Alastair Clarkson 'outburst' comes to light amid bombshell AFL move

The North Melbourne coach has stepped down indefinitely, with the AFL investigation into allegations of racism against him taking a toll.

Alastair Clarkson.

North Melbourne coach Alastair Clarkson reportedly made the decision to step down as coach of the Kangaroos after giving the team an angry half-time spray during their loss to Port Adelaide. Clarkson, who stepped down in part due to the burden of the AFL's long-running investigation into allegations of racism at Hawthorn while he was coach.

Clarkson, along with Chris Fagan and Jason Burt, has strenuously denied all allegations faced in the investigation. He took the AFL world by surprise by announcing his decision to step down, one he made with the full backing of the Kangaroos.

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A surprising spray directed at Hawthorn during a press conference was an indication of the 'animosity' Clarkson holds towards his former club, Kangaroos football boss Todd Viney said while discussing the reasons why the coach had opted to step down so suddenly. However the pressure, built over months as the AFL investigation drags on, had been building on Clarkson in ways the public wouldn't have seen.

SEN's Sam Edmund reported that, while trailing the power by 45 points in round nine, Clarkson launched into an explosive tirade at his players which culminated in a plastic chair being hurled at a wall. He said that was the moment it became clear something needed to change, with Clarkson making the decision to step away in consultation with both his family and manager.

“I’m told the four-time premiership coach unloaded on his players, it was a withering half time spray. Witnesses said that during that outburst, a chair was picked up and thrown into the wall,” Edmunds said. “The outburst is viewed by some at the club as the moment it became clear that the decorated senior coach needed to prioritise his mental well being by stepping away from the game and leaving the city of Melbourne.

“It is viewed as the last and somewhat the final piece of a pattern of behaviour that had become increasingly erratic. It did come after last week Clarkson attacked Hawthorn publicly over what he said was the club’s ‘shameful handling of the investigation’. And that was a press conference that Todd Viney today described as a window into Alastair Clarkson’s mindset.”

North Melbourne to be coached by Brett Ratten in interim

Both Viney and North Melbourne club president, Dr Sonja Hood, have praised Clarkson for making the decision to prioritise his health, rather than try to persist in the face of increasingly difficult personal circumstances. Dr Hood said she had no regrets about hiring Clarkson, adding that he would be welcomed back into the fold as soon as he feels ready.

Former St Kilda and Carlton coach Brett Ratten, who joined as an assistant after being sacked by the Saints in 2022, will take over as head coach in the interim. Ratten is the fourth coach the club has had in sixteen games - David Noble, Leigh Adams, Clarkson and Ratten.

Alastair Clarkson speaks at a press conference.
The pressure around the AFL's investigation into allegations of racism was meant to have been completed last December, but has reportedly reached an impasse that has affected Alastair Clarkson. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

AFL commentator Kane Cornes said he had sympathy for the position Clarkson was in while the investigation remains stalled, but said North Melbourne desperately needed to give their players some sense of stability. The club risked not developing their star talent in the way other clubs, such as Collingwood and Brisbane, had been able to in recent seasons.

“Some of these players have had four coaches in 16 games — (if I was a player) I’d be thinking about getting out of the joint,” Cornes said. “And I know people would be saying that’s premature but it’s a thought I’ve had for a while.

"Compare what Harry Sheezel is going through compared to what Nick Daicos or Will Ashcroft is going through with the environments they’re in. It’s not fair.”

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