AFL: North Melbourne coach defends Sonja Hood after online vitriol

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North Melbourne coach Alastair Clarkson has spoken out against vitriol directed at club president Sonja Hood and says the blame lays squarely with him for the Roos’ on-field struggles.

Clarkson backed Hood’s call to delete her account on X, formerly Twitter, after she received a torrent of abuse she described as “gendered, misogynistic and revolting” in the wake of the Kangaroos’ winless start to the season.

The Roos president had been a vocal figure on the platform and had made herself easily accessible to fans, but Clarkson said her generosity online had come with a double-edged sword.

“This is difficult because it’s a really, really effective communication tool for many, many people when it’s used in the right way,” the coach said on Friday.

“Sonja has been able to communicate with so many people using that forum and platform, but unfortunately it’s got some risk attached to it and you do open yourself up to some vitriol from time to time.

“I think Sonja’s just said this is just a little bit over the top at the minute, I’m just going to pull myself away from it for a while until the balance comes good again.”

Clarkson praised the two women leading North Melbourne’s administration – Hood and chief executive Jen Watt – as he said any blame for the Roos’ poor on-field performance should be directed at him and football boss Todd Viney.

“(Hood) has been terrific for our footy club – her and Jen Watt govern and administer the club superbly,” he said.

“Probably if there’s any criticism of our footy club, it’s that we’re not going too well on the footy field.

“If you want to direct the blame or the attention to anyone, direct it right here, don’t worry about our administration or our chairperson, I’m in charge of our footy program.

“Todd Viney gives me a fair chop-out … if you want to point the finger, point it at us.”

Spirits were high at Arden Street on Friday morning when Tyler Sellers was told he would make his senior debut against Geelong, but the session ended on a low note when defender Kallan Dawson rolled his ankle and limped off the track during a match play drill.

Clarkson said his immediate reaction was to assume Dawson would miss the Sunday clash in Geelong, with Toby Pink or Richmond recruit Bigoa Nyuon in the frame to replace him.

Sellers was named to play after booting nine goals in two VFL games to start the season.

The 193cm forward led the Roos’ VFL goalkicking in 2023 with 30 from 16 appearances, and he was signed on SSP deadline day in February after starring in an intraclub match at Arden Street.

“It’s exciting because probably at both ends of the ground we’re a little bit undermanned for talls, especially with (Callum) Coleman-Jones going out and our decision to play (Charlie) Comben behind the ball instead of in front of it,” Clarkson said.

“He was perhaps unfortunate … his footy in his draft year coincided with Covid, a lot of these boys hadn’t played a lot of footy when they were 18, 19, and he was one of those guys.

“We’re really excited with what he can bring, hopefully he can jump at the footy and provide some contest because the Geelong defence is a really, really strong defence.”

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