North Melbourne’s Alastair Clarkson coup, which should happen within days, could finally turn them into a “destination”.
Plus the “arrogance” of a club wasting a superstar, a coach’s frank admission on how players have treated the club, and the X-factor who could swing a contender’s season.
Catch up on the big issues after Round 22 in Talking Points!
Watch every blockbuster AFL match this weekend Live & Ad-Break Free In-Play on Kayo. New to Kayo? Start your free trial now >
‘COUP’: HOW CLARKO WOULD HELP NORTH ATTRACT RIVAL STARS… AND BRING A ‘PERFECT’ LIEUTENANT
Put your finger in the air and the wind suggests an Alastair Clarkson-North Melbourne reunion is a growing – and, for Roos fans, exciting – possibility.
And should Clarkson link back up with his former club, not only would he help attract gun players to Arden St, he’d likely bring one of the best football minds that’d be “perfect” for the club, according to Melbourne champion Garry Lyon.
Clarkson, the four-time premiership Hawks boss and the best coach of the modern era, is set to return to coaching again next season after a year off. Multiple outlets have reported a decision is expected as early as the end of this week.
The 54-year-old has been courted heavily by both the Kangaroos and Giants, who’ve met with Clarkson in recent weeks.
But while the Giants have been in the market for a coach longer and held more meetings with Clarkson, it’s understood they haven’t offered a deal to him like the Kangaroos have – and the latter’s is a juicy offer.
Herald Sun journalist Jon Ralph reported on Fox Footy on Friday night the Kangaroos have tabled a five-year deal for Clarkson to coach the club – an offer Clarkson is seriously considering.
“No one is officially saying that he will be there, but I think the strong expectation is that by this time next week, Clarko could be the North Melbourne coach – astonishing news and just an absolute fillip for the North Melbourne Football Club, which has had to endure so much over the last 12 months,” Ralph told Fox Footy.
Ralph added a player manager had told him Clarkson, who played 93 of his 134 AFL games with North Melbourne, “would be able to get anyone he wants” from rival clubs because of his standing in the game.
Asked if Clarkson’s presence would assist the Kangaroos snare players from rival clubs, triple premiership Lion Jonathan Brown told Fox Footy: “Absolutely it’ll help them. It’ll help them retain players – (Jason) Horne-Francis is the one everyone’s talking about, but players in general – and obviously attract players, no doubt about it.
“He’s a super coach, four premierships – clearly that will be a motivation for players.”
Ralph asked Brown: “So if you’re a (Jacob) Hopper or (Tim) Taranto and you’re thinking about other clubs, are you all of a sudden thinking: ‘Yeah Arden St is a destination I’d get to?’”
Brown replied: “It’d be a swaying factor, no doubt about it.”
Reports emerged last week that Clarkson had spoken to former lieutenants about their interest in joining him as part of a coaching panel at either the Roos or Giants next season.
One of those ex-lieutenants is Todd Viney, who’s reportedly seriously considering rejoining forces with Clarkson and being his right-hand man in a Neil Balme-style football director role.
Viney, who was an assistant under Clarkson between 2005 and 2009, has been out of footy since departing Melbourne in 2019.
Melbourne champion Garry Lyon, who was a teammate of Viney at the Demons, said Viney would be a “fantastic pick-up” – especially if he were to land at the Kangaroos.
“He (Viney) is a very, very simple man: ‘If you don’t compete, you don’t play.’ He was massive on that at Hawthorn as a premiership-winning assistant coach, he was big on it at Adelaide and at Melbourne that was the recruiting philosophy,” Lyon told Fox Footy.
“I think he’d be almost perfect (at North) … He’s got a property that’s on the other side of town, which would be an easy drive to Arden St I would’ve thought.
“If in fact that’s what happens, Arden St would have the best coach and they’d have the best harness man alongside him – and that’d be a coup.”
KING OF ALL ISSUES AS ‘ARROGANT’ SAINTS REJECT HELP AGAIN
‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ is a well-known adage, but after Friday night’s five-behind performance and despite Brett Ratten’s insistences, surely there is something broken in Max King’s goalkicking technique.
