Clarkson won't be lost to AFL: Hardwick

·2-min read
Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS

Richmond coach Damien Hardwick believes the AFL will be worse off without North Melbourne counterpart Alastair Clarkson, but expects his close friend to return to the caper.

Clarkson has stepped away from his job as Kangaroos coach indefinitely as he manages the physical and emotional toll from the ongoing Hawthorn racism saga.

"It's always sad when you see someone that you love walk away from the game," Hardwick told reporters on Friday.

"I don't think he'll be lost to the game. The game will be worse off if he's out of it.

"What I do hope is that ... everyone just gives him the privacy and the time that he needs."

Clarkson, Chris Fagan and Jason Burt have been named in allegations of racism during their time at Hawthorn.

All deny any wrongdoing.

The AFL set up an independent investigation into the claims eight months ago but the panel in charge is yet to formally interview Clarkson, Fagan or Burt.

"The game's hard enough as it is, especially with this cloud hanging over him (Clarkson) at the moment," Hardwick said.

"He unfortunately has been the face of it.

"I challenge any person to handle the workload and then the nature of that report and what is hanging over his head for eight months."

Collingwood coach Craig McRae spent one season at Hawthorn as an assistant under Clarkson, in 2021, and said his "heart goes out" to his former mentor.

"He's an incredible, caring man," McRae told reporters on Friday.

"Everyone sees the harder side of Clarko but that's just a shell because inside he's one of the most caring people I've ever met in my life.

"My thoughts and prayers are with him.

"I have (reached out to him) on behalf of my family. We love him very much, so we wish him well."