Chalk one up to the “I told you so” brigade.

This is after the revelation that former St Kilda coach Grant Thomas is trying to sort out a substantial debt (reported to be around $1 million) he owes to one-time best friend and Saints club president Rod Butterss – the man who oversaw his appointment as St Kilda coach in 2001.

Thomas was a controversial appointment, with many claiming that the president was mixing the personal with the professional in getting his mate to coach.

The constant charge laid at the feet of both the new coach and the prez was that it was a classic “jobs for the boys” scenario.

Thomas was given the job midway through the 2001 season after the disastrous reign of Malcolm Blight. Critics were alarmed that Thomas’s role as a board member meant he got the gig under false pretences. Worse still, many accused Thomas of white-anting Blight out of blind ambition.

Naturally both men shrugged off the charges and got on with turning the club around. The best way to answer critics was to win footy games. And to that end, Thomas largely succeeded, taking the Saints to three consecutive finals series from 2004 to 2006.

Yet he was sacked in September last year with Thomas and Butterss now admitting their friendship was lost. And now another twist; a small matter about a large sum.

Both men have claimed it’s a private matter and should remain as such. Having left the club, Thomas has little to answer for. In Rod Butterss’s case, things are not so clear-cut.

Once again the process of Thomas’s appointment is at issue. Did Butterss reveal to the board the nature of his financial arrangement with Thomas in order to fully reveal the nature of their relationship prior to the board appointing him coach?

Surely in making such a vital decision the board should have full disclosure on perhaps the most crucial relationship in the club – that between coach and president – before being asked to make such a decision.

Can Butterss guarantee that the debt played no part in the conduct of their relationship and was not a factor in Thomas’ dismissal? The nature of this revelation will lead many to think that it did.

Rod Butterss and Grant Thomas have done a wonderful job establishing St Kilda as a real power in the AFL in recent years. They built the club quite literally in their own image.

I suspect both are discovering another old adage from the “I told you so brigade” is also true. The club is bigger than any one, or in this case, two individuals.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey