Alastair Clarkson has temporarily stepped down from his coaching role at North Melbourne. There were unconfirmed reports that he was acting erratically in the lead up to his decision. The final straw was a withering half-time address to the North players during the Round Nine match against Port Adelaide. Reportedly, even a chair was thrown against a wall.
During a recent conference, Clarkson was very critical of his former club Hawthorn and the AFL over the racism investigations and the lack of progress being made. He called for Hawthorn to be investigated for the club's "shameful" handling of its report and said that reputations had been "scarred" as a result of the long-running process. He said the game was a "victim" of the ongoing independent investigation, which was commissioned by the AFL in October.
Of Clarkson's comments, North Football manager Todd Viney said, "I think that was a window into his mindset at the time. You got a good feel for the animosity he's got towards the Hawthorn Football Club, a club that he served for 17 years and four premierships. He had such an influence on so many people within that football club. For the process to unfold and such serious allegations to be made and to have no reply to that process has been enormously hurtful to him. If you know Clarko, it's about relationships and it's about trust and it's about family. When he commits to being part of your organization or family, he's in 100 per cent. To have that unfold like it has, he's been bitterly disappointed and that's taken its toll.”
North released a statement saying the club would give him all time he needs to "restore his health" and that " ... "everyone involved has been deeply affected by the Hawthorn investigation and the burden on Alastair has been significant". Viney was confident that Clarkson would return but would not put a timeframe on the leave of absence. Clarkson was due to coach his 400th game in Round 10. Assistant coach Brett Ratten will fill in during Clarkson's absence.
Brisbane Coach Chris Fagan, also the subject of the same allegations as an assistant with Clarkson at Hawthorn, released a statement saying he was "saddened" by Clarkson's decision to step away and was also critical of what he called the "deeply flawed" process around the allegations at Hawthorn. Fagan also said, "I was fortunate to work with Clarko for almost nine years, and I have known him for much longer ... I know him to be a person of very good character who has had an overwhelmingly positive influence on the lives of the young men he has coached. The football community is immeasurably better off with Clarko in it ... The deeply flawed process that we have been subjected to has taken a heavy toll. It has been profoundly damaging and unfair. It is my hope that it will very soon come to an appropriate end. In the meantime, Clarko's physical and mental wellbeing must come first ... ".
AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan also released a statement supporting Clarkson's decision and acknowledging the "heavy burden" borne by all parties involved in the investigation, "We understand how much the investigation ... into allegations of racism has impacted on all people involved, including Alastair, and believe the investigation needs to find resolution. It is a heavy burden being carried by all parties involved and the wellbeing of everyone who is a part of this process is the key priority for our game. It takes great courage to stand up and say you need to focus on your own personal wellbeing and we support Alastair in doing what he needs to do in the best interests of himself and his family. We will continue to provide support to all parties. The AFL supports current efforts to find a mediated outcome that provides fairness and natural justice for all involved and encourage all parties to work towards a timely and just outcome."
Article last changed on Sunday, June 04, 2023 - 7:37 PM EDT