Monday was a busy day for Essendon.
Rumours swirled early regarding the future of current coach Ben Rutten, with reports indicating he had been sacked.
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A board meeting was held on Monday, the second one in 24 hours, and Rutten’s fate was determined. He survived the axe … for now.
Essendon CEO Xavier Ellis confirmed Rutten wasn’t being sacked as the coach and confirmed the club had not had a discussion with Clarkson.
“Ben is still our coach,” Ellis said.
“There’s ongoing discussions at board level. They will continue this week.
“I have not spoken to Alastair Clarkson.”
As soon as news of Rutten’s safety had landed, the rumour mill went into overdrive surrounding the potential for the club to land former Hawthorn mastermind Alastair Clarkson.
Clarkson had been linked to joining North Melbourne on a five-year deal.
Journalist Tony Jones however noted the club had in fact met with Clarkson and his management on Monday.
“Sources have confirmed to me in the past few moments Essendon did meet with Alastair Clarkson and his manager today,” Jones confirmed to 9 News on Monday night.
The Herald Sun’s Jon Ralph said the four-time premiership coach is interested in joining the Bombers.
“My understanding is that when Brasher announced the review in March, a lot of those board members had no idea it was coming – they were stunned it came out of his mouth,” Jon Ralph said On the Couch on Monday.
“And from then on they wanted an external review, only an internal review was pitched by Sean Wellman with the help of Kevin Sheedy and Simon Madden. And from then on it festered, it came to a head.
“The last two weeks absolutely didn’t help, but what started as a board review has turned into something much more significant.
“The chase for Alastair Clarkson is absolutely on. The issue with Paul Brasher, he was never gonna sack Ben Rutten, he was a strong confidant of him. And so board members including (Kevin) Sheedy I don’t think are great fans of Ben Rutten – so unless Brasher was gone, the club would not be in the race for Alastair Clarkson.
“Even though it’s my understanding senior figures at the club knew Alastair Clarkson was interested in coaching Essendon, and I think the strong view today is that some board members have already contacted his management.
“So Rutten’s job now clearly untenable, whether of course he is sacked in coming days or he’s sacked after the game against Richmond.”
Essendon great Matthew Lloyd has long pitched for the club to chase Clarkson’s signature and those calls ramped up on Monday.
“I’ve been frustrated for years, and I suppose over the last number of years you might change a head of footy. You might change a coach, or an assistant coach, but nothing ever really changes,” Lloyd said on 3AW’s Sportsday.
“You feel like guys have protected their own patches of turf because of their appointments, but now I think this is the first time where you think things could seriously change for the better with Dave Barham coming in.
“Paul Brasher has wanted nothing but the best for the football club, he’s a good person, but what’s going on at the moment hasn’t worked.
“What we saw yesterday in a seven-win season, to see them lifeless, spiritless. It looked like the performance of a coach who’s about to go as well.
“So now it needs to look at the president, I think the CEO needs to be looked at, the head of footy and the coach, the four key pillars of your football club needs to be seriously looked at as part of this external review.”
Lloyd believes Rutten will not survive the upcoming external review.
“My opinion is on what I saw and what I’ve seen across the year that I wouldn’t go with Ben Rutten next year.
“He’s (Alastair Clarkson) the best candidate out there. I did say two months ago, ‘why aren’t Essendon in this race’.
“Alastair is quite a confronting person because he will come in (and do things his own way), but to me, that is what this football club needs.
“They’ve made little minor adjustments, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t get the club anywhere.”