting on Thursday night, Ratten waiting at the club to be told his fate.
That Bassat and Lethlean, until recently the head of football, have survived while Ratten, a much-loved figure, is gone, has angered Saints supporters, but club bosses said a more ruthless culture was needed.
“We don’t yet have the winning culture or ruthless commitment to football excellence we need. The review has already delivered a new GM of football in Geoff Walsh, and it became clear that we needed to have a new senior coach with a new style of leadership and a new voice,” Bassat said.
The Saints are now the fourth club to have pursued a new coach this year. While the field has thinned, there are several major names available, including Lyon, the man who led the Saints to three grand finals.
“At the end of the day, we find ourselves mid-table. To pursue where we need to get to, to win a flag, which this club desires and its fans deserve, means taking the next step in what we need by way of the attitude, the performance, the non-negotiables, the strong leadership we need and the buy-in from the playing group,” Lethlean said.
“All of that requires us to head into a new direction. A culmination of lots of different feedback and performance and things we have known about where we need to get to, have brought us to a really tough decision.”
Lethlean said Ratten had not “lost” the players, who were “saddened” by the decision. But Ratten, said Lethlean, had not been able to extract the required consistency and “our best players playing at their top end all the time”.
Ratten took over as caretaker coach midway through the 2019 season when Alan Richardson was sacked, and has had three full seasons in charge.
The Saints had a quiet trade period, declaring they had kept their “powder dry” after missing out on free agent Jordan De Goey. But even if they had signed the Collingwood star, a “troubled” Bassat, fearing the Saints “were stuck in the six to 10 zone” on the ladder, said Ratten was unlikely to have survived.
Melbourne assistant Adem Yze, having fallen just short of winning the Essendon and Greater Western Sydney coaching roles, is likely to be a candidate, while club great Robert Harvey, an assistant with Hawthorn, is expected to be sounded out.
They may also check on Luke Beveridge, who will soon open contract renegotiations with the Western Bulldogs. The 2016 premiership coach is off contract after the 2023 season. Former Magpie coach Nathan Buckley ruled himself out as he intends to travel in February.
Former Essendon coach James Hird is another possibility. But one assistant coach who won’t be in the frame is Daniel Giansiracusa, with the Bombers announcing on Friday that he had re-signed for another two years and will form part of new coach Brad Scott’s off-field team.
The Saints, a club still requiring major funding from the AFL, will only pay a modest payout clause of up to six months to Ratten.
Bassat said Walsh, the veteran football administrator due to begin his new role on November 1, did not have a role in Ratten’s axing. Walsh last year was on a panel that led to the sacking of Carlton coach David Teague, and this year conducted a review of the Kangaroos, which led to Noble’s departure.
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