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Clarke impressed with professionalism of midfield

THE OPPORTUNITY to return back to IKON Park to take the reins of his old position was one which came to Tim Clarke late.

However, the midfield coach is loving being back at the Club.

After three years at the Gold Coast Suns, Clarke and his family returned to Victoria at the end of last year, ultimately returning to the Blues following conversations with Head of Football Brad Lloyd and AFL Senior Coach Michael Voss.

The early months have marked a happy comeback to Carlton for Clarke.

“The decision to come back to Melbourne, we made that decision very late,” Clarke said on RSN.

“The Blues were still interviewing for the two assistant coach positions. I spoke to Brad Lloyd and had a couple of chats with ‘Vossy’ about what his vision was, what he wanted to do with his coaching and his philosophies.

“The boys I knew that were here that I coached before, and also the boys that had been brought in, I looked at it as a very exciting opportunity. I have really enjoyed coaching the boys but also working with the other coaches.”

The commitment to their craft of the playing group was something which Clarke singled out, particularly amongst the midfield group.

He said the players’ trust in one another and their willingness to take control of their career projection was evident in every session since day one.

“We’ve spent a lot of time in and around our contest methodL how you set up the contest, whether it be a stoppage or a different type of contest around the ground,” he said.

“We did a lot of work over the off-season on that to put us in a better position to win the ball, but if we don’t win it, to be able to defend it.

“It’s not only based on method, but also the personnel we’ve got in there. We’ve got some really good decision makers playing in our midfield and we’ve also got some guys that grab the younger guys and take them along with them.

“You design a drill or set something for them to do and they take control. They’re really strong in that area: there are three or four coaches in their own right through the midfield group. That’s been a real positive.”

Among those players who Clarke hadn’t coached before were – of course – Adam Cerra and George Hewett, who arrived at the Club from Fremantle and Sydney respectively.

Since the addition of those two into the midfield, the Blues’ midfield has been a clear strength: Clarke had nothing but praise for the professionalism shown by the duo.

“They’re good fellas, really good people,” he said.

“They’ve got a terrific football experience, and not only have they brought performances like on the weekend, but they’re also playing really good football.

“They are the ultimate professionals those two. They came in in November and from day one, they were the ones driving extras and they invest in their careers, whether it’s watching vision or lifestyles out of footy or what they do on the track.”

Another improvement Clarke has seen is in ruckman Tom De Koning, who has had to step up into the main ruck role with Marc Pittonet suffering a PCL injury two weeks ago.

Clarke has been impressed and pleased with how quickly De Koning has embraced the challenge, noting his preparation in the pre-season was less than ideal after a blood clot affected his pre-season preparation.

“I played really well Round 1 [before] a little dip in form for a week or two, but he missed so much training and footy, so we still feel we haven’t seen the best of Tom,” he said.

“The best thing about his game is he’s becoming more reliable with what he does with his ruck work.

“He’s always been out to jump and keep hands on the ball, but I feel that the work that he’s been doing with the other boys, he’s become really reliable about where he’s going to put the ball, consistency about how he jumps in the opposition rucks and how he competes around the ground.”

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