Exactly 2 months (May 18) after Alastair Clarkson stepped away from coaching North Melbourne, he returned to the club. For the time being, however, assistant Brett Ratten will continue to coach the senior side while Clarkson eases himself back to the position. Before his official return, he had been working off and on in different areas of the football department. Clarkson will spend the next month integrating back into the program with his initial focus on game analysis, game trends, opposition analysis, and working with the coaching group on game plan and strategy. He will resume his coaching duties ahead of Round 21 (another week).
The AFL has dismissed the independent panel which was formed to investigate the racism allegations against Hawthorn, former coach Alastair Clarkson, former assistant coach Chris Fagan, and welfare officer Jason Burt. The conclusion, called "imperfect" by AFL CEO Gil McLachlan, was that none of the three had anything to answer for.
All three have denied the allegations since the outset. The complainants, who initially supported the probe, no longer wish to take part in the independent investigation and they won't pursue any further legal action against the AFL. Although the panel has been disbanded, it does not preclude the league bringing future charges against the club. McLachlan said the AFL would move as quickly as possible to finalize whether any charges would be levelled against Hawthorn.
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.
Despite the fact that the AFL has appointed an independent panel to investigate the racism allegation against Hawthorn, the indigenous families involved are still wary of participating in the investigations. Some of the families involved wrote an open letter to the AFL, requesting the league admit its failings in dealing with the issue of racism. The allegations focus on a period between 2008 and 2016. The letter continued, "We have decided to participate in the AFL Independent Investigation on the basis that the AFL is also committed to independently look at its own failings, and promises to all First Nations families it will do better as a result ... the issue of racism in the AFL cannot be dealt with by a narrowly targeted investigation on a club-by-club, or crisis-by-crisis, basis. We want the AFL to take a good hard look at itself and how it has dealt with racism in the past. Not because we want to trawl over 100 years of neglect, or conduct a witch-hunt or to bring legal claims, but because we want the AFL to be a safer place for our children."
After the racism allegations against Alastair Clarkson and Chris Fagan became public, the AFL said a four member panel would be appointed to investigate further. However, those allegedly affected by the alleged abuse said they were leery of giving their stories again to the AFL because of the way such issues have been handled in the past, or not handled at all. Age reporter Caroline Wilson said, “There’s genuine despair ... that it’s taken over a week already, and ... the aggrieved families who gave evidence in the Phillip Egan review (the Hawthorn club review which started it all) ... were still not over the line as agreeing to the process. They ... have been saying they want an independent judicial enquiry ... these people gave their evidence, are unwilling to do so again in an environment they don’t trust.”
Both Clarkson and Fagan have denied the allegations, with Clarkson saying he was never interviewed at the time of the initial review. Fagan has said he will cooperate with the new round of investigations. Both coaches are believed to have hired attorneys.
Source: sen.com.au, news.com.au
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 families allege that 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 allegedly told to terminate unborn children. The families say 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. [Ed. note: the ABC has stated that Clarkson and Fagan were given multiple opportunities to respond before the allegations were made public.]
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 ... ".
Round nine was Leon Cameron's last as coach of Greater Western Sydney after almost a decade in charge. Assistant coach Mark McVeigh will take over for the remainder of the season. Cameron and the club had put contract talks on hold, but after a number of discussions, the parting of ways was mutual and amicable. He made the announcement to the playing group on the Thursday before round nine. Although the Giants have gotten off to a rocky start this season (2 wins, seven losses) Cameron did have some success taking the club into preliminary finals in 2016 and 2017, and into a Grand final in 2019. His record is 87 wins, 71 losses and three tied games.
Two days after Melbourne's Grand Final victory, it was back to business for the club with three players being delisted, one retiring and another deciding to look for better opportunities elsewhere. Jay Lockhart, Aaron Nietschke and Austin Bradtke were delisted, while Aaron vandenBerg will seek opportunities elsewhere and Neville Jetta announced his retirement. Lockhart played twenty-two games since joining the club as a preseason supplemental selection in 2019. Bradtke and Nietschke never played a senior game with the latter suffering three ACL injuries in his time at the club, vandenBerg played 51 games for the club.
In early September, Collingwood announced the appointment of former Brisbane premiership player Craig McRae as the new senior coach. McRae, 47, beat out Richmond assistant Adam Kingsley after former Adelaide coach Don Pyke pulled out. McRae said of his appointment, "We're in the position of just getting as good as we can as quick as we can - we don't want to put a ceiling on that. I spoke to the playing group before and my appointment offers opportunity and possibility. I'm pretty pumped, let's face it, this is a significant part of my journey and it's been a long one." As a premiership player with Brisbane and an assistant at Hawthorn under Alastair Clarkson in 2021, he knows what it takes to win and said, "I have been fortunate to witness up close and share in some very successful programs and I know that teaching solid habits can build a winning habit of its own. "