Is Alastair Clarkson set to initiate a new version of ‘Clarko’s Cluster’ at North Melbourne?
In his return to the coaching box after 12 months in the wilderness, it’d be silly to assume Clarkson isn’t assured of the way he wants the Kangaroos to play in 2023 and beyond.
The four-time premiership coach spent 2022 in a number of high-performance environments, including Ange Postecoglou’s Celtic, the Golden State Warriors and the Green Bay Packers.
In recent years we’ve also seen the ‘Weagles Web’, while ‘Pagan’s Paddock’ was amongst the first game plan to be coined with a flashy name.
As SEN’s Sam Edmund revealed to SEN Breakfast, early indications are Clarkson may have a new plan to break down the opposition’s defensive press.
‘Clarko’s Cluster’ was famously a Hawthorn defensive tactic to protect the middle of the ground, and while Edmund's indication is just that without the finer details, it could provide context to what fans will see in 2023.
“Alastair Clarkson at North Melbourne… what I’m hearing is the Kangaroos boys are working on a game plan called the ‘whirlpool’,” Edmund revealed.
“Now as best I can tell, it centres on how they bring the ball out of the back half of the ground. They’re confronted as they’re coming out (of defence), whether it be Aaron Hall or Tarryn Thomas or any of their runners, with the defensive grid of the other team.
“It’s an old-fashioned switching of the play, but switching of the play back and forth to unsettle the defensive grid, hence the whirlpool nature of the ball movement.
“It’s all around – and this would be simplifying it massively – how they come out of their back half at Melbourne.
“Maybe the ‘Whirlpool’ might be one to look out for.”
Clarkson comes to Ardern Street after 17 seasons as Hawthorn left him with the reputation as the greatest coach of the modern era.
In footage published by North Melbourne, the 54-year-old told players on his first day: “We’re searching for players that can play in an AFL premiership team.
“There’s a lot of blokes capable of playing league footy and there’s a lot of them that will get that opportunity – they can play, but can they play at the highest level on the last day in September and be part of a team that holds the silverware at the end of the day.”
New skipper Luke McDonald recently told SEN the Kangaroos were buying into what Clarkson was putting down.
“The energy that Clarko has brought in since he’s got here with his new acquisitions has just been unbelievable,” McDonald told SEN Breakfast.
“All of the boys and the whole club has really bought in.”
Ahead of the 2023 season, the Kangaroos appear the most settled off-field as they’ve been in years. Todd Viney came in with Clarkson as the club’s GM of footy, Sonja Hood has made her presence felt as president, while Jennifer Watt was appointed as CEO late last year.
The club claimed last year’s wooden spoon with two wins, yet optimism has increased following Clarkson’s appointment.