AFL boss hits back at Chris Scott and Ross Lyon amid North Melbourne furore

Gillon McLachlan has moved to defend the AFL's maligned assistance package for the Kangaroos.

Gillon McLachlan, Ross Lyon and Chris Scott in the AFL.
Gillon McLachlan (centre) has defended the AFL's handout for North Melbourne amid backlash from Ross Lyon (L) and Chris Scott (R). Image: Getty

Gillon McLachlan has defended the AFL's controversial assistance package for North Melbourne after uproar from rival coaches Chris Scott and Ross Lyon. The Kangaroos, who only won three games in 2023 and haven't finished higher than 17th in the past four seasons, will receive three extra first-round draft picks across the next two years.

In a bid to help Alastair Clarkson's side rise from the bottom of the ladder, the AFL Commission announced on Monday that North Melbourne will get one extra first-round draft pick in 2023, and two in 2024, as well as the continuation of two additional rookie list spots for the 2024 season. But the announcement has sparked widespread anger, with Scott and Lyon among the many to lash out.

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Geelong coach Scott labelled it "blatant manipulation" by the AFL, while Lyon said it was "the gift that keeps on giving". Responding to the storm on Tuesday night, outgoing CEO McLachlan hit back.

“It is manipulation. There’s compromises everywhere," he said on AFL 360. "Chris has been the beneficiary of father-son for years. Ross - Mitch Owens and Marcus Windhager are Academy picks. There’s compromises throughout the system and it’s absolutely true. Be fair about it. There are compromises.

“Ross’ point was their own decisions got them there and there’s no doubt about that, but I think North Melbourne are in the worst position of any club in the last five years of any VFL/AFL club in history. They are a laggard. For the benefit of all of the competition, we want North Melbourne to be able to compete.

“Yes, there is compromise like we make compromise for father-sons for certain reasons and for Academy for certain reasons. That’s the system. It’s disingenuous to say get out of the way when everyone has been the beneficiary in a roundabout way.”

Alastair Clarkson, pictured here celebrating with North Melbourne players after a win.
Alastair Clarkson celebrates with North Melbourne players after a win. (Photo by Steve Bell/Getty Images)

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Speaking on 'Footy Classified' on Channel 9, veteran reporter Caroline Wilson said: “I think the way the AFL handled this was deplorable. They put this out before the Brownlow started, they released it to the presidents and CEOs then. The presidents, I don’t think a lot of them understood exactly what was going on.

"The competition committee has been completely left out of this entire argument – why even have it? There’s anger at (incoming CEO) Andrew Dillon, anger at Gillon McLachlan, who’s done this as his last move, some believe, to help Alastair Clarkson.

“Alastair Clarkson’s had a really tough year, North have had so many tough years. But Damian Barratt for years has been saying: ‘How many chances? How many players have they allowed to come into this club and let them go?’ The phone calls to AFL headquarters (on Tuesday) have been ongoing. We heard from two coaches, there were at least another five I saw at the Brownlow who were white with fury.”

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The Kangaroos now hold three first-round selections this year - picks 2, 14 and 19 - and three first-round selections for 2024. All of the additional picks come at the end of the first round of the drafts.

Scott said on Monday night: "There is a mechanism of equalisation within the competition already. If you finish second last, you get second pick in the draft.

"They've (North) had that for a number of years now because they chose to go down a certain path. The AFL pretty quickly has to get to the point, in my view, where they just get out of the way and let the system operate without this blatant manipulation. You can't look at this season and say 'OK, well you finished second last so we need to support you again'. The support's already been there over previous years."

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