Alastair Clarkson responds after rival AFL coaches blast North Melbourne handout

Chris Scott and Ross Lyon have criticised the AFL's assistance package for the Kangaroos.

Chris Scott, Ross Lyon and Alastair Clarkson.
Chris Scott (L) and Ross Lyon (R) have slammed the AFL's assistance package for Alastair Clarkson and North Melbourne (centre). Image: Getty

Alastair Clarkson has responded to the furore surrounding an assistance package handed down to North Melbourne on Monday, which will see the Kangaroos receive three extra first-round draft picks across the next two years. The Roos only won three games in 2023 and haven't finished higher than 17th in the past four seasons.

They won wooden spoons in 2021 and 2022, and finished second-last this year. In a bid to help Clarkson's side rise from the doldrums, the AFL Commission announced on Monday that North Melbourne would receive 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.

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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.

“You always ask for a little bit more ... we’re absolutely really pleased the AFL have seen fit (to provide support),” Clarkson said on SEN radio on Tuesday. “We are the only team in the modern era that’s finished bottom two for four years on the trot, there’s some reasons for that.

“The competition is a good competition when everyone turn on the telly and it’s going to be a good contest from go to woe, and that hasn’t been North Melbourne for the last four years. We know, irrespective of what assistance we get, we’ve got to roll up the sleeves and get to work. We’ve started that process and we’re looking forward to next year.”

Alastair Clarkson, pictured here after North Melbourne's win over Gold Coast in round 24.
Alastair Clarkson celebrates after North Melbourne's win over Gold Coast in round 24. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Chris Scott and Ross Lyon slam North Melbourne handout

The announcement has sparked outrage across the AFL world, with rival coaches Chris Scott and Ross Lyon blasting the handout 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," Geelong coach Scott said on Fox Footy ahead of the Brownlow Medal.

"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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St Kilda coach Lyon labelled it “the gift that keeps on giving”, saying: “I think the real question is if you put yourself in the hole, because there’s been a lot of decisions over a long period of time – not unlike the Saints and other clubs.

"To keep going back to head office and asking for assistance, I think there’s a bit to be said to dig yourself out. That accumulative total, that’s not working. It’s not logical is it?”

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Scott pointed out that Clarkson pulled a similar move in order to build the dominant Hawthorn team of the 2010s. “Clarko is a genius because that Hawthorn team was built really off (Luke) Hodge pick one, (Lance) Franklin pick four, (Jarryd) Roughead pick two … they were priority picks. You get that lag and all of a sudden it goes bang,” Scott said.

“The risk is that the AFL actually turn around and say ‘we made an error’, but they can’t fix it. Basically it’s compensation for being bad – you already get that in terms of the salary cap and the way the competition is set up.

“It just shouldn’t be the AFL’s job to manipulate things. There are clubs who have performed at a lower level than North Melbourne over the last decade that haven’t got one single thing. How many priority picks have the Saints got in the last decade for playing one final? I don’t understand how you can play in eight, (including) prelim finals and get compensation, priority picks year after year after year."

Incoming AFL CEO Andrew Dillon said the two-year support package would not only strengthen North Melbourne, but also the competition as a whole. "The AFL and football fans want a strong competition," he said on Monday. "Ensuring North Melbourne is competitive on the field and can build strength across its organisation, in the short term and in a sustainable way, is important for both the club and the broader competition."

with AAP

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