AFL News 2022: Alastair Clarkson reignites Essendon and Hawthorn

Hawthorn greats have joked that if he decides to coach nemesis Essendon, they’ll disown Alastair Clarkson – a bitter rivalry he fueled during his time with the Hawks.

Heroes of the Hawthorn flag, Dermott Brereton and Campbell Brown, never imagined that Alastair Clarkson might one day consider a push to have him as Essendon’s next manager given his longstanding enmity with the Bombers.

Clarkson and the Bombers have had a torrid relationship as long as the coach is in the game.

Well, if some of Essendon’s powerbrokers have their way, the man who accused the club of hijacking the game when the Bombers’ sports-supplement saga was raging a decade ago could be Essendon’s manager in 2023.

Brereton, who famously set fire to the Essendon jumper for a newspaper advertisement, told the Herald Sun on Tuesday that Clarkson was “welcome in his decisions”.

But Brereton said the four-time Premiership manager has embraced the bitter rivalry between Hawthorn and Essendon like few others, despite never having played for either club.

“To put it that way, I know (former CEO) Ian Robson a lot better than Clarko, and he’ll tell you, when he finally went to Essendon (2009) he got a voicemail,” Brereton said.

“He remembers the message just saying, ‘Tell me it’s not true. Not her… Not her.’.

Brown, who played under Clarkson in the Hawks flag in 2008, joked on Browny’s podcast, “I will end my relationship with Alastair Clarkson when he goes to Essendon.”

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“He nurtured and built our hatred of Essendon Footy Club.

“The (2001) line in the sand game — he wasn’t there yet, but he was still a part of it mentally.”

Here’s a snapshot of moments between Clarkson and Essendon that helped fuel the rivalry over the years.


Clarkson’s temper boiled over in an explosive aftermath of the final home-away game of the 2009 season, angry at Matthew Lloyd’s shirt front against Brad Sewell.

The manager had to be stopped from confronting Lloyd on the field by his football manager, Mark Evans, who managed to quell a situation that could have escalated.

Campbell Brown called bomber captain Matthew Lloyd “one of the greatest snipers in the game” after his crunch on Sewell left him with a broken cheekbone and eye socket.

Brown said on the radio afterwards, “Matty Lloyd, he’s done this to us a few times and I think he’s one of the greatest snipers in the game so his time will come.”


Hawks general manager Ian Robson’s decision to quit mid-season and take on the same role at Essendon enraged Clarkson, who gave him an old-fashioned goodbye.

It made for a heated exit as Clarko questioned Robson’s loyalty and insisted he leave as soon as possible.

Campbell Brown recalled: “He hated her, you have to remember that he almost attacked Matty Lloyd on the ground after he ran through Sewelly (Brad Sewell in 2009).

“He attacked our CEO Ian Robson when he tendered his resignation, not because he resigned because Clarko heard he was going to Essendon’s nemesis.”


Clarkson fueled the bitter rivalry in early 2014 by saying Essendon “ambushed” the game during the 2012 sports supplement saga.

He called for far-reaching reforms in the coaching ranks of the AFL.

Clarkson said at the time: “We need to make sure it (the Essendon supplement scandal) never happens again in our game… what coaches have learned about their obligations and responsibilities to young men.

“Hirdy (James Hird) needs accreditation to coach U-9 players but not an AFL footy team. It really worries me that the game isn’t protecting itself like the teaching industry does, for example.”

He acknowledged his comments meant “the boxing gloves” were being put back on between the two fierce rivals.

Essendon president at the time, Paul Little, hit back at Clarkson, saying his comments were “inappropriate” and “neither helpful nor informed”.


Clarkson used a back page headline in which Bombers manager James Hird said he hates Hawthorn “more than anyone” to spur his team on to a win over Essendon in 2015.

He said after the 38-point win: “When there are articles on the back page of the newspaper praising the opposing coach hating our club, I think there’s no coach in the competition who will (not) use that.”


A year after the Line in the Sand game and two days after Brereton doused an Essendon jumper in petrol and set it on fire, the Bombers cost the rookie coach his first win in heartbreaking circumstances in 2005.

