The upheaval at the North Melbourne AFL club is set to intensify, with reports the Kangaroos are releasing three-time premiership legend Jonathan Brown from their coaching set-up. Brown was recruited by the Kangaroos as a part-time forwards specialist coach, but appears to be the latest name on the chopping block as a huge clean-out continues at the club.
On Monday, North Melbourne announced that assistants John Blakey and Gavin Brown were both being let go by the club. Their departures come after caretaker coach Brett Ratten decided to walk out on the Kangaroos earlier in the month, in order to pursue other career opportunities.
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Ratten led the side for 10 games this year during a period in which head coach Alastair Clarkson stepped away to focus on his mental and physical health. The Kangaroos only narrowly avoided finishing the season with the dreaded wooden spoon after pulling off an upset victory over Gold Coast in the final round.
It followed a disastrous season in 2022 in which the Kangaroos only won two games, prompting a raft of changes in the coaching set-up. Clarkson's arrival for the 2023 season failed to usher in the change in fortunes North Melbourne had hoped for, although his extended absence has almost certainly contributed to the Kangaroos' predicament.
Speaking about the club's latest upheaval ahead of the 2024 season, veteran AFL journalist Caroline Wilson told Channel 9’s Footy Classified that Clarkson is behind the brutal coaching clean-out. Wilson says the former Hawthorn premiership coach is keen to move away from the part-time coaches, meaning Brown is set to join the two assistants on the scrapheap.
“Those two (Gavin Brown and Blakey) will be replaced,” Wilson said on Footy Classified. “I think they’ve gone off the part-timers as well.
"I don’t think we’ll be seeing Josh Gibson, who has been doing some part-time defence work, Johnathan Brown was doing some part-time forwards work. Alastair Clarkson has just gone, ‘Enough of the part-timers’.”
Wilson says the club shake-up is also likely to see Roos legend Brent Harvey moved from the club's coaching department into another role. It's understood the Kangaroos have been forced to make some changes to their financial situation after recruiting Clarkson on a five-year contract reportedly worth more than $1 million per-season, alongside general manager of football Todd Viney.
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Clarkson is said to be willing to take a “small pay cut” according to Wilson, so North Melbourne has a bit more wiggle room in the AFL’s football department soft cap. Wilson said Ratten ultimately walked away from the Kangaroos because the club could not afford to hand him the “director of coaching” role that Ratten wanted to move into full-time.
Brown - who won three premierships with the Brisbane Lions after playing 256 games for the club from 2000 to 2014 - originally said he wasn't getting paid for working alongside Kangaroos forwards coach Leigh Adams. “I’ll just come in and just pass a bit of advice on to the lads and just give them a bit of confidence,” Brown said. “I’m not working in football. I’m just giving a bit of advice.”
The AFL great's imminent departure follows the release of the two North Melbourne assistant coaches on Monday, with Viney thanking the pair for their contribution to the club. "These decisions are never taken lightly, but the time is right for all parties to move forward in new directions," Viney said about Blakey and (Gavin) Brown's departure.
"Blakes and Browny have been outstanding contributors to our club and they leave as highly respected individuals. We wish them well as they look to take on new opportunities within the industry." As it stands, Adams, Harvey, Emma Kearney, Tom Lynch and Jordan Russell remain on North's coaching staff.
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