Alastair Clarkson, citing wellbeing issues from Hawthorn’s racism investigation, is stepping away as North Melbourne’s coach.
Clarkson is taking indefinite leave with former St Kilda coach Brett Ratten taking the helm of the struggling Kangaroos.
A week after describing handling of racism claims during his time at Hawthorn as “shameful”, the strain has become too much for Clarkson.
“The club is providing its full support to Alastair and we commend him for making this important decision to put his health first,” North Melbourne president Sonja Hood said in a statement on Thursday.
“Everyone involved has been deeply affected by the Hawthorn investigation and the burden on Alastair has been significant.
“We will give Alastair whatever time he needs to restore his health and look forward to welcoming him back when he is fully fit.”
Clarkson, a four-time premiership winning coach at Hawthorn, his then assistant and now Brisbane head coach Chris Fagan, and ex-Hawk player welfare manager Jason Burt have been named in allegations of racism during their time at the club.
All deny any wrongdoing.
Fagan on Thursday reiterated his innocence.
“I know I’m not guilty of racism or cultural insensitivity, so that’s where I stand,” Fagan told reporters before Clarkson‘s decision to step away was announced.
The AFL formed an independent investigation into the claims eight months ago but it has yet to interview Clarkson, Fagan or Burt.
“It’s just extraordinary that we’ve waited eight months, the game is the victim of this,” Clarkson said last Thursday.
“The game has been shamed, obviously myself, Fages and Jason, our families have been shamed.
“The Indigenous and First Nations families, they’ve been shamed.
“And there’s one particular party out there that was the catalyst for all this that haven’t been investigated at all; their governance and conduct in this whole thing, the Hawthorn Football Club, just shameful.
“Let’s do an investigation on them and their practices and see how they go.”
The AFL initially hoped the independent investigation would report findings last December but now says there is no set timeframe.
“The damage is done, reputations have been scarred and we’ve got to somehow just claw our reputations back through this whole process,” Clarkson said last Thursday.
“And all we want is a fair platform to be able to do that.
“Once we get that opportunity then we’ll let the judge decide, that will either be a court of law or the court of public opinion.
“We’ve waited for eight months to get some sort of process going in terms of what you call procedural fairness in terms of the legal game.
“And the procedural fairness offered to myself, Fages and Jason has been next to zero and that’s particularly frustrating.”
Clarkson coached Hawthorn from 2005 to 2021 and had last year off before returning to coach North Melbourne, where he played.
After winning the initial two games under Clarkson, the Roos have lost seven matches in a row.