Footy Talk: Clarko gets some couch time

Jennifer Melfi- Respected psychiatrist, specialising in anger management issues. Best known for her work with a Mr Tony Soprano.

Alastair Clarkson- Hawthorn premiership coach.

2010 was meant to be the rebound year for the Hawks. But once again, it’s turning pear-shaped. They needed a ruckman, but drafted Burgoyne- then he couldn’t get on the field. And the injuries keep coming. If the ruck situation gets any worse, Clarko will have to sit on Jeffrey’s shoulders for centre bounces. At least that might shut Jeff up. Now Dermie’s doing his best to antagonise the opposition.

It became apparent things were getting to Clarko when there was an unpleasant confrontation with a nine year old at a mid-week Auskick clinic. It seems he’s reached his own personal line in the sand. It was time to talk to someone.

JM: Welcome Mr Clarkson, make yourself comfortable

AC: You can call me Al. Can I call you Doc?

JM: Not Alastair?

AC: I prefer Al.

JM: As you wish. After looking over your file Al, I can hazard a guess as to why you’re here.

AC: (long sigh) Well, after this last debacle, something had to give. Mind you, it’s not all my fault. That little punk had a smart mouth. He was asking for it!

JM: (sighs) Do you really think this is a good way to convince people you’re not a “angry, small man”?

AC: (agitated) Again with that old stuff! Some people just won’t move on! I was nineteen then. Do we hang everyone for what they do when they’re a teenager?

JM: No, but maybe the problem is that the “old stuff” is still the new stuff?

AC: But people just don’t understand the pressure we’re under! This is meant to be a golden era, but it’s all going wrong. And some of the fruit-loops I have to deal with!

JM: Do you really think that’s a useful way to refer to colleagues?

AC: Probably not… (sighs again) But some of those colleagues aren’t making life easier. It seems like Jeff wants to go to war with the AFL. That worked really well for Jack Elliot, didn’t it? And bloody Dermie! What’s his problem? Relevance deprivation? Great idea to rev up the Bombers just when we need a win. It’s not like there aren’t any other distractions.

JM: Ok, you obviously have a lot on your mind. But this all relates to other people’s actions. Isn’t the reason you’re here because of your own behaviour? How you’re dealing with things?

AC: (grudgingly) Well… You may have a point.

JM: I’m interested in what you think makes you so quick to anger on football matters.

AC: Because I care. It’s my job.

JM: But a lot of people care about their jobs. They don’t feel the need to run around doing their block. There must be something driving this. Would you care to offer any thoughts?

AC: (long silence) This is all strictly confidential isn’t it?

JM: Absolutely.

AC: I just get so frustrated. People won’t listen. The players, what more do I have to prove to them? Wasn’t it my master plan which won us to  a flag? I took that playing group from a rabble to champs. Knocked off the high and mighty Cats didn’t we? That was MY plan! I invented the zone! I revolutionised the game! Now we get injuries, and different players come in. Can I get some of these lugs to follow team rules? What do they think the game’s about? It’s a coaches game now. WHY WON’T THEY JUST LISTEN?

JM: Phew! That’s an interesting perspective Al. Don’t you think the players might have had something to do with the flag win? I reckon Buddy and Luke might have helped. Is it logical to blame them for your current struggles, yet claim the glory days for yourself? And zones, hasn’t basketball been using them for decades?

AC: Basketball zones are a completely different thing… We have more players… And the grounds are bigger.

JM: Yeah…

AC: You may have a point about the players. I might have got carried away there.

JM: Seems to be a bit of that going around. Do you think you might be setting some unrealistic standards at present? Being a bit too much of a perfectionist?

AC: They’re all meant to be professionals.

JM: I’m no expert on footy Al. But as you implied yourself, isn’t the mindset of a young, developing player different from a hardened veteran?

AC: Well of course… I see where this is going. You can’t provide players with ready-made excuses.

JM: But you could strike a realistic balance about what can be expected.

AC:… Again, you may have a point Doc.

JM: Now this tension with the President. Jeff isn’t it? What do you think that’s about?

AC: Isn’t it obvious? He acts like he’s running the club.

JM: Well he is the President.

AC: But what does he know about football? What experience does he have?

JM: You mean apart from running the state?

AC: Well ok, there’s that. But that doesn’t make him a footy guru.

JM: No it doesn’t. Have you tried talking this out with him. Discussing an appropriate separation of powers? And by talk, I don’t mean some of the “talks” you’ve had with journalists… or that kid.

AC: Maybe we haven’t cleared the air as we should. But he doesn’t strike me as the greatest listener in the world.

JM: (raising an eyebrow) What can it hurt to try?

AC: Maybe.

JM: It’s about time we wrap this up for today Al. I hope this has been of some help.

AC: If you really want to help, find me a ruckman for this weekend.

JM: That I can’t help you with. But I hope to see you again next week. There are obviously some issues which need to be worked through.

AC: If we don’t beat the Bombers, you can bet on seeing me.

About John Butler

John Butler has fled the World’s Most Livable Car Park and now breathes the rarefied air of the Ballarat Plateau. For his sins, he has been a Carlton member for more than 30 years.

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