Alastair Clarkson North Melbourne Kangaroos

North Melbourne Kangaroos have affirmed that renowned coach Alastair Clarkson will maintain his leave of absence from the club, despite his recent exoneration in the AFL investigation concerning allegations of racism that unfolded during his tenure at Hawthorn.

Clarkson took a step back from his coaching duties on May 18, amidst the emotionally laden saga which ran a significant course through the Hawthorn years, spanning from 2008 to 2016. An independent inquiry panel revealed on Tuesday night that the investigations concluded with no adverse findings against Clarkson, his former colleague Chris Fagan, and ex-player welfare manager Jason Burt. A denouement that came as no surprise to those familiar with Clarkson’s unequivocal denial of the accusations from the outset.

In a letter penned to the club members, North Melbourne president Sonja Hood expressed her sentiments. “In terms of Alastair’s situation, I am pleased but not surprised that the independent panel cleared him of the allegations of wrongdoing,” she wrote, noting that she recognized the distress experienced by everyone affected by the saga, especially the First Nations families who initially brought forward the allegations.

Hood highlighted the massive strain these past eight months have put on Clarkson, commending him for his stoicism and commitment to the process, despite a prolonged period in which he was denied natural justice. She wrote, “Having heard Alastair’s story, spoken to many of his past players (Indigenous and non-Indigenous) and colleagues, and had a chance to review the documentation presented to the independent panel (much of it as late as last week), this is a just outcome, albeit one that was a long time coming.”

She further confirmed that, for the time being, Clarkson will continue his hiatus, focusing on restoring his mental and physical health. The club has expressed its full support, willing him to take as much time as he deems necessary.

In the interim, Clarkson’s mantle will be carried by the experienced Brett Ratten, erstwhile coach of Carlton and St Kilda. Ratten, who joined North Melbourne on a part-time basis only two weeks prior, will be taking the reins during Clarkson’s absence.

As Clarkson recedes from the limelight, the club remains optimistic about the 55-year-old’s eventual return. Despite the stormy season, the confidence in Clarkson’s long-standing devotion to the sport, and the hope of his triumphant comeback to the helm, remains undimmed.