Over the past week, the Bombers have made the cardinal sin.
That is, “If you come for the king, you best not miss.”
It’s one of the best lines from The Wire, but it aptly fits the monumental stuff-up from the Essendon Football Club over the past week.
Underwhelmed at the progress being made under Ben Rutten, Essendon’s board hastily got jumpy at the prospect of four-time premiership-winning coach Alastair Clarkson joining a rival Melbourne-based club.
By Sunday afternoon, as the Dons were humiliated at home by a Port Adelaide side well and truly outside the top eight, the club was in crisis mode.
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Rutten had lost the support of sections of the board, and with Clarkson’s decision expected imminently, Essendon seemingly made a last-ditch play to lure the former Hawthorn coach to the club.
Club President Paul Brasher – one of Rutten’s key backers – stood down amid the crisis earlier in the week, with some reports also claiming Rutten had been sacked ahead of the final match of the regular season.
Talk about airing your dirty laundry.
Capping it off, Clarkson has since signed a multi-year, multi million dollar deal to join North Melbourne.
The Dons, meanwhile, have hung Rutten out to dry ahead of their final match of the season, with the coach contracted until the end of 2023.
His tenure appears untenable given the breaking of trust between the board and the coach, with the players said to be angry at the ugly situation unfolding at the club.
Rutten’s manager Adam Ramanauskas said the whole episode had been handled poorly.
“I think it’s been really disappointing. You’ve got to look at the human side … the way he’s been treated is fundamentally not right,” Ramanauskas said on RSN radio.
“It’s fair to say Monday and half of Tuesday were pretty difficult days because nobody was telling him what was going on. He was calling a lot of people and wasn’t getting much response back.”
Clarkson’s decision to choose the Kangaroos over the Bombers leaves Essendon in a difficult spot of their own making.
It also comes amid reports Essendon is considering asking club great James Hird the coaching job, almost a decade after his ugly exit following a drugs scandal, which rocked the AFL powerhouse.
Clarkson described the situation as “embarrassing” on Thursday.
“It’s quite embarrassing to be fair, to be quite the central figure in all this,” Clarkson told Channel 10.
“You know, I’ve got enormous respect for the three guys involved in their clubs, you know (Mark) ‘Spike’ McVeigh, (Ben) ‘Truck’ Rutten and (Leigh) ‘Patch’ Adams are all terrific people and they’re trying to do the right things by their clubs.
“In particular with the situation around Truck, you know he’s still got a year of his contract to run and it’s quite embarrassing being the centre of attention in a situation it’s just so difficult for both him and his club.
“I’d prefer to be able to get off the back page and I know full well that this circus will end once I can make a decision one way or another.
“So the sooner I can do that the better.”
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If Clarkson is describing the situation as “embarrassing”, what does it say about the Essendon board?
Just before noon on Friday, new Essendon president David Barham said the club would wait until Sunday to determine Rutten’s future after missing the finals.
He made no apologies about pursuing Clarkson, saying it would have been “derelict in his duty” had he not made contact with the coaching giant.
But he did admit he should have spoken to Rutten about their intentions.
“I have to live with that,” he told reporters.
“It’s been horrible, but my job is to make sure the footy club is the best footy club it can be.”
Respected journalist Ronny Lerner said describing Essendon as a “laughing stock” wouldn’t do justice to the club.
Former West Coast defender Will Schofield said, “What a complete and utter butchering by Essendon – they still have a coach, who they clearly don’t want, board is spilling and now look completely lost. Weren’t they winning the premiership last year?”