‘Comical’: Clarko’s confession on close finishes

AFL Rd 15 - Melbourne v North Melbourne
North Melbourne coach Alastair Clarkson says he is disappointed by the Kangaroos’ costly slow start to a winnable game against Melbourne. Picture: Dylan Burns / Getty Images

North Melbourne coach Alastair Clarkson says the Roos will run more drills on close finishes but he was more disappointed with a lacklustre start in their three-point loss to Melbourne.

Clarkson said the Roos had anticipated a hot start from a Demons side returning after the bye but still gave away a four-goal advantage which they were never able to make up.

For the second week in a row he said his players left their fate in the hands of “roll of the dice” late moments – which again didn’t roll their way.

“We’re really pleased that we made a game of it in the end, but we’re disappointed we didn’t start the game as well as we’d have liked,” Clarkson said on Saturday night.

“You know, five goals to one in the first quarter – we fully expected the Demons to come out firing after a couple of weeks since their last game.

AFL Rd 15 - Melbourne v North Melbourne
Jackson Archer (left) and Charlie Comben (right) have played impressive roles in North Melbourne’s backline during the bottom side’s mid-season resurgence. Picture: Dylan Burns / Getty Images

“They started the game particularly well, and we worked our way back into the contest … I just wish there was a fifth quarter, we couldn’t quite get there.”

The coach said the losses to Collingwood and Melbourne would provide the extra motivation to run more close game scenario-based training in the second half of the season.

“It seems a little comical that we weren’t doing a hell of a lot of it in the first half of the year,” he said.

“What’s the point practising something when you’re never in close finishes? But it gives us heart that we can practice some of that now, not that we absolutely ignored it, but it’s pretty hard for players to get motivated to practice red-time finishes in games when you’re rarely in them.

“At the moment the more experienced sides probably know what to do in the crunch a little bit better than what we are, but at least we’re giving ourselves a chance in games, and we’ll learn.”

Despite being noncommittal about his role during the week, Clarkson said Will Phillips had been “too good” against Collingwod superstar Nick Daicos for him not to be used as a tagger against the Demons.

Melbourne vs North Melbourne ..
Will Phillips held Clayton Oliver to just 14 disposals and ran out the game strongly with an equal-high four clearances in the final term. Picture: Michael Klein

He said he was extremely pleased with Phillips’ job on Clayton Oliver, but the Kangaroos would again need to reassess whether they could deploy a tagger against the Western Bulldogs next week amid an unprecedented squeeze for midfield spots.

Luke Davies-Uniacke, George Wardlaw and Tom Powell were all rotated across halfback in order to allow Phillips to stay with Oliver at centre bounces.

“Sometimes guys just need to have some sort of role like that to find their spot in the side,” Clarkson said about the former No. 3 pick.

“One of the greatest players this footy club has ever seen in Anthony Stevens … his first three or four years he played in that sort of role before he then learnt how to get the footy himself, and in the last part of his career he was the one getting tagged.

“I’m not sure if that will be the pathway for Will Phillips, but certainly in terms of playing on some of these players and teaching him where to go to get the footy, it’s really important for his growth and development at this point in time.”.