Alastair Clarkson call savaged amid telling admission about umpiring furore in Collingwood win

The North Melbourne coach has been taken to task over a baffling decision in the Kangaroos' AFL loss.

Alastair Clarkson has defended his decision to sub Will Phillips out of North Melbourne's AFL clash with Collingwood at three-quarter time, while also saying the umpires weren't to blame for the Kangaroos' loss. Clarkson's side blew a 54-point lead to lose to the Magpies on Sunday, with AFL fans and commentators blowing up over a late call that should have been a 50m penalty and goal to the Roos.

Clarkson also copped widespread backlash for subbing out Phillips, who had done a stellar job of tagging Nick Daicos and shutting him down for three quarters. But Daicos ran much freer in the fourth quarter in which Collingwood kicked six goals to one and ended up winning by one point.

Alastair Clarkson during North Melbourne's controversial loss to Collingwood.
Alastair Clarkson has defended his decision to sub out Will Phillips after North Melbourne's controversial loss to Collingwood. Image: Getty/Fox Footy

“They lost this one in the coach's box with the decision to sub out Will Phillips at three-quarter time after he did the tagging job on Nick Daicos and was doing a really good job for three quarters,” Leigh Montagna said on Fox Footy after the game. “They wanted to bring Jaidyn Stephenson into the game. They subbed out this kid (Phillips) and I think it had a massive bearing on this game.

“We know coaches live and die by the decisions they make – and sometimes they get it wrong. I think they’ll look back and they’ll regret this decision.”

Will Phillips and Nick Daicos.
Will Phillips did a good job of containing Nick Daicos for three quarters. Image: Getty

But Clarkson said in his post-match press conference: “Will was starting to fatigue a little bit, and we just thought the freshness of the sub (would help us). But when you don’t win, you sit there and say, ‘Oh gee, was that pivotal?’ I don’t think it was pivotal in terms of the final result.

“You take some punts with the sub sometimes. Hindsight’s a wonderful thing, but sometimes you make the right decision and sometimes it doesn’t work for you.”

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Clarkson also defended the umpires and said they weren't responsible for the loss. Bailey Scott was denied the chance to kick a match-winning goal when two Magpies players clearly ran over the mark.

Scott had marked the ball on the wing with 41 seconds left to play, and the umpire in charge tried to call the Magpies players back before Scott quickly played on and pumped the ball deep into the Kangaroos' attacking zone. Had a 50m penalty been paid, it would have given Scott a set shot well within scoring range.

"There's decisions that the umps have to make right throughout the course of the game and you feel like they become more pivotal because they're right at the death knock in a close game," Clarkson said. "But they're making hundreds of decisions a game, and the bottom line is it should never have got to that situation where we allowed Collingwood back into the contest.

“By and large we did enough today to suggest that we’re on the right track. We had a shot on goal right on the death knock, just goes the wrong side of the post. One hundred and thirty minutes is a long time to play and unfortunately we’ve got to learn to be able to play that right out to the death and we were unable to do that today.”

with AAP