Clarkson reveals Hawks stress behind bench outburst

Shayne Hope |

North Melbourne coach Alastair Clarkson says the Hawthorn racism saga has taken a big toll on him.
North Melbourne coach Alastair Clarkson says the Hawthorn racism saga has taken a big toll on him.

North Melbourne coach Alastair Clarkson has partially attributed his latest foul-mouthed outburst to stress caused by the long-running Hawthorn racism saga.

An AFL investigation cleared Clarkson of directly abusing match officials when he used “profane language” on the boundary line during the Kangaroos’ loss to Port Adelaide last month.

The 56-year-old admitted to swearing out of frustration in response to an umpiring decision and apologised in a statement released by his club.

He also pledged to carry out match-day duties from the coaches’ box, rather than the bench, for the rest of the season.

Speaking publicly for the first time since the incident, Clarkson on Thursday said the effects of the Hawthorn racism saga had caught up with him.

“Without a doubt we can’t dismiss the fact that ‘Fages’ (Chris Fagan) and myself have been under an enormous amount of pressure over the last 18 months,” Clarkson told reporters.

“Just things build up and you don’t know that it’s happening to you until you get in an emotional state, and then you react.

“The best way to try to avoid that is to keep away from getting in a significant emotional state and that’s probably better off being in a box than down on the bench.”

Clarkson and Brisbane Lions coach Fagan, his former right-hand man at Hawthorn, have consistently denied wrongdoing over the racism saga, which now appears headed for the Federal Court.

While Clarkson detailed some of the toll the saga has taken on him, he insisted he wanted to keep it in perspective.

He referenced AFL great Neale Daniher’s battle with motor neurone disease while wearing a Big Freeze beanie in support of FightMND fundraising.

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Alastair Clarkson is looking at the big picture as he tries to keep his emotions in check. (Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS)

“Life hasn’t really been fair to me and Fages either – we’ve had to deal with that stress – but it’s nothing compared to ‘Rowdy’ (Daniher),” Clarkson said.

“It’s just like roll your sleeves up, take whatever punches come your way and absorb it as best you can, learn from it as best you can, and keep committing yourself to the journey that you’ve got at your respective clubs.”

Clarkson will coach North Melbourne when they resume after a mid-season bye against West Coast on Saturday, having avoided activating a suspended two-match ban that hangs over his head.

The suspended ban was part of the penalty for another inappropriate outburst, which Clarkson directed at Jimmy Webster after the St Kilda defender had concussed Kangaroos co-captain Jy Simpkin with a high bump during a practice match in March.

Clarkson has been working with a sports psychologist in an attempt to control his emotions and believes he has taken steps forward in that regard.

“Last week would suggest not, but I know I’m making progress,” Clarkson said.

“You’ve just got to keep working on being the very, very best you can be in that space but it’s an emotional game and you’re hugely invested.

“And particularly when you’re of the character and mindset of me, it’s particularly challenging.

“I’ve just got to keep working on it and try to reduce the amount of times that I get caught up in those situations.”

Clarkson took a mid-season break from coaching last year to deal with the fallout from the Hawthorn racism saga but has given no indication he will do so again.

The four-time Hawks premiership coach said he still loves the caper but admitted it was harder than he expected it would be on his return with North Melbourne.

The Kangaroos are 0-10 in Clarkson’s second season at the helm after winning just three games last year.

“You never expect you’re going to get halfway through a year and you haven’t won a game, but we’re seeing some progress and most of that’s done behind the scenes” Clarkson said.

“We’re looking forward to what can happen in the second half of the year.”

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