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North Melbourne Kangaroos, Alastair Clarkson return, mental health break, Round 21, mixed messaging, AFL 360, losing streak

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North Melbourne have been left to “mop up” speculation surrounding coach Alastair Clarkson’s return to the club after some “mixed messaging”.

On Tuesday Clarkson told media “it might be that I don’t coach again this year”. But by Wednesday the club announced he’d be back coaching in Round 21.

“It’s been curious this whole situation of Clarkson coming back,” AFL 360 co-host Mark Robinson said.

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“From the Kangaroos’ point of view, they can look at him and say, ‘hey buddy, we’re paying you a million bucks, we need ya! We’ve lost all these games in a row. Can you come back? We’ve got to try and start next year this year with you’.

“Two days ago he said he might not be back and 24 hours later he’s back in two weeks’ time!

“I also understand why he says I’ve been away for 13 weeks, I’m not walking back in and saying ‘right bang, bang, bang’. Maybe North Melbourne said ‘you have to, you’re the senior coach’.”

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North Melbourne footy boss Todd Viney on Wednesday said Clarkson’s return comments were the result of the coach being “a little gun-shy”.

“We’ve had this not in ink but in pencil for a period of time. I think he was mindful of coming to the environment for the first time and didn’t want to be seen bulldozing his way through,” Viney clarified of Clarkson’s comments.

Just the day prior Clarkson told media: “I’d be a little bit disrespectful if I just walked back into the club … I need to find out what’s been going on and what the lay of the land is”.

“It’s probably more likely that it’ll be later rather than sooner.”

Footy Classified’s Damien Barrett said it was clear there was a “disconnect” between Clarkson and the club.

“Not for the first time in Alastair Clarkson’s short time at North Melbourne, there’s been a disconnect with what he’s said and what the club has thought he was going to say in advance,” he said.

“For Alastair to say and put it out there that he may not (return this season), was certainly contrasting and conflicting with what conversations they’d had as a club and with Alastair.

“There’s no suggestion he’s been forced to come back in this time frame.

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“It’s been a gradual return.

“They’ve mopped it up today and it’s not the first time they’ve had to mop up a public statement.

Former Bomber Matthew Lloyd questioned if it was the right time for Clarkson to return.

“Has he had to be pushed to come back?” he questioned on Footy Classified.

“Part of me worries after what he’s gone through, does he have the energy anymore to do this?

“That’s just not now, I actually worry about next year and beyond for this contract. Is he still the right man for this job?”

AFL 360 co-host Gerard Whateley said the return of Clarkson might give the club the boost it needs after 15 straight losses.

“I suppose right now North Melbourne are looking for any spark to energise the last part of the season, and this will do that,” he said.

“It gives them a cause for (caretaker Brett) Ratten, and a bit of a chance to thank him for stepping in.

“It’s an awkward situation.

“Half of me wonders what there is to be gained.”

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