North’s Clarkson calls for NT to be AFL’s 20th team

Oliver Caffrey |

Kangaroos coach Alastair Clarkson wants to see a  team from the NT added to the AFL.
Kangaroos coach Alastair Clarkson wants to see a team from the NT added to the AFL.

North Melbourne coach Alastair Clarkson wants the Northern Territory to be the AFL’s 20th club amid claims rival presidents are reluctant to play in a 19-team competition.

The Kangaroos have regularly faced calls to relocate, merge or fold since the 1990s, famously turning down a lucrative offer to move from Arden St to the Gold Coast in 2007.

Former Collingwood president Eddie McGuire reignited discussion again this week as North face a fifth-straight season anchored to the bottom-two spots on the ladder.

It comes as Tasmania, where the ‘Roos continue to host four of their 11 home games a season, prepare to enter the AFL in 2028.

“I reckon if North don’t (expand their influence to northern Victoria), I can tell you that non-Victorian (club) presidents, and some of the Victorian presidents, don’t want to have 19 teams,” McGuire said on the Eddie and Jimmy podcast.

“There’s an easy solution for this: one will go.”

Former North president James Brayshaw called the claims “nonsense” and urged McGuire to “name” his sources.

Clarkson refused to criticise McGuire for his opinions and had no concern about the Kangaroos’ long-term future.

“You’ve just got to stay philosophical and rational about it and just not bow to the noise that’s out there,” he said on Thursday.

“‘Oh, we’ve got 19 teams, geez that’s clunky. It’d be a lot easier if it was 18, a lot easier if it was 20’.

“Just make it 20 and get Tassie and the Northern Territory in.

“You want a truly national competition, make it 20 and it’d be a really good competition then.

“The conversations I’ve had with Ed, he’s actually been really supportive of our club.

“This club’s blue collar. It’s survived a hell of a lot more traumatic events than what we are going through at the moment.”

North fans have been growing restless about their on-field progress, slumping to 0-7 after being smashed by 57 points against Adelaide in what had shaped as a winnable game in Hobart.

Respected football analyst Mick McGuane last week suggested North were continuing to struggle because their training standards were poor.

“That’s probably right across the group,” said Clarkson, admitting McGuane’s comments were fairly accurate.

“You go and watch Collingwood train at the moment, Geelong train, it just looks like smooth clockwork.

“When you’re a really good performing side, you’ll probably notice that the training standards are really strong, too. And we’re working on that.

“Just the quality of the group and the age of the group, they just don’t know what their benchmark is yet.”

North will face St Kilda at Marvel Stadium on Saturday but might need to run out without co-captain Jy Simpkin and midfielder Luke Davies-Uniacke.

The pair are dealing with “niggles” and will need to prove their fitness on Friday.

Clarkson is hopeful they will both play but admitted they would need to pull up well following Thursday’s main training session to be picked.