‘Outrageous’: Veteran coach sues Saints chiefs for treating Rats



Ernie Merrick is enthusiastic about the treatment of sacked St Kilda coach Brett Ratten, calling it ‘one of the worst I’ve seen’.

The two-time A-League Championship winner had a part-time role with the Saints as a mentor to Rats and spoke about SEN’s Whateley on Thursday morning about last week’s resignation – just three months after signing a two-year extension.

“Sometimes I think that board members think that (in the style of Ratten) is soft. I consider it modern coaching – and his results really prove it. And despite what has been said, which surprises me, I think his results are on track,” Merrick said on the show.

He agreed when asked if it was an inappropriate way for St Kilda to treat an employee, adding: “It’s actually quite disgraceful. It’s humiliating, it’s not necessary.

“The difference is that Geelong had Frank Costa in support of Bomber Thompson and Richmond had Peggy O’Neal in support of Damien Hardwick – and to me the board has a lot to answer for in St Kilda.”

Merrick added that he was “one of the best coaches I’ve ever worked with”, and that he “observed a very, very good coach” who had “excellent relationship skills, who led by gaining respect through his leadership and his personality performance anxiety and fear of being authoritarian”.

Ernie Merrick of the Jets

Ernie Merrick (Photo by Tony Feder/Getty Images)

“I was shocked because his (Rattens) new contract was signed about three months earlier. The chairman spoke highly of him – and that all changes in half a season. I can’t understand how you can judge a person in half a season especially with the injuries he had… and yet he managed to get 11 wins, 10 wins and 11 wins in his three seasons. And that he was so close to the final last season

“So with an average of 11 wins a season over the first three years and building players and up and coming youngsters… he did everything right. I just don’t think he had enough experience in his team to go much further.

“The difference is in football when you get fired from the English Premier League, you walk away with $20 million and six months’ salary.”

“I’ve been coaching for a while since the 1970s. You win a match, you go to the locker room, everyone is happy, everyone supports you. Once you lose a few games, no one wants to know you. You don’t get the same characters to back you up – and they’re the ones you can quickly tell are ready to disembark quickly.

“I have to say that I was initially very impressed with the board, but the board took the plunge. It’s not the CEO who made the decision, so it all comes down to the board.

“The whole behavior and the way things were handled and who handled it is really, really disappointing.”

Merrick admitted that CEO Simon Lethlean and President Andrew Bassat interviewed him the day before Ratten was fired from his position. He said he felt the decision had been made before that meeting.

“The CEO, I thought, was very honest and fair… but I’m afraid of Andrew Bassat, I felt like the decision had already been made. And I was so disappointed,” said Merrick. “Whatever argument I got for removing the coach, I refuted it.

“This is a results-driven business that we are in and these team sports in particular, you have to coordinate a group of players to perform and win games and improve week in, week out. But it’s really not performance related. It’s usually someone who makes a pretty difficult call, often without the expertise and knowledge behind it, I’d say.”

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“I would like to know who made the decision to play a match in Cairns, which they lost by a point. I mean, that 12th win would probably have secured a finishing position, but it’s out of the hands of the coach. List management is not in the hands of the coach. You can pass on advice, but you can’t go get the players yourself, there are different departments for that.

“In my opinion, St Kilda will not be successful until they have stabilized the whole club from head to toe. For me they were stable, they’ve stuffed it and I don’t know what’s going to happen next.”

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