King looked set to rip the game out of Brisbane’s hands in Friday night’s crucial clash, but the goalkicking yips reared their head in excruciating fashion as he missed regulation set shots and his side missed a golden chance to be well and truly in the finals hunt.
When King is at his peak, he is electrifying to watch and virtually unplayable for the opposition.
Once he’s taken a brilliant contested mark and lines up for goal, however, things turn.
King sits seventh on the Coleman Medal leaderboard with 47 goals for the year, but at the time of writing sat first for behinds with 41.
When it goes badly for King, it goes very badly, with Friday night’s performance joining his 1.7 return against Greater Western Sydney in round six and his 2.5 against Hawthorn in round 20 as standout concerns.
Eyebrows were raised last year when Essendon champion Matthew Lloyd revealed St Kilda had rejected a request from King to allow Lloyd to try help the former pick No.4 refine his technique.
Asked after Friday night’s loss if the club would reconsider its stance, Saints coach Brett Ratten stood in firm opposition.
“He won‘t be seeing anybody outside the club, he doesn’t need to. We’ve got people with the skill set to keep working there,” he said.
“As I said to you, it’s not just all about the technical aspect, there’s a mental aspect to it as well. With goalkicking, it’s a closed skill and there’s different elements to it.
“It’s not just we bring somebody in and they fix up the hand drop or anything like that. He hasn’t got many flaws, but sometimes it can go against you.”
Lloyd, for one, vehemtly disagrees with Ratten’s assessment, labelling the comments “naive” and reiterating King “has got flaws” in his technique.
Former Port Adelaide star Kane Cornes was left frustrated with Ratten and the club’s resistance to external aid.
“Once again, I’ll say it is arrogant, it is precious and they’re looking after their own ego,” he said on Nine’s Sunday Footy Show.
“Max King is crying out for help, he’s asked for help and his football club is denying him of that and it’s costing him.
“That’s not on Max King, that’s on the St Kilda Football Club for the arrogance in thinking they can fix a problem that they clearly can’t.”
Lloyd added, “he needs someone with him a lot more than someone just walking in once or twice, it’s got to be over an off-season or a six-month period, working with him day after day after day.”
With the off-season looming large for St Kilda after a disappointing season, the club faces a crossroads when it comes to how to handle King’s goalkicking moving forward.
‘RELIANT ON TALENT’, ‘PLACE TO EARN GOOD MONEY THEN GO HOME’: GWS COACH’S FRANK ASSESSMENT
GWS interim coach Mark McVeigh has spoken frankly about the club’s difficult position as they slump to their worst season in almost a decade.
And he believes the club has “relied heavily on talent” with the club viewed as a place where “you can come and earn good money and then return home”.
The Giants took advantage of being set up for success upon their introduction into the AFL, bringing in dozens of first-round draft picks and using that top-end talent to compete for many years under coach Leon Cameron.
But after peaking with a Grand Final appearance in 2019 – though many believe the 2016 team, which lost to the Western Bulldogs in a home preliminary final, was the best of the bunch – the Giants are set for another mini-exodus in the upcoming trade period.
They have been stuck in a draft-and-trade loop, where they select highly talented 18-year-olds but struggle to keep all of them – either because the players want to go home, or because they can’t pay market race for all of them. They then trade out those players for high draft picks and the cycle is renewed.
The issue, according to McVeigh – who has been an assistant at the club since 2015 – has been a focus on current talent at the expense of developing future stars.
“I think there needs to be a huge emphasis on development at the Giants. That’s a real key for the Giants going forward,” he told ABC radio before his side’s Round 22 game against the Western Bulldogs.
“Now we understand the restraints of the soft cap over the last few years, but that’s starting to get better and better. I think the area we’ve probably neglected, not through choice but through circumstance, has been the development of our younger players.
“We’ve relied probably heavily on talent for a long period of time and that only gets you so far, but right now the competition’s caught up. We understand the challenges of the competition.
