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Racism Scandal Explodes at Hawthorn

Alastair Clarkson (front) (file photo)

Newly appointed North Melbourne coach Alastair Clarkson and Brisbane Coach Chris Fagan have become embroiled in very serious allegations stemming from their time together at Hawthorn. It began with an external review commissioned by the club to better understand the indigenous people, referred to as First Nations players, and their experiences at the club. The review led to the allegations being made and the club referring everything to the AFL Integrity Unit. Several of the involved players were interviewed and their stories - and those of their partners, paint a completely different picture of the "family club". The story was made public by the ABC which brought to light the treatment of the young players at the hands of the coaches and club officials.

Three players and their partners told their stories but had their names changed for the publication. The players were told to part ways with their partners, even though the women were pregnant, were forced to move out of their homes. Their partners were told to terminate unborn children. The players had the SIM cards removed from their phones to further separate them from family. Essentially, they were told football came first and that was to be their primary focus. In many cases, they were bullied into choosing the club and those involved had no compassion for the players or their families.

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Retirements and Delistings Roll On

Callum Sinclair marks (file photo)

Sydney, Carlton, and North Melbourne saw more players move on. North Melbourne delisted Kyron Hayden, Matt McGuinness, and Patrick Walker. Hayden was drafted in 2017 and debuted in 2019. He played 17 games as a defender. In early 2020, injuries curtailed his season. He managed five games in 2022. McGuinness was an Academy selection in 2019 and Walker was selected in the 2020 rookie draft. Both played 17 games in the VFL in 2022. Neither managed any senior games.

Just after the conclusion of the season proper, Sydney ruckman Callum Sinclair and defender Colin O'Riordan announced their retirements. Sinclair, 32, was originally drafted by West Coast in 2012 and has played a total of 118 games. General Manager Charlie Gardiner said, "Callum has been a real warrior for us. He has played some really good senior football with us ... but in recent times his work with our VFL squad has been enormous. He has played a selfless role for the team and been a terrific leader amongst our developing players. Cal is a hugely popular player ... ".

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Clarkson In but Rutten Out

Ben Rutten

During the latter part of the season, there was much speculation in the media about Alastair Clarkson's coaching future. Three clubs were linked to him - GWS, Essendon and North Melbourne. In early August, GWS opted not to pursue him and Clarkson himself later admitted his desire to remain in Victoria. Just as Round 23 was getting underway, North signed him to a five year deal. Although he had spoken to Essendon, he said he was "too far down the path" with North to consider Essendon's offer. Clarkson rejected overtures to replace contracted Bombers coach Ben Rutten and described the situation as "unsavory", having been approached about the position by their new president David Barham earlier in the week. He also said he only talked to Essendon out of a sense of fairness and respect for the people he knows at the club. But with Ben Rutten not being axed by the club at the time, Clarkson was not pleased with the situation, saying it had become a circus, "It really disappoints me, what's unfolded with 'Truck' Rutten out at the Bombers. He's a good man and he's a good football person ... ".

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North Melbourne Sacks Coach Noble

The Monday after Round 17 saw North Melbourne and coach David Noble part company.  He had coached the team for less than two seasons and comes away with just five wins from 38 games and accepted the blame for the team's poor performance. Noble said he was not surprised at his termination, saying it was the right call for all, “I am comfortable that I gave my all … but ultimately the scoreboard doesn’t make for great reading,” He believes he has laid a foundation for future success but warned, “There’s a little bit of pain to go before the team really kicks into gear. Until you get that next group of 20-gamers into the 50s and the 70s into the hundreds, there is still a little bit to go. But it’s a great club, it has got a great future …".  Ahead of Round 18, the team had just one win and endured a 14-game losing streak. Assistant coach Leigh Adams will be North’s interim coach for the rest of the season. 

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Majak Daw Calls Time

Daw Kicks a Goal (file photo)

At the end of June, Melbourne's Majak Daw announced his retirement after 12 seasons. He was the first player of Sudanese decent to be drafted by an AFL club. He was drafted as a rookie by North Melbourne in 2010 and debuted in 2013. He was elevated to the seniors in 2015, delisted and "re-rookied" at the end of 2016. He played 54 games and kicked 43 goals for North before being delisted at the end of 2020. He was set to play in the Northern Football League in 2021 but the Demons selected him in the 2021 Supplemental Selection Period. He failed to play any senior games for Melbourne, but was a consistent player in the VFL.

