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Goodwin slams ‘pretty poor’ Rutten saga, beloved Don in for last game, $1.5m umpiring revolution on the cards

Melbourne premiership coach Simon Goodwin has slammed Essendon for its disrespectful treatment of Ben Rutten, as the club’s push for Alastair Clarkson to take the reins for 2023 continues.

Clarkson is yet to make a decision on his coaching future, but is believed to be weighing up offers from the Bombers and North Melbourne to coach next season.

Speaking at the Demons’ media conference on Thursday, Goodwin expressed his support for Rutten, his long-time teammate at Adelaide during their playing careers.

“I am a mate of Ben, I have reached out to Ben, it’s a really tough situation,” Goodwin said.

“To be honest, I think we all sit here as coaches and we look at our situation and the one thing you want in our industry is respect. And I don’t think Ben has been afforded that.

“I think it has been pretty poor how he has been treated. Hopefully he comes out the other side, but he has showed enormous dignity in the way he has gone about his business.

“He has given four years of incredible service to that footy club and our industry.

“He is a great person, a great coach. And I just hope he comes out the other side and make sure that he is treated the right way.”

Rutten is expected to coach the Bombers in Round 23, but despite being contracted for next season, is no certainty to remain at the helm for the start of 2023.

(Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Richmond coach Damien Hardwick, the Bombers’ upcoming opponent, also stood in solidarity with Rutten, describing his 2017 assistant coach’s predicament as ‘a tough situation’.

“Ben Rutten’s a terrific coach, we’ve had him in these four walls, we know what he’s capable of and how well he can do the job,” Hardwick said on Thursday.

“What I do empathise with is the human element. It’s a tough situation but that’s the caper we’re in.

“It’s unfortunate in nature, but what we care about is the person, and we hope Ben himself is doing OK.”

Clarkson’s coaching future has had an impact across the footy world, with the Roos linked to current Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley should the four-time premiership maestro opt to join the Bombers instead.

However, Hinkley was again defiant on SEN SA on Thursday, reiterating his desire to remain at the Power.

I’m committed to Port Adelaide and expect to see out my contract at Port Adelaide as Port Adelaide are to me,” Hinkley said.

“Sometimes you try to shortcut that question and people get critical of you trying to shortcut that question, but you’ve answered it so many times, for me, it’s been pretty clear from the club and myself.

“What more can we say?”

Hinkley also confirmed he had been in contact with Clarkson, who is visiting a sick friend in South Australia and had assured the Power coach that was his only purpose for the trip, knowing it would fuel speculation.

“It was good of ‘Clarko’ because he knows what’s going on,” Hinkley said of the text he received.

“I reckon he understands the footy landscape very, very well and he’s an incredibly successful coach, but also incredibly respectful.

“He probably understood what might happen when he landed in Adelaide… he probably just reached out to let me know that was going to happen – and it certainly happened!”

Senior coach Alastair Clarkson of the Hawks

(Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Dons, Saints lock in stalwarts for final farewell

In some badly needed good news for Essendon following a tumultuous week, club stalwart Michael Hurley will make his long-awaited AFL return in Round 23.

The 32-year old hasn’t featured at the highest level since 2020, following a life-threatening hip infection.

However, having completed a successful block of games in the VFL, the popular Hurley has been confirmed as an inclusion when the Bombers face Richmond on Saturday night, after which he will retire.

“Physically and mentally, I am feeling up for the challenge, but such a big operation and a big couple of years, and the uncertainty around whether physically I could still keep up with the rigours of AFL footy, it really set in that it was probably time to hang the boots up,” Hurley told Essendon FC media.

“What keeps coming to mind is the relationships I have built here. I’ve been here since 2008 and while I probably haven’t experienced a lot of on-field success, and not everyone in AFL can have that, a different success to me is meeting special people and people from this club I’ll have in my life forever.”

Hurley was one of 34 Bombers players suspended for 12 months in 2016 during the club’s infamous supplements scandal. An All-Australian in 2015, he would again be named to the team in 2017, with appearances on either side of the year-long ban.

Hurley will finish with 194 games for the Bombers, after making his debut in 2009.

St Kilda veteran Dan Hannebery has joined Hurley in announcing his retirement at the end of the season.

The injury-plagued Saints veteran wiil play his final game against old side Sydney on Sunday, where he played 208 games between 2009 and 2018, including the Swans’ 2012 premiership – barring an unlikely series of events enabling the Saints to play finals.

$1.5m umpiring revolution in the works

The AFL will reportedly introduce a permanent fourth field umpire in matches in 2023, in a bid to make the game easier to officiate.

According to veteran footy journalist Caroline Wilson, who broke the story on Nine’s Footy Classified, the league believes the move will also attract more women to umpiring, with Eleni Glouftsis the only current female field umpire in the AFL.

The plan is set to cost around $1.5 million, with the total umpires list rising from 34 to 42 as a result.

Wilson said the proposal has received widespread support from the umpiring cohort.

“Eighty per cent of the umpires are thrilled. It means more umpires on the list,” Wilson said.

“I think the AFL commission and the executive has finally listened and realised this is a crisis in our game and they need to fix it.

“The big thing about next year is to reduce the physical toll on umpires. They’ll still run the same distance, but there won’t be the need for speed.

“It’s seen as a way to bring more women into the game and umpiring… women can’t hope to run the speed and distances that the men can in this physical game.”

Former St Kilda and Fremantle coach Ross Lyon endorsed the proposal, saying the extra set of eyes should also help the quality of umpiring across games.

“It would mean better decision-making because they‘re less fatigued and you can keep your better umpires umpiring,” Lyon said.

“Players adapt and there would be less holding.

“There will be more goals scored because the infringements would be blown. At either end, you won‘t get away with anything.”

Wilson also reported the AFL are considering abolishing the controversial centre bounce, also seen as a deterrent to quality umpires at the highest level. However, no decision has been made by the league as of yet.

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