Twice-sacked Ratten gets another chance at AFL coaching
Brett Ratten's roller-coaster football journey has taken another wild and unexpected turn.
The former champion Carlton midfielder will coach a third AFL club, stepping up to lead North Melbourne after Alastair Clarkson took a leave of absence nine games into his highly publicised stint at Arden St.
The toll of Hawthorn's ongoing racism investigation proved too much for Clarkson and he has opted to stand aside indefinitely.
But it has given Ratten a chance he thought would never come again.
Ratten was sacked by St Kilda last October, less than 100 days after signing a two-year contract extension when the Saints seemed on track to play finals.
St Kilda could not keep up their early-season form and finished 10th for the second straight year.
It was one of football's most brutal sackings, with the Saints steadfast in bringing prodigal son Ross Lyon back to the club after 11 years.
Ratten had been through it before, axed by Carlton in 2012 despite being the Blues' most successful coach in the past 20 years.
After three years playing finals, Carlton narrowly missed the top eight and moved to land veteran coach Mick Malthouse.
Ratten took the sacking admirably well, fronting up to a press conference in a Carlton shirt alongside the club's chief executive and president. He also coached out the final game of the season.
He moved on to Hawthorn, linking up with Clarkson and being a member of the club's coaching staff during the Hawks' 2013-15 premiership three-peat.
But just weeks before Hawthorn's 2015 triumph, Ratten endured unimaginable personal tragedy when his 16-year-old son Cooper was killed in a car accident.
Ratten has shown courageous and rare strength to open up about the pain of losing Cooper in the almost eight years since his death.
After Ratten's shock exit from the Saints, he was always going to be in demand at the other 17 AFL clubs.
The 51-year-old could take his pick of available assistant jobs, electing to reunite with Clarkson as the four-time premiership coach tried to rebuild North Melbourne.
Ratten joined the Kangaroos on a part-time basis to work with their midfield group.
But when Clarkson stepped down to take care of his health, North had no hesitation in giving the job to a man who has done it before.
"When I made the phone call I was half anticipating 'I'm not ready and I'm still dealing with my own history'," North Melbourne football boss Todd Viney said on Thursday.
"But without a split second – and I think this speaks to the character of the person – he (Ratten) said 'I'm prepared to step up for my mate and my club' without a second thought, so we're so grateful that he's done that.
"It certainly takes a lot of pressure off us as a club to know we have a person of his calibre to help us in this tough period of time."