Daw said he was extremely proud of the of what he achieved during his career, “I am extremely grateful for the opportunities that North Melbourne and Melbourne ... have provided me ... I walk away from the game with immense pride in what I’ve been able to achieve and the challenges I’ve been able to overcome. With my current injury troubles, I’ve taken the opportunity to reflect on where I’m at and where I’m heading and in speaking with my management and the club, we’ve all agreed that the timing is right for me to retire ... I can focus on the next stage of my life and spend much more time on my most important and favorite job, being a loving and caring father to my son Hendrix. I would like to thank my family, friends, teammates, coaches and the wider football community for their support and care ... I walk away ... with life-long memories and friendships and real pride in what I’ve achieved.”

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2022 AFL Hall of Fame

Matthew Pavlich

In mid-June, the AFL held their annual Hall of Fame function with eight new inductees and one previous inductee elevated to Legend status. The Legend elevation was the late Port Adelaide Magpie (SANFL) centerman Russell Ebert, who was also recently named as Port Adelaide's greatest ever player. Ebert is the 32nd player to be named a Legend. He passed away in 2021, and the award was accepted by his widow Dian.

The eight new inductees represented not only the AFL, but the state leagues and Tasmania. They are Terry Cashion, Bill Dempsey, Mike Fitzpatrick, Brent Harvey, Matthew Pavlich, Michael Taylor, Ted Tyson and Nicky Winmar.

The Inductees:

RUSSELL EBERT - elevated to Legend status

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Hawks Kick Long To Take Down Roos

Sam Mitchell As A Player

Under new coach Sam Mitchell, Hawthorn looked to defy wooden spoon predictions with a first up win over the Kangaroos by 20 points at the MCG.  The new look 2022 Hawks kicked long and marked deep in the forward line with Lewis and Gunston the main targets.  North Melbourne debuted Horne-Smith and he looks a real prospect but a four goal run by the Hawks either side of the half time break was decisive. 

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Supplemental Signings

Paddy McCartin Handballs

The AFL's Supplemental Period (SSP) ran from January 10 through March 9 and several clubs took advantage and picked up players to round out their lists.

The Sydney Swans have picked Paddy McCartin, 25, during the SSP (Supplemental Selection Period) which has just concluded. McCartin was originally drafted by St Kilda in 2014 and played 35 games but had to step away from the game due to lingering concussion issues. He did spend last season with Sydney's VFL team and joins the club as a delisted free agent. McCartin joins brother Tom at the Swans and said, “It’s extremely exciting – it’s been a unique journey for me to get back to this point. It’s a path that not many people have taken, but my goal was to always try and get back to the elite level and to be able to do it with the Swans. To do it with Tom, in particular, is something that means a lot and is exciting. I’ve loved training with the team and playing last year, so it’s good to get on the list. There’s a lot that we want to achieve as a group so I’m looking forward to getting stuck in with the guys this year.”

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Free Agency and Other Signings

Campbell Clips Kersten

The AFL free agency period opened in early November and ran through November 9. Several delisted players found new homes. Players who have been delisted can join any club that offers them a contract and would therefore avoid having to enter the AFL draft later this month. All clubs then filed a list lodgment (current playing lists) on November 10 and another round begins on November 10 and runs through November 15.

Sacked Crow Tyson Stengle joined Geelong as a delisted free agent. Stengle, 22, played two games for Richmond and 16 games for the Crows over a four-year period but a string of off-field indiscretions saw the Crows decide to cancel his contract. In the SANFL this year, Stengle kicked 44 goals in 19 games, including nine goals in three finals. He is set to reunite with former teammate Eddie Betts, who has taken up an off-field role at the Cats.

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Port Adelaide Icon Passes

Russell Ebert Statue, credit: Thejoebloggsblog at English Wikipedia

In early November, Port Adelaide (SANFL) icon and legend Russell Ebert passed away at the age of 72 after a battle with cancer. Ebert was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, a form of cancer, in December last year. He passed at home surrounded by his family. His son Brett played 166 games for Port Adelaide and was the club's leading goalkicker in 2007, while his nephew Brad also played for the Power in 184 games.

Ebert played 392 games for the Port Adelaide Magpies and also had a stint with North Melbourne in the VFL. He won four Magarey Medals (SANFL Brownlow equivalent), played a club record 392 games and was recently elevated to legend status in the SA Sports Hall of Fame. He is just the seventh legend in the hall.

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