Plenty of Saints fans are still scratching their heads trying to work out why their club last week dumped coach Grant Thomas after he’d taken them to the finals three years in a row.

Some say he was too close to the players. That he was too autocratic. Or maybe not tactically astute enough. But another, more bizarre, reason has emerged: Thommo wasn’t “cool” enough to cut it in today’s football.

This revelation came courtesy of one of the highlights of the AFL media year – this week’s appearance by St Kilda president Rod Butterss on Fox Footy’s On the Couch.

Butterss put in a performance of sustained – albeit unintentional – comedic brilliance.

He tapdanced uncomfortably around questions from Mike Sheahan, Robert Walls and Gerard Healy, unwilling or unable to offer a cogent explanation for the sacking. He talked throughout in the corporate doublespeak that has become so much a part of sport these days, talking of “ironies” and “processes” and (I kid you not) “paradigm shifts”.

But the killer, the one that left Sheahan openly stunned, was when Butterss ventured that one of the Board’s main concerns had been over the 48-year-old Thomas’s ability to communicate effectively with the “Gen Y-ers”, the 18-25-year-olds, on the Saints’ list.

Yes, that would be the same group of players who were openly shattered and angry when told of Thomas’s axing. The same group whose close bond with Thomas was considered one of the team’s greatest assets.

But Butterss was serious, and even added helpfully that the young people of today were different from the young people of ten years ago (besides, we assume, from just being ten years younger), and needed somebody who could relate to them on their level.

All well and good, but doesn’t that make it odd that two names already raised as possible new St Kilda coaches are 58-year-old Denis Pagan and 53-year-old Mick Malthouse? Or that the panel to decide the new coach includes former skipper Ross Smith, 64, and Robert Walls, now 56 and not exactly renowned as a big Justin Timberlake fan.

Ah yes, and that would be the same Robert Walls who was one of those interviewing Butterss on TV in the first place. As I said, bizarre and funny all at the same time. If you can find a bookie, place $50 on one of those two dudes who host Idol to be coaching the Saints in 2007.

Peter Fray

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