Dean Solomon scored a toe poke goal in 2005 after the ball fell out of Hawk Jonathan Hay’s shoe. The Bombers won by a two-point margin and the umpires later admitted they were wrong.

Bomber forward Matthew Lloyd, wearing armguards, added fuel to the fire and crashed into Josh Thurgood, breaking young Hawk’s cheekbones to the new coach’s frustration.


Clarkson hit back at Kevin Sheedy in 2007 after the Essendon manager accused the Hawks forward of using illegal tactics after a game.

Sheedy said defenders were denied a fair run on the ball because Hawthorn’s forwards were using screens. But Clarkson said Sheedy’s comments were a smokescreen to divert focus from Essendon’s form.

“He’s made a long career of distracting the media in some way, and he’s successfully diverted attention back from Essendon,” Clarkson said of Sheedy.

“I don’t know what he’s talking about. We just focus on what we can control and let him play his games.”


Clarkson was to be part of the wave of Essendon Young Guns who emerged from the Wimmera and followed a host of Bush hopefuls to become Premiership bombers.

Hailing from Kaniva, not far from the South Australian border, he was friends with the likes of Roger Merrett and Glenn Hawker, Premiership bombers of 1984-85.

Clarkson attended school in Ballarat, which happened to be the St Kilda zone, so his name was temporarily dropped from Essendon’s junior list, although it was agreed he would one day end up at Windy Hill.

Then came a moment that changed everything.

Eager to sign up for a junior football carnival, he signed a form he believed was required to play. Instead, it gave up Essendon’s right to him.

Unbeknownst to Clarkson, it actually linked him to St Kilda as the Saints’ Zone was Ballarat.

As it turned out, the paperwork was invalid because Clarkson’s father hadn’t countersigned it.

But the Bombers were a little upset because they thought the boy from Kaniva tried not to go to Windy Hill.

In North Melbourne, recruiting guru Greg Miller rushed in, quickly turning Clarko into a kangaroo, and the rest is history.

The fight for Clarko sparks a bitter TV war

– Ben Horne

The battle for Alastair Clarkson’s signature has reignited an icy war between club bosses that exploded in another sport five years ago.

North Melbourne chief executive Ben Amarfio and newly appointed Essendon president David Barham have been known to have fallen out over Cricket Australia’s latest broadcasting rights deal.

Her story adds another spice to the gripping battle for the services of one of the AFL’s greatest coaches of all time.

Amarfio was media rights chief at Cricket Australia and Barham sporting chief at Channel 10 when the rights went to Foxtel and Channel 7 in a multi-billion dollar TV deal in 2018.

Channel 10 privately claimed Cricket Australia failed to honor a handshake agreement and was furious at being tied in the 11th hour, as it felt a deal had already been struck.

Cricket Australia denied those claims and CA chief executive James Sutherland said the governing body had no regrets about how it conducted the final stages of tense negotiations.

While Amarfio was credited with playing a key role in securing a record $1.2 billion deal with Foxtel and Seven for Cricket Australia, Ten felt betrayed and Barham was devastated by the consequences.

Five years later, Barham and Amarfio attack again when Essendon threatens to rain down the parade in North Melbourne and steal Clarkson away from the noses of the kangaroos and his old cricket opponent.

North Melbourne have been in talks with super coach Clarkson for weeks and put forward a five-year offer, but News Corp has reported that Clarkson has a keen interest in coaching the Bombers, with talks set to intensify in the coming days.

Current Essendon manager Ben Rutten appears to be on loan after losing the confidence of the Bombers board and Clarkson is now shaping up as the club’s No 1 target.

Barham took over from former President Paul Brasher after the boardrooms split.

Amarfio and the Kangaroos have invested heavily in their negotiations with Clarkson and are looking for an answer in the coming days.

Originally released as Fight for Alastair Clarkson, it reignites the bitter rivalry between Essendon and Hawthorn AFL News 2022: Alastair Clarkson reignites Essendon and Hawthorn

Nate Jones

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