‘Work to do’: Clarkson’s Kangaroos chasing AFL pack

Shayne Hope |

North Melbourne showed they still have much work to do in a defeat to fellow strugglers Hawthorn.
North Melbourne showed they still have much work to do in a defeat to fellow strugglers Hawthorn.

North Melbourne coach Alastair Clarkson concedes his side is still a long way off the pace after failing an AFL litmus test against bottom-end rivals Hawthorn.

Both teams took 0-5 records into Sunday’s round-six battle as Clarkson forecast an indicator of where his rebuilding outfit sits in its development.

He was left in no doubt, with the Kangaroos on the receiving end of a 17.11 (113) to 10.8 (68) hammering at Marvel Stadium.

North have now lost 26 of 27 games since success in Clarkson’s first two outings at the helm early last year.

“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.

Alastair Clarkson.
Clarkson concedes the young Kangaroos are still at the beginning of their rebuilding phase. (Morgan Hancock/AAP PHOTOS)

“That’s the only way that we can go and that’s what we’ve done. We don’t back away from that.”

After a tough first five rounds of the season against mostly high-quality opposition, Clarkson looked forward to a run of matches against teams he felt were closer to North Melbourne in the pecking order.

The Kangaroos next face Adelaide in Hobart before encounters with St Kilda, Gold Coast and Essendon over the next month.

But Hawthorn’s dominance on Sunday was a stark reminder of where the Kangaroos sit.

“Whether they had it, we had it or the ball was in dispute, I thought they were the stronger side in all three of those facets,” Clarkson said.

“If you can’t win those, you’re not winning games of footy.

“So yeah, we’ve got some work to do but it’s no surprise to us and I don’t think it’s any surprise to the football competition.”

Harry Sheezel tackles Jack Ginnivan.
Harry Sheezel tackles Jack Ginnivan: the budding North star may be stuck at half-back for some time. (Morgan Hancock/AAP PHOTOS)

Clarkson hinted he might have to accelerate young star Harry Sheezel’s move 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.”