Alastair Clarkson's telling confession as Harley Reid decision comes back to haunt North

North Melbourne remain winless in 2024 after being thumped by fellow battlers Hawthorn on Sunday afternoon.

North Melbourne coach Alastair Clarkson has admitted that his team has a long way to go after they were thumped 7.11 (113) to 10.8 (68) by fellow battlers Hawthorn. Both teams took 0-5 records into Sunday's round-six battle but Clarkson witnessed just how far behind the eight ball North are as they were run off the park by the Hawks.

After Sunday's dismal display, the Kangaroos have now lost 26 of 27 games since success in Clarkson's first two outings at the helm early last year. And arguably the lone AFL win in that time has done the most damage to the club as it cost them first round draft pick Harley Reid.

Pictured Harley Reid left and Jeremy Clarkson right
North Melbourne's final round win over the Suns in 2023 that cost them No.1 draft pick Harley Reid is looking more costly by the day.

In their final game of 2023, North sat on the bottom of the ladder and if they were to lose they would get No.1 draft pick Reid, who was widely considered a superstar-in-waiting. Instead North shocked the footy world as they registered a 35-point win over the Suns, leapfrogging the Eagles into second last place on the ladder.

The win drew the ire of footy fans, who were shocked that North threw away their shot at a potential generational talent in Reid and after the opening six games of the 2024 season, the decision is looking even more shocking with the West Coast youngster taking the footy world by storm. With Reid in the side, the Eagles have improved with every game and have won two games on the bounce after a difficult start to their 2024 campaign.


While the Kangaroos, now 0-6, head to Hobart to face Adelaide before encounters with St Kilda, Gold Coast and Essendon over the next month as Clarkson's rebuild comes under serious scrutiny. Following the heavy defeat to the Hawks, the North coach didn't mince his words and knows the mammoth job ahead of him. "We've got a fair bit of work to do," Clarkson said.

"We know what the narrative is going to be but we knew that 18 months ago. When we took on the job, we needed to change the culture and environment of our footy club and invest in youth. That's the only way that we can go and that's what we've done. We don't back away from that."

But Hawthorn's dominance on Sunday was a stark reminder of where the Kangaroos sit and Clarkson hinted that he is considering accelerating young star Harry Sheezel away from half-back as he looks to ignite his side. "We want Sheezel in other spots on the ground but it's just the balance of the side," Clarkson said. "Who do you take to half-back to replace him? And the other guys like Tom Powell and Will Phillips and Colby McKercher and these guys, we want to give them some exposure to the footy as well.

"But we'll probably explore that. We wanted him (Sheezel) to try to consolidate his position at half-back in the first half of the year and then see in the second half of the year if that was more midfield or mid-forward opportunities. We just might have to fast-track that a little bit now."

PERTH, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 20: Harley Reid of the Eagles celebrates after scoring a goal during the 2024 AFL Round 06 match between the West Coast Eagles and the Fremantle Dockers at Optus Stadium on April 20, 2024 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Will Russell/AFL Photos via Getty Images)
Harley Reid has exceeded expectations in his first year at the West Coast Eagles.

Matthew Lloyd and Kane Cornes say North will rue their 2023 win

But Essendon legend Matthew Lloyd and Port Adelaide great Kane Cornes believe the writing is on the wall for Clarkson, saying his decision not to tank the final game of the 2023 season will prove costly for years to come. "I hammered Hutchy for the thought that you do not lose a game of football, but you look on in a months time and you forget who won that game of footy but you don’t forget what this guy could be potentially for the next 15 years," Lloyd said last week on Fox Footy's Footy Classified.

"To me West Coast have been non-existent, but now you turn on the television for them. I have been adamant and against that (tanking) but I still think to myself, for one win versus catapulting your club up the ladder … I’ve never thought this way in my whole life until I’m seeing what Harley Reid is going to do for West Coast for the next 15 years."

Cornes said Reid's presence in the Eagles side has once again made them a force, while the round 24 North win has made them "irrelevant". "Which brings me to the question of how are they going to keep players?" Cornes asked.

"They’ve done a great job, Larkey has resigned, Simpkin has resigned, Sheezel has resigned but this is the reality of it. These are the wins of Ben McKay’s career. He had eight wins in his whole time at North Melbourne and he’s had three already this year with Essendon.

"Horne-Francis is now up to 20 wins from 27 games at Port Adelaide. A look at players like Luke Davies-Uniacke who has played at North for seven years for 18 wins... If I was them I’d seriously be looking at Horne-Francis and the enjoyment that he has had, Ben McKay and the enjoyment that he has had and the lack of success and how difficult it is going to be to keep these players if this continues at North Melbourne."

Adam Simpson heaps praise on Harley Reid

Following West Coast's second consecutive win, coach Adam Simpson said Reid had already exceeded the club's expectations after tearing Fremantle to shreds in the western derby win. Reid kicked three goals to go with 19 disposals, seven clearances and two contested marks in West Coast's stunning 16.9 (105) to 10.8 (68) victory over Fremantle on Saturday.

The 37-point win followed on from his hot display in the 39-point win over Richmond, when Reid racked up 27 disposals, seven clearances and a goal. "We love what Harley's doing and our internal expectations are not what he's producing - they (his performances) are a lot higher," Simpson said.

"They're probably just meeting expectations publicly. So I'm really cautious to not overplay it, because he's 19. It's hard to sustain that coming into the AFL. While he keeps doing it. I think we should all enjoy it, but let's not get too worried if he has an off day. Today he ... kicked three and really energised the crowd and the players, but we're not expecting that every week."

with AAP