• Mon. Mar 20th, 2023

Embattled Essendon coach Ben Rutten survived Monday, but it might only be a matter of time until he is sacked.

Rutten seemingly held onto his job by the skin of his teeth as rumours swirled over his future following the Bombers’ embarrassing 84-point loss to Port Adelaide on Sunday.

The club held a board meeting on Monday, the second one in 24 hours, and Rutten survived the axe, at least for now.

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Essendon CEO Xavier Campbell confirmed Rutten wasn’t being sacked as the coach and confirmed the club had not had a discussion with former Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson.

“Ben is still our coach,” Campbell said.

“There’s ongoing discussions at board level. They will continue this week.

“I have not spoken to Alastair Clarkson.”

Essendon president Paul Brasher stepped down from his role, but Rutten’s job isn’t safe yet, with the Herald Sun’s Jon Ralph declaring his position is “untenable”.

Rutten said he was focused on doing his job as he arrived at Bombers training on Thursday.

“It’s not ideal obviously,” he said on channel 9.

“I have got the confidence of the players, I’ve got a job to do and I am going to coach to the best I can in the next five days.”

The coaching merry-go-round is firing up as calls grow louder for the Bombers to pursue four-time premiership-winning coach Clarkson.

Fox Footy’s Mark Robinson believes Rutten’s future at Essendon is “hanging by the thinnest of threads”, while his AFL 360 co-host Gerard Whateley said Clarkson could well replace Rutten by the end of this week.

“I believe that after the supplements sagas, (Essendon) didn’t want to upset anyone. They were playing vanilla football, Ben Rutten comes in and they are playing vanilla football,” he said.

“They’ve just been going down this waterway … meanwhile watching Carlton, Collingwood surge and this football club is just sitting round in the bottom six. It just hasn’t been good enough … there’s certainly no confidence (in Rutten).

“That performance against Port Adelaide is the most insipid performance by any team this year. Ben’s not an extroverted coach, but when you were watching that yesterday, it’s not coaching but human emotion. Show something because your players aren’t. It’s like he knew.

“To put in a performance like that, the heart had gone. The heart had fallen out of the club, the team.

“They’ve told him today: ‘Ben … we’re going after Alastair Clarkson. I don’t know if we are going to get him or not. If we don’t, we’ll have another chat. But if we get him, sorry mate, you’re gone and Alastair Clarkson will be moving in’. That could happen tomorrow.”

“When you’ve got the three clubs in front of you – the Giants, Kangaroos and Essendon. Alastair Clarkson has those three clubs – unless he’s got a tremendous soft spot for North Melbourne and developed a real strong rapport with Soya Hood … unless they have developed so closely that Clarkson says ’I can’t let you down now’ … North Melbourne will be telling Alastair they want an answer by Wednesday-Thursday this week.

“Because if it‘s not Clarkson, they’ve got to get a move on. They’ve put a month into Alastair Clarkson.

“They’ve got a plan B – the place isn‘t going to fall down because Alastair Clarkson has said no. But they’ll want an answer and I think Sonya Hood and the North Melbourne officials will be sleeping a little uneasy tonight as they want Alastair Clarkson.”

Clarkson has long been linked with the vacant coaching jobs at North Melbourne and GWS, but the Bombers are quickly firming as another serious option for the highly-rated mentor.

“Essendon is all in on Alastair Clarkson. We believe that to be true … so it’s over for Ben Rutten,” said Whateley, who added he “always felt this was a possibility it wasn’t just North Melbourne and the Giants”.

“It was about eight weeks ago it was red hot Clarkson was keen on the Essendon job but it couldn’t happen while Paul Brasher was chairman because he had a different course mapped out.”

Veteran journalist Caroline Wilson said on Channel 9’s Footy Classified: “Ben Rutten seems only hours away from finishing up as coach of the Essendon Football Club.

“This has been building since May/June this year, we know Paul Basher been under pressure. “He’s resisted looking elsewhere for a senior coach, he’s backed Ben Rutten, as has Xavier Campbell.

Wilson believes Clarkson will be coaching Essendon next year, while Bombers great Matthew Lloyd also called on his former club to chase Clarkson’s signature.

“That’s my tip,” she said.

“My understanding he has suggested to North Melbourne that decision is few days away now, that’s been extended.”

Rutten is in his second season in charge of the Bombers, but damning vision of one of his own players refusing to look at him on the bench prompted 300-gamer Kane Cornes to declare Rutten has “got to go”.

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