“But the development of our younger players to not be entitled – and I’m not saying that’s what we are – but to have gratitude about playing for the Giants, and it’s not just a place where you can come and earn good money and then return home.
“We’ve got to change that as best we possibly can, and those challenges have been answered a lot over many, many years, but we can be better.
“And if we have the best development program and a really good football program, that helps you with retention and we’ve got to get to that point.”
McVeigh isn’t expected to get the full-time job with current Melbourne assistant Adam Yze tipped to be Leon Cameron’s full-time replacement. He’s likely to oversee a list that looks reasonably different to the current one.
An investment in existing top talent sees the Giants paying almost $4 million of the $13.5 million salary cap this year to Stephen Coniglio, Josh Kelly, Toby Greene and Lachie Whitfield alone.
That squeeze is expected to force promising young players Tim Taranto, Jacob Hopper, Bobby Hill and Tanner Bruhn out of the club this trade period.
The hope for the Giants is this will be one of, if not the last time, they have to see so much talent leaving the club at once.
LION LOOMING AS THE ‘MASSIVE DIFFERENCE’ FOR THEIR FLAG PUSH
It’s no secret Brisbane haven’t been able to find that spark come finals to get them into their first grand final since 2004.
But one man looming large come September is young Cam Rayner.
The 2017 number one draft pick endured the weight of expectation early in his career, and then suffered the serious ACL injury in 2020 that kept him out of the entire 2021 season.
Now, at 22 years of age and with 84 games under his belt, the young Lion stepped up when his needed him against the Saints.
Rayner kicked a career best four goals – four of Brisbane’s five goals in the second half to get them home and keep their top four hopes alive.
“It’s a credit to him and the hard work that he’s put in. Some people don’t appreciate how hard it is to come back from an ACL,” teammate Lachie Neale praised.
“Cam’s been building all year; he’s had a couple of games where he’s sort of put the team on his back and led us to victory. That’s all we ask of him. He doesn’t have to do it every week.
“He’s developing into a great player.”
Fox Footy’s Nick Riewoldt and Jonathan Brown were united in praise for the player Rayner is becoming.
“This is the potential this man has,” Brown said.
“I think he’s been building, probably off the radar up in Brisbane, but he’s been building.
“He’s had impact in games but this is the first time you can sense his teammates are struggling, his team’s struggling and he’s just taken over a game in 40 minutes of football.
“The confidence, Brisbane need a player like Cam Rayner to fully believe in his body again and go: ‘Righto bang, I’m ready for September’.
“They need that style of player if they are going to be able to contend with the big name teams.”
Riewoldt said Rayner could be the difference for the Lions in 2022.
“What an exciting player … broad shoulders,” he said.
“He wasn’t there last year. He’s the sort of player that can make a massive difference, particularly with the way finals are played. With his physical attributes, we saw what a guy like (Christian) Petracca did, he could take it over.”
Fox Footy’s Garry Lyon said he believed Rayner had more “goal sense” than Petracca in high praise for the Lion.
Ben Dixon joked Rayner needed an “ankle bracelet” to lock him inside Brisbane’s forward line given the danger he poses, while Nick Dal Santo said he loved the Lion’s “X-factor”.
“He can fit into that same mould … but please take this in context – not yet, but can fit into the same mould as a Dusty Martin style player. Christian Petracca as it currently stands. We have seen Jordan De Goey and what he’s able to do – this man has a similar skill set at a young age,” Dal Santo said on Fox Footy Live.
“You think about what those guys have done in finals in huge games, almost single-handedly winning games.
“This was a career best performance but he’s building.
“This guy tonight would have put the fear of God in me. At the other end the Saints can’t buy a goal and then moments later you’ve got a young man lacing them around his body from 45. He is capable and could be the difference in September.”
“We know the Dusty role – best role in football,” fellow panellist Cam Mooney said.
“We see Petracca’s been doing it, Jordy’s trying to do it … that’s his role for the next 10 years. Go in the midfield, virtually centre bounce, run straight forward. If he doesn’t get it, keep going forward, stand in the forward line kick a goal. He’s got that written all over him.
“He’s going to be a star.”