Clarkson channels Clarkson
It was a case of fire meeting gasoline when an over excited Port supporter got in Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson’s face outside the team’s hotel in Adelaide on Saturday night.
Clarkson was already in a fragile state of mind after watching his side lose to Port Adelaide by eight points.
He channelled his namesake Jeremy, exploding with a sudden violence and appeared to strike the man to the neck area before grabbing his throat.
Incredibly, the AFL and Melbourne’s football media seemed unanimous in their support of the Hawthorn coach on Sunday.
There can be no doubt Clarkson was not the provocateur, but 99 blokes out of 100 would have simply pressed on and got to the hotel unscathed.
“It costs you a day of thinking about things,” Clarkson said during an appearance on Fox Footy on Sunday.
Yet Clarkson, a serial offender when it comes to flying off the handle, could well have been thinking about things for a lot longer than a day had the boorish fan in question fallen back and hit his head on the ground.
The Hawks coach described his movement as a “very, very forceful push”.
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No one disagrees this apparent Port supporter was out of order, but with the hotel door only metres away, Clarkson should have kept on walking.
The coach said he feared for his safety.
“We were actually starting to get a little bit concerned, in terms of our own welfare,” Clarkson said.
“These guys, they’d been drinking, we didn’t know what they were going to do.”
The AFL said it was gathering information on the matter before deciding on a response, while Port Adelaide chief Keith Thomas said his club was investigating the incident. SA police said they’d received a complaint and would be investigating.
Saturday night’s altercation was just the latest issue of self-control for the Hawks coach.
In 2009 he lashed out at Essendon star Matthew Lloyd after the forward had KO’d Brad Sewell with a bump, and in 2012 he punched a hole in a wall in the coaches’ box.
A day after that he abused an umpires’ advisor at his son’s under-9s match, and in 2013 he came under fire for branding an AFL website reporter a ‘c***head’.
The Clarkson incident marred a wholly unpredictable round four that saw early favorites fall and strong performances by some written off way too soon.
And then there was Freo…
It was supposed to be a September preview, with the top four sides from last season slugging it out on Saturday night.
But it was a case of tortoises against hares – only this time the hares held on.
In Perth, Fremantle kicked nine goals to one in the first half, before the Swans kicked eight to three in the second.
In Adelaide, it was Port who bounded from the blocks against the Hawks, leading by 51 points at half-time before holding on to win by nine.
When firing, Fremantle look the best team in the competition, and they are the only unbeaten side after four rounds.
Ross Lyon loves to play the working class hero, but his assertion that “we’re no juggernaut, we’re a hardworking, blue-collar team” rings somewhat hollow – Freo is pure class.
But they will be well aware that it’s a long season, and key personnel aren’t getting any younger.
Lyon said he would assess the health of backman Luke McPharlin at the halfway point, but the coach would be well advised to adopt the kid gloves approach with his star, given the job he did on Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin.
McPharlin, Aaron Sandilands and Matthew Pavlich are key cogs in the machine, and with Melbourne next week don’t be surprised to see a couple miss.
The best game of the season so far is still Fremantle’s Round 1 win over Port. The rematch at Adelaide Oval in Round 23 will be instructive, and one feels it won’t be the last time they play this season.
Clarkson’s Hawthorn entered the season as hot favourites for a three-peat, but with two losses already, they look a little off.
The bookies still like them, though, and Hawthorn ($3.50) retain favouritism for the premiership, ahead of Freo and Sydney (both $4.50) with the Power on $6.
Dogs are barking
Luke Beveridge must be an early favourite for coach of the year.
His rival heading into the weekend was Phil Walsh, who had led the Crows to the top of the ladder after three rounds.
But the Dogs slaughtered Adelaide at Etihad Stadium on Sunday, and Beveridge’s side are an intoxicating mix of old heads and youthful exuberance.
They sit well inside the eight, and could still be there in September if they can maintain the rage.
No, not Edward Woodward, but rather good old-fashioned Victorian weather.
On paper Richmond are better than Melbourne and Essendon are better than Collingwood. But footy’s not played on paper. It’s played at the MCG, and when it’s wet strange things can happen.
Essendon over-finessed the footy in the Anzac Day blockbuster against Collingwood, and the Pies handled the conditions better.
For Richmond, the issue was more troubling – the Tigers simply didn’t work hard enough against Melbourne on Friday night. Too many times the Demons had three or four men around the contest, compared to Richmond’s one or two.
Losses already to the Western Bulldogs and Melbourne suggest that complacency is running rampant at Punt Rd – not good enough for a club for whom success is a distant memory.
And for Melbourne, a side for whom hope is a dangerous proposition, Jesse Hogan’s arrival heralds exciting times ahead.
Simonds Stadium has ‘fortress’ status revoked
After just two losses in 52 games at Simonds Stadium dating back to 2008, Geelong have now lost two of their past three there – and the win was a close-run thing against battling Gold Coast.
Geelong’s aura is gone, and pretty soon teams will be lining up for a jaunt down the Princes Freeway for a cushy four points.
If ever you needed a sign the winds of change are howling, they started Steve Johnson in the green vest on Sunday against North Melbourne.
There are some exciting young players at Geelong, but they look a side short on confidence at the minute.
It was North’s first win at Kardinia Park since 2007.
What’s happening up in the Sunshine State? The Brisbane Lions’ first quarter-and-a-half against West Coast at the Gabba featured some of the most calamitous footy seen this season, and Gold Coast are 0-4 after an incredibly soft draw to start their campaign.
The Suns were thought to be a good way ahead of their fellow newcomers the Giants, but that logic was tossed out the window on Saturday in Canberra. GWS enjoyed their biggest ever win, and in turn put the blowtorch firmly on Suns coach Rodney Eade.
They are missing three very good players in Gary Ablett, Jaeger O’Meara and Jarrod Harbrow, but some of the other highly touted stars need to lift, and fast.
The Giants, meanwhile, face a real test of their new-found swagger when they make the journey to Perth to play the injury-hit Eagles.