Melbourne great Garry Lyon has declared the “stakes have rarely been higher” for Essendon as it delicately pursues coaching great Alastair Clarkson amid uncertainty around Ben Rutten’s future.
Multiple reports state Rutten’s exit from Tullamarine is building momentum after a turbulent day at the club on Monday that saw David Barham take over as president from Paul Brasher as the Bombers undertake an external review.
Arriving at the club on Tuesday morning, Rutten said speculation around his future was “not ideal obviously” but was determined to focus on his job.
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Essendon great Tim Watson shut down reports the club met with Clarkson on Monday, saying on SEN it’s “categorically wrong with a capital W,” but suggested it’d reached out to his management.
Lyon stressed how much Essendon has riding on its late play for the four-time premiership boss amid unrest at the club.
“This great footy club is all in on a man, who should he say yes, then the path forward is clear — he’s at the helm, their people are good, their members are over the moon I would imagine, their sponsors would sign the cheque again — everything is good in the world for Essendon,” Lyon highlighted on SEN Breakfast.
“If he doesn’t … have the stakes been any higher than this? I can’t imagine them being higher.
“I can’t imagine they would come back to him (Rutten). There’s two sides, we would think even this morning he’d weigh it up given he’ll ask the question, ‘are you into Clarkson’ Yes? Well then that’s untenable for me’.”
It comes despite reports that Clarkson was firming to take over North Melbourne’s coaching vacancy — having already met with both the Kangaroos and Giants about their openings — with veteran journalist Caroline Wilson revealing he’s now delayed a decision to the Arden Street-based cub.
Watson believes North would likely be feeling “less confident” of landing Clarkson than what it would’ve been in recent days, but questioned how quickly the Bombers could advance their conversations with him.
“We would presume if he hasn’t made up his mind yet, and then Essendon is coming to him with a late offer … I don’t know how quickly you can have these discussions,” he said.
“Because these other discussions he’s had with GWS and North Melbourne have gone on and on for what appears to be at least a month. Essendon would be trying to fast-track this to get his signature.
“It just may be too difficult … what North Melbourne has agreed to with Clarkson, would be, ‘Al, you want to bring in who?’ And he’s gone through all the names of the people he wants to bring in, and they’ve already discussed the positions they may take up.
“With Essendon, there may be people already in these positions which would then require them to sack other people to allow Clarkson to come in … maybe they will, but then the disruption just gets louder and louder and louder.”
Adding further intrigue to the two clubs’ race for Clarkson is Lyon revealing past tension between Roos CEO Ben Amarfio and Barham, a highly successful TV executive.
“Let me throw another one into the mix here, this is a little side story. I am told when Ben Amarfio was running the broadcast rights for North Melbourne, he and Barham clashed and had some issues along the way. And now they’re both in charge of clubs looking for the one coach,” Lyon said.
“That just adds another little bit of spice to it, and the rivalry between Essendon and North Melbourne is intense and it’s bitter and if you talk to North Melbourne they say each hate each other.”
Watson also explained how the Bombers’ impending external review complicates their pursuit of Clarkson.
“The scramble yesterday is (the board saying), ‘we need to hold an external review.’ And then somebody says, ‘that’s going to take maybe five or six weeks. So if there’s a possibility of us getting Alastair Clarkson right now, that would rule us out. Do we need to have a rethink about that?’” He said.
“He (Clarkson) won’t be waiting … if the plank of you (Barham) coming to power is needing an external review, but already you’re compromised in that regard because you’re going to try and attract Clarkson to the club.
“If you went ahead with your external review, maybe there are all these other changes that did or didn’t need to take place, but you’ve already made the decision to get rid of your coach.”