Being a good coach – Alastair Clarkson

Footy off season can be my Almanac off season, but I choose to write to get close to my dream I set in childhood (I wanted to be an announcer on TV and radio).


In August, my friend and another Almanacker, Yvette, mentioned me in her article for SEN’s Inside Football magazine.


When I got a copy of the footy magazine from her, I found an interesting featured article. It’s about how to become a good coach. Four-time premiership coach Alastair Clarkson is featured in the article.


Clarko played for North Melbourne between 1987 and 1995. His position was half forward standing at 171 centimetres. Then he switched to the midfield. Clarko ended his services for the Kangaroos with 93 games and 61 goals.


As not so many opportunities were offered to him at Arden Street, he moved to Melbourne Football Club where he played for a further two years.


In 1997, Clarko retired from AFL at the age of 29. His playing career at the Demons ended with 41 games. In 1996, he was a solid player with the average of 23.5 disposals per game (he played 22 games that year).


He was an average player as a midfielder.


In his post playing career, Clarkson was a runner at Melbourne the following year and then an assistant coach at St Kilda in 1999 under Tim Watson.


Then he moved to VFL to coach Werribee as a senior coach in 2000. Once again, he didn’t hesitate to make a move the following year.


Central Districts in South Australia was his next destination to coach. He was a premiership coach in his first year at Central Districts in the SANFL. In his second year there, he guided the club to the Grand Final, but lost to Sturt.


This period was his highlight in his footy career, I think. As a player, he saw high and low and spent a lot of time to seek improvement. Becoming an average midfielder and trying to survive at North Melbourne (unfortunately he was unable though) would gain skills to coach young blokes. Then his playing experience at the top level (AFL) would reinforce his game plans at the local footy.


After Clarko had good coaching experiences in the lower level, he was back into AFL in 2003 when he was appointed as an assistant coach (midfield) at Port Adelaide. In the following year, he was the part of the premiership coaching team.


Only a month or two after he had enjoyed the joy, he was appointed as a senior coach for Hawthorn to rebuild the club.


Clarkson changed the list by delisting veterans and recruiting young players, under a youth policy.


His coaching record started with five wins in his first year and nine wins in 2006. His improvement was found in 2006 by structuring the forward line with the system called “Buddy’s box”. Then he was on the way to succeed.


He drafted a great youngster, Cyril Rioli in 2007 and introduced his new game plan called the “Clarkson cluster”. Clarko blossomed in coaching as becoming a premiership coach in 2008.


But the success in winning the flag didn’t follow a year later. Opponents worked hard to get over the “Clarkson cluster” that cost injuries to key players. Only nine wins were achieved by him in 2009.


As a bloke knowing both ups and downs, Clarkson knew how to fix and improve. He adopted kicking style footy during the 2010 season. Established players including Josh Gibson, Jack Gunston and Brian Lake landed at Hawthorn to help the club.


These hardworking players brought Hawthorn positive results, playing Grand Finals four years in a row and winning the flag between 2013 and 2015.


I think he has much knowledge of footy and great skills to coach. His former assistant coaches service at other clubs as senior coaches. Bulldogs premiership coach Luke Beveridge is one of them.


His success reminds us that one door closes and another opens, I reckon.


In the next article, I am planning to feature Luke Beveridge.

About Yoshihiro Imagawa

Love, passion and pride are seen on the footy that is the biggest part of my life. 1. St Kilda Club member: I am a passionate and crazy Sainter. Just hope we will win the second flag soon, especially after Dogs and Tigers having ended long premiership draughts. 2. The Osaka Dingoes Player and Public Relations Officer: Player number 44 that I chose to honour Stephen Milne with my wish being like a small forward like him. Lenny Hayes' hardworking attitudes are adopted on my trainings and practices. Nick Riewoldt's great plays are in my player audiobook too. 3. Writing: Here on the Almanac and also on the World Footy News. My skills utilise on great footy websites.


  1. Yeah well as a North supporter I’m looking forward to our coach reminding all at the club that this could be the most competitive season in history,… leaving everyone feeling apprehensive about the season ahead, instead of embracing all and being positive about all the great things ahead, as it no doubt will be for North Melbourne

  2. Neil Anderson says

    That is one of the best pieces of writing you have submitted so far. It was easy to read and very clear from a reader’s point of view. I will look forward to your piece on Luke Beveridge.
    You should be confident in your move to study and work in journalism. Good luck.

  3. G’day Paul and Neil,

    Thanks for your comments!

    Paul – Seeking the downhill in the half last season of 2016 must have been hard for Kangaroos supporters. Like Clarko did in the first years at Hawthorn, four veteran Kangaroos were delisted. It’s sad for them especially Boomer Harvey, but unfortunately rebuild is needed in your club. Hopefully Brad Scott learns from the 2016 season and then like did Clarkson in 2010, he could set the new game plan.

    Neil – Thanks for your compliment as well as encouragement and warm wishes. What you are doing here is like what great coaches do for their clubs. I admit I was not a good player in the previous work at Japanese inns, but believe I can blossom in the media even I need several years to achieve. Going back to university would be the same road in where great coaches have gone through. I’m sure I can adopt good attitudes from Luke Beveridge and find what I can learn from the research for the next article.



  4. Thanks Yoshi, I wasn’t sad Harvey quit, he had a great career, but we need to move on as a club, so, no I wasn’t sad. A rebuild is fine, as long as you have really positive, at times uncompromising and demanding, charismatic coaches..not sure we have those at North, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think it could happen there. It could, they just have to All…’Believe’… that will be our motto at North in 2017.

  5. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Great stuff Yoshi,
    It’s been a remarkable achievement by Clarkson. I remember the arseclowns on The Footy Show were making fun of his game style back in 2006. They aren’t laughing now.
    Hope Collingwood is smart enough to sign him up should Buckley fail next year.

  6. G’day Paul and Phil,

    Thanks for your nice comments!

    Paul – Attitudes you mention us are needed to form strong footy club and culture. Although it takes years, Alan Richardson is the right man for my Saints. We have got good players in the trade period and draft, so will be playing the finals in 2017.

    Phil – Thanks for your compliment mate! I reckon Sam Newman wore the arseclown (I couldn’t google anything about it). Then Clarko overcame with his passionate and emotion? Maybe your Collingwood wants a favourite son rather than a good coach?? Eddie only concentrates the cooperates??



  7. Thanks Yoshi, On Clarkson, and Longmire for that matter, both were coached by John Kennedy, and I believe that he had a profound affect on those people. He taught them to be straight talkers and I believe that both know how to send a strong message to individuals and groups. Denis Pagan as well, I am sure had a huge influence on both men. Strong coaches make strong coaches. I think too ,that Luke Beveridge was strongly influenced by John Northey at Melbourne. I think there would be a fascinating study of successful coaches on how important their previous coaches are to their current coaching styles.

  8. Thanks for your comment again, Paul. You show us good points of views. Coaching skills are passed from one generation to the next, I sense.

    Now I remember that Clarkson had taken a sport management course in the US in the off season. The mixture of these studies and their own experiences create their good coaching skills, I reckon.



  9. And Clarkson was a respected sports coach at Wesley College, so he had a great grounding for coaching well before he got the job at hawthorn

  10. And almanackers, any advice where I could get a good pre Christmas day lunch, you know turkey, pork and plum pudding, at a pub around Melbourne? Thanks in advance..

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