ALASTAIR Clarkson has delivered a scathing review of the modern game, blaming the way it is being adjudicated for the "dreadful" spectacle it has become.
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In an extraordinary and unrelenting rant lasting more than 10 minutes, the four-time Hawthorn premiership coach restated his belief that more free kicks for incorrect disposal must be paid.
Clarkson's comments came on the same day Geelong and Melbourne kicked four goals between them to half-time of their earlier match at the MCG.
He pointed to the Hawks' 69 tackles, as well as beaten foe North Melbourne's 47, and wondered why there were so few holding-the-ball decisions.
Clarkson said it was a backroom battle he had fought "for four or five years" with AFL rulemakers but that both they and some other coaches felt the "ball player" needed to be protected.
"I hope I'm not the only one who thought it was a dreadful game? There's just no highlights in the game. We got a result, we bank it and move on," Clarkson said post-game.
"I don't think North played well and I don't think Hawthorn played well.
"We had 69 tackles and I don't think we had a free kick from a tackle – 69 tackles and not one of them can be adjudicated holding the ball?
"You wonder why the game is an arm wrestle and you can't get any open footy. Tonight's game, if that's the spectacle we're trying to search for in our game, our game is in a dreadful space.
"But we're better than that and I think we can do a hell of a lot better by opening the game up a little bit and adjudicating some of those holding the balls."
The Hawks led by 31 points midway through the last quarter but barely hung on after the Kangaroos rattled home with four goals in a row to fall four points short.
However, Clarkson had no interest in discussing where his side went wrong at the end, saying North's comeback owed mostly to "free kicks from stoppage".
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Asked what he did like from Sunday night's game, he replied: "Nothing."
Clarkson also rejected Cats coach Chris Scott's suggestion that a move to 16 players on the field for each team might be the secret to unlocking more free-flowing matches.
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"Every coach would sit there and say, 'We want to try and coach more attacking footy and devote a whole summer doing that'," he said.
"But then we have to make radical suggestions like, 'Let's go to 16-a-side to change it'. How about changing it in the first instance by governing the game, according to the rulebook?"
North Melbourne coach Rhyce Shaw sidestepped the discussion, preferring to focus on his players' failure to play in anything more than patches against Hawthorn's strong defence.
Captain Jack Ziebell rolled an ankle in the first quarter and left the game for good in the final term because of a left hamstring issue and is in serious doubt for next week.
"He rolled his ankle pretty badly in that first quarter. He soldiered on really well," Shaw said.
"He's the captain of the side, he put himself into the middle of the ground, got us going at periods there leading into half-time.
"I don't know how bad the hammy is. It was bad enough to keep him out, so that's not a great sign for Jack."
Ziebell's dual injuries followed reigning Syd Barker medallist Ben Cunnington being a late withdrawal for the second straight week.
Cunnington is dealing with a nerve impingement in his back.
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"It's a pain in the butt, to be honest. It's not ideal for Ben, it's not ideal for us," Shaw said.
"He looked really good at a point during the week, did a little bit of a run around and a kick and it seemed like he was improving but he just woke up and it's just not to the standard.
"We can't roll him out there and give him the best chance of playing when he can't bend down."