North Melbourne coach Alastair Clarkson.
North Melbourne coach Alastair Clarkson has been fined and handed a suspended ban by the AFL. Image by Linda Higginson/AAP PHOTOS
  • Australian rules football

Clarkson fined, given suspended ban over outburst

Anna Harrington March 8, 2024

North Melbourne coach Alastair Clarkson has vowed to work to control his famous temper after his latest outburst, towards St Kilda’s Jimmy Webster and Dougal Howard, drew a $20,000 fine and suspended two-match ban.

Clarkson’s ban, suspended until the end of the 2025 season, came after he was found guilty of ‘conduct unbecoming’.

The 55-year-old, who has accepted the sanctions, will be required to attend pride in sport training as approved by the AFL.

The coach received a “please explain” after allegedly using the homophobic slur “c*******er” during an expletive-laden exchange of words with Webster and Howard at quarter time of last week’s practice match.

Clarkson was incensed after Webster’s high, late bump on Jy Simpkin – which drew a seven-match ban from the AFL tribunal – left the Kangaroos co-captain in concussion protocols.

Jy Simpkin.
 North’s Jy Simpkin was subbed out of the trial against St Kilda following a high, late hit. Image by Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS 

If Clarkson is again found guilty of “conduct unbecoming” before the end of the 2025 season, it would trigger the two-match ban, along with additional sanctions for the further breach.

“At the outset, I want to reiterate my initial public apology and acknowledge that my exchange with the St Kilda players was unnecessary and the language I used was inappropriate,” Clarkson said in a statement on Friday.

“I am disappointed that I allowed the emotion of the moment to envelope (sic) me and I should not have engaged with the St Kilda players.

“I have since apologised to St Kilda coach Ross Lyon, Jimmy Webster and Dougal Howard for the manner in which I reacted.

“This has been a significant reflective moment for me. 

“My language was not used with any intent to vilify or marginalise, however through this incident I have begun to understand the impact of the use of casual language. I am fully committed to educating myself in this regard.

“In terms of my reaction to the incident involving Jy, I have been doing some work to understand why I respond in the manner I do, but also to develop strategies I can implement in these moments.”

Kangaroos chief executive Jennifer Watt added: “We also acknowledge that Alastair has reflected on how he responds to incidents like we saw on Sunday, and we’ll support him as he seeks to be better in those situations.”

Former Hawthorn coach Clarkson has a long history of flare-ups and confrontations.

Players scuffle during St Kilda against North Melbourne.
 Tempers frayed during the AFL pre-season hit-out between the Saints and Kangaroos. Image by Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS 

In February last year, he apologised for making a threatening comment to a television reporter during an altercation.

He famously had to be held back from Matthew Lloyd after the Essendon champion broke Brad Sewell’s cheekbone with a bump in 2009.

In 2012, Clarkson punched a hole in the MCG coaching box wall, and admitted to swearing at a junior club official during an under-age football match.

In 2017 he was fined $20,000 by the AFL (with $15,000 suspended) after he said he could not comment on “disgraceful umpiring” in Hawthorn’s loss to Gold Coast.

Clarkson’s initial apology on Monday, plus “his desire to seek help to develop strategies to manage his behaviour” was taken into account by the AFL when determining Friday’s penalty.

The $20,000 fine will not be included in the Kangaroos’ soft cap.

“Alastair’s conduct does not represent behaviour acceptable to anyone in our game and not what is expected of a senior coach, especially someone of Alastair’s experience,” AFL general counsel Stephen Meade said in a statement. 

“While we understand there are emotions attached to the heat of the contest, engaging with an opposition player during the quarter-time break and then using language that is both unacceptable and highly inappropriate is something the AFL does not want in the game.”