AFL 2023: Garry Lyon on Footy Show, changes in footy media, Nick Riewoldt

Garry Lyon has become one of those people.

He never thought it would be the case, but there’s no hiding the excitement when the topic turns to his new love.

The Melbourne great and media star is now a lawn man.

Courtesy of social media, there is a whole world out there of people who are obsessed with their lawns, uploading photos of their masterpieces and comparing notes with other like-minded lawn artists around the world.

Lyon isn’t on social media, but if he was he’d no doubt be one of those people.

He says the best thing he ever did was buy himself a farm down on the Mornington Peninsula. It’s his safe place, his haven away from the bright lights of television and the craziness of breakfast radio.

Last week he left SEN shortly after his breakfast show with Tim Watson and was sitting on his tractor by 11am.

“I don’t know what I’m doing on the tractor, but I get on it and drive around,” Lyon says.

“I slash paddocks and I’ve also got a ride-on mower so I’ll just put on the headset and listen to some podcasts.

“It takes me six hours to mow all the area I’ve got and I love it. It is the best thing I do, it is like therapy. When I finish I get off and feel so good.

“I just love it and seriously I’ll pray that a branch has fallen down so I can get on the tractor and pick it up.”

Lyon has 50 acres and runs a “very healthy 300 to 400 head of kangaroo” given how rampant they roam in the area, although he does also have some of his neighbour’s sheep getting around the place.

A new house is the latest “passion project” on the farm, which has seen him relocate to another property at nearby Red Hill during construction.

“The best thing I ever did with my life was buy some land,” Lyon says.

“I used to love the city, but now I don’t, I love the farm.”

He made the switch to the bush after the toughest period of his life, when he retreated from the spotlight after news broke of his affair with Nicky Brownless, the wife of his good friend Billy.

The farm has played a major part in his healing, and in his first extensive interview since, Lyon reveals why he still loves being behind the microphone after almost three decades.

His media career started when he was working at the AFL and hosted the kids show AFL Squadron in the early 1990s. His first radio gig was at 3AW alongside heavy hitters Steve Price, Rex Hunt and Sam Newman.

“Steve Price was doing a thing with Sam Newman and Rex Hunt at 5.45pm on a Friday, and it was iconic radio,” Lyon explains.

“They then went on holiday so he (Price) asked me to come back. I was going to Inverloch on holidays but I’d drive up on Friday lunchtime in the traffic and Pricey would be always running late, so I’d get about six minutes and then I’d go back to Inverloch.”

From that little segment big things grew.

Lyon has been the main man in the special comments chair at 3AW, Triple M and SEN. His profile exploded on Channel 9 when he progressed from The Footy Show panellist to host. He also featured on Nine’s Footy Classified.

While Eddie McGuire had been known as Eddie Everywhere, he had become Gary Everywhere before his sabbatical.

In 2017 he returned to SEN to partner Watson on the early morning show, and joined Fox Footy, where he’s become the leader of the ship, hosting Friday night football, delivering special comments one game each weekend and taking over the compere’s chair on the popular On The Couch program.

During footy season he will have one day off – usually Sunday, although he still has to keep an eye on games at home, with the radio show cutting back to three days a week (Tuesday to Thursday) this year to try to ease the load.

A recent weekend away playing golf with Newman and others from the old The Footy Show days gave Lyon some perspective about how much the industry has changed.

“We had so much fun and laughed and I was sitting there thinking we couldn’t do a hell of a lot of stuff we used to do,” Lyon says.

“I don’t have a problem with that, but from that aspect it’s not as, I don’t want to say fun, but we were a bit looser. Everyone was a bit looser and probably weren’t as cognisant of everything.

“I still love it, but you have to be careful.”

Doing special comments at games is still his favourite part of the gig.

“I work with some great people but they are all different,” he says. “There are some who for whatever reason don’t want to do too much research, which is fine, while there are others that are absolutely across every single thing that goes on.

“I personally sit somewhere in the middle. I think the craft in the commentary for us is watching a game and within 10 or 15 minutes you have got to pick up the thread up, that’s the ability and sometimes you can support your argument with lots of different stuff.

“My sense of having done a good job well is walking away from the game and saying, ‘Yeah, I’m really happy I picked up that, I anticipated that’.

“The young blokes coming into (commentary), that is their challenge, to find their own style. You don’t have to be like (Jonathan) Browny, you don’t have to be like (David) Kingy, you don’t have to be like any of them, you just have to be yourself.”

He was reminded about his passion for the commentary last year when he did a game with Anthony Hudson and Nick Riewoldt from the Fox Footy bunker.

“It was during the hub and it was when Jordan Dawson kicked a goal after the siren for Adelaide to defeat Port,” Lyon recalls. “It was so good, we got so caught up in it that when it happened we jumped up and hugged each other.

“The three of us hugged each other in a studio in South Melbourne over a game none of us were invested with our teams. I thought that’s pretty cool, you can still go and see something that can move you emotionally so much.”

He will be without his right-hand man Riewoldt this season after the St Kilda champion made the shock decision to relocate with his family to the United States.

“I’m going to miss Nick, I really miss him,” Lyon says. “Again, everyone is a bit different, but he was a talent/producer, that’s where he was going. There are talents who do their job and do a great job but they need direction.

“He was a talent/producer, he was like, ‘Why aren’t we doing this? Could we do this? What about this? Can we do better?’.

“For me that is the way I am, and because I have been doing it for a long time it was really great to have a bloke that sits alongside you like that, so then you don’t feel that pressure.

“He would stop in the ad break and say, ‘Mate, we have got to do this or we haven’t done that’. I’ll miss him, I hope he comes back, he was a really talented operator.”

Riewoldt is being replaced by ex-Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley as the third wheel for On The Couch, with Lyon enjoying going head-to-head with him about the modern game.

“When he came out (of the game) last year on radio he brought his coaches’ focus. I think great, I’ll challenge that, because coaches by their very personality think they know everything, they have to, so I like needling him.

“There is nothing better when you and someone are at it and it’s serious but not for too long. You need to lighten up, stuff around and have a laugh.

“I’m 55, I have never stopped to think about that, but 55! That’s why hanging out and working with these guys is so good, it makes you feel young.”

Lyon, who played 226 games and captained the Demons, was in Perth for Melbourne’s historic premiership win in 2021 and still can’t believe how moved he was by the experience.

“The circumstances conspired in such a way that I think made it for me even more emotional because you are over there, essentially on my own (because of Covid restrictions), I had none of my mates, none of my old teammates apart from a couple of Western Australians.

“I was surprised how moved I was and to see how much it meant to my boys, too. I was thinking I was never going to see one, they were thinking they were never going to see one, I am never going to share seeing one with them.

“So in the end it was so cool.”

He has only watched a replay of the grand final once, a couple of months later back at his farm with sons Josh, Ben and Thomas and brother Rick.

“I’m not a big wine drinker but over the years I’ve accumulated some Grange and when the boys were young they’d be like, ‘What’s this, Dad?’,” Lyon says.

“I would say if you ever touch that I’ll rip your ears out. I explained to them what it was and said if we ever win a flag we’ll drink it.

“The minute we won the flag it was like, ‘Get the Grange, get the Grange’. So we had the Grange, we had big steaks, a big screen out in the shed and it was one of the great days.”

And Lyon is predicting there could be another day on the farm later this year: “I think Melbourne can win it again, I really do.”

Originally published as Garry Lyon opens up on the best move he’s made and how footy media has changed

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