As soon as Alastair Clarkson left Hawthorne at the end of 2021, the AFL coaching great began to drum up on where to go next.
Clarkson has announced that he will be taking some time off and will not be joining another team – but that has not stopped the chatter and 11 months are still going on.
Now the departure of David Noble as coach of North Melbourne is going to speed things up.
Initially, Carlton and Collingwood responded to Clarkson’s decision with the appointment of Michael Voss and Craig McRae, respectively – and both choices benefited.
For the rest of the football world, “Where is Clarco?” The game came to a head, where any scene or information makes headlines – such as a clip of a four-time premiered coach in the Golden State Warriors arena in San Francisco next to the big game.
Whatever the photos and footage of Clarkson’s trip / fact-finding mission abroad, the unspoken idea from most people was that he would return to the AFL squad next year, not this year.
As a result, any team showing insecurity or impatience about their situation came under discussion as a possible next destination for Clarco.
Re-signing reduces the options for Clarkson
When Leon Cameron left the GWS mid-season, it seemed inevitable that there would be a bid war for Clarkson’s signature.
As the season progressed, the ground became very narrow.
The Gold Coast has secured Stuart Dewey’s service for another two years due to the rising sun, while St. Kilda has confirmed that Brett Ratton will be the man of the cents for the next two seasons.
In addition to the Sun, Saints and GWS, the focus was on clubs such as North Melbourne and Essenden.
The Bombers lost six of their first seven and 10 of their first 12 games as pressure mounted on second-year coach Ben Rutton.
But a series of big wins over St Kilda, Sydney and Brisbane has brought more optimism to Essenden and increased the chances of Ruten remaining in charge.
The West Coast had a terrible season with just two of 17 wins, but Adam Simpson is under contract until the end of 2024 and looks stable.
But nothing is certain in the AFL coaching game and as a two-time Kangaroo Premiership player it could be an opportunity for the North in 2023.
Will clubs bid for Clarco now?
The announcement that Noble is leaving North Melbourne after 38 games – the last of 14 defeats – could prompt the club with the Kangaroos to officially enter the bidding war for Clarkson.
Kangaroo president Sonja Hood told a news conference after Nobel’s departure that the news the club had already spoken to Simpson was incorrect.
Asked if the North had spoken to Clarkson, she said “no” and flatly refused to guess who would be on Arden Street next season.
Regardless, the Kangaroos now have an official place and the club will not be able to avoid talking about potential names forever.
The crucial question is whether Clarkson is in the mood to take charge of the rebuild at North which means it will be several years before the club comes very close to the finals.
A man with nearly a quarter of a century of experience as a coach since he started as an assistant at St Kilda in 1999 – the idea is that he wants a more controversial club as his next destination.
There is currently no vacancy in the option that meets this criteria – Port Adelaide.
Power got off to a terrible start in 2022, losing the first five games of the season. But with seven games left, they are looking for a final at 8-8.
Coach Ken Hinkley has been in Alberton for 10 seasons, has reached the final five times and reached the prelim three times without winning the flag – if Power does not enter in September this year, the club could look elsewhere.
It is worth noting that, before Hawthorne’s unprecedented run as coach, Clarkson was assistant coach at Port Adelaide under Mark Williams and was part of Power’s only AFL flag in 2004.
The return of Clarkson to Alberton will be a major headline in Church City, just as Erin Phillips will go from crows in AFLW to power.
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