Fagan, Lions can show us the path forward: Clarkson

Roger Vaughan |

Alastair Clarkson ponders his options at three-quarter-time of North Melbourne’s Brisbane hammering.
Alastair Clarkson ponders his options at three-quarter-time of North Melbourne’s Brisbane hammering.

Alastair Clarkson is where his long-time friend Chris Fagan was seven years ago in the AFL.

After Fagan’s Brisbane enjoyed their badly needed 70-point win over Clarkson’s North Melbourne on Friday at Norwood Oval, the Kangaroos coach was disappointed but philosophical.

A couple of times in his post-game media conference, Clarkson referred to the position Fagan had found himself in during his first two seasons coaching the Lions.

Just as the Kangaroos look likely to again finish in the bottom four this season – Clarkson’s second at Arden St – Brisbane were last and 15th in Fagan’s first two years.

The next season they climbed to fifth. The Lions haven’t finished outside the top eight since and so nearly won last year’s grand final.

Their strategy is similar to the one Clarkson and Fagan employed in their time together at Hawthorn – a period that ultimately resulted in four premierships.

“Probably seven years ago, when Fages got there, they were in exactly the same position as us (now),” Clarkson said.

“We just know we have to put in the time and the hard yards. Not lose faith.

“I’ve tracked their journey really closely because of Fages and the job he’s done there.

“He just copied the pathway of his experience at Hawthorn, what we needed to do – bring in young players and have them grow together.

“They haven’t saluted yet, but they’ve given themselves every chance by being up there.”

Clarkson saw some silver linings in North’s Norwood Oval thrashing, especially his side’s determination to keep fighting through the second half after Brisbane effectively won the game in the first term.

But their young midfield was outclassed, with Lions star Lachie Neale dominant when the game had to be won.

“It’s tough – one part of you says it’s a step backwards for you by exposing those kids too much to that part of the ground,” Clarkson said.

“But it’s a step backwards if you don’t give them the experience.

“We have to find the balance as best we can.”

One positive for the Kangaroos was the return of Charlie Comben, who suffered a broken leg in a horror accident during the round-seven match against Melbourne last season.