Brisbane Lions part ways with Justin Leppitsch
AFL: They say nice guys finish last. The Brisbane Lions never actually finished last under Justin Leppitsch, but ending up 15th, 17th and 17th in his three years ultimately cost the three-time premiership player his job as senior coach.
His win-loss record of 14-52 at 21.21% was the worst by a coach in charge of at least 50 games since Graeme Jellie (16.13%) at St Kilda in 1984-86.
It was below that of fellow recent additions to the sacked coaches club to have lasted as long, Fremantle's Damien Drum (24.53%), Melbourne's Dean Bailey (27.71%) and the Bulldogs' Brendan McCartney (30.3%).
While always likeable, Leppitsch was becoming increasingly frustrated by the fact his rebuild was unable to get off the ground.
The sad fact was they appeared to be going backwards, with seven wins coming in 2014, four in 2015 and three in 2016, when the Lions' average losing margin had ballooned out to 61 points.
They weren't simply losing, they were at times getting blown out of the water.
"Justin was obviously disappointed. It was done via phone because Justin chose not to come in this morning." - Bob Sharpless— Brisbane Lions (@brisbanelions) August 29, 2016
"When you look at some of the losses that we had ... the size of those losses, something was not right," Lions chairman Bob Sharpless said at a press conference.
"Injuries, retirements, a clean-out of the playing list and fixture issues have all played their part, but this is a results-driven industry."
While players were informed via email, an "obviously disappointed" Leppitsch was told on the phone.
"We've supported some bold initiatives. We extended the contract (of Leppitsch) at the start of the season, we expected it to play out," Sharpless said.
"(But) the club needs to go in a different direction and we believe that starts with a new senior coach."
"The Club needs to go in a different direction and we believe that starts with a new Senior Coach." - Bob Sharpless— Brisbane Lions (@brisbanelions) August 29, 2016
Experienced pair Mark Thompson and Brett Ratten could head the list of possibilities, along with untried assistants Scott Burns, Brett Montgomery and Stuart Dew.
"The steps are that we'll see who's out there," Lions chief executive Greg Swann said. "We haven't spoken to anyone ... hopefully we get it right."
Whoever takes the reins, the Lions firmly believe they will inherit a promising list.
"Justin is a legend of the Club and we thank him for all he has done during his time as coach..." 1/2— Brisbane Lions (@brisbanelions) August 29, 2016
"Justin is a legend of the club and we thank him for all he has done during his time as coach, in particular the work in blooding a huge number of young players who will no doubt go on to be long-term champions of the Brisbane Lions," Sharpless said.
"We feel our list has a lot of Queensland talent, which is going to be good going into the future. We can see some blue sky there."
Whether that list includes skipper Tom Rockliff remains to be seen, with his name being mentioned in trade talk.