Let me ask you this: how many nicknames should one person have in their lifetime? As a general rule of thumb, I would say one. One nickname should be enough. Take Alastair Clarkson, the senior AFL coach of the Hawthorn Football Club, for instance. Why do people insist on calling the man Clarko? He’s always had a perfectly good alias. It’s Addis… ok?

Footy - Hawthorn in Launceston

Tassie Hawks: Launceston (photo by Roger Findlay)

That’s Addis Clarkson. Not Clarko!

We’re not long-lost best-buddies, so don’t write to me asking for free tickets to the Hawthorn corporate box at the MCG. Addis Clarkson hails from Kaniva, a small country town in the Wimmera-Mallee region of Victoria. It’s the last town you’ll see before arriving at the South Australian border, driving from Melbourne to Adelaide. It’s a one-school town, and we were co-students. Until one of us (can you guess which one?) went off to boarding school in Ballarat and became a superstar athlete.

Some people claim Clarkson is the most famous sporting export from Kaniva. Roger Merrett, another Kaniva local and former Essendon and Brisbane footballer, might just get the nod from me. But either way, there’s no disputing the stellar career of Addis, for someone still so young. Did you notice how I subtly slipped in that positive reference, now I’ve revealed we are around-about the same age?

Addis Clarkson: Back At Kaniva High School

In the Kaniva High School yearbook*, Addis listed his ambition as “President of the United States”. You couldn’t get much more unrealistic than that, but I suppose it shows he aimed high! He listed his probable fate as an “uneducated beach bum”, and his aversion as “school”… neither of those predictions could be further from reality either. I believe he has a Masters Degree in Business Administration from Monash University, so he clearly found the time and inclination to study as well as play footy.

Typical of many high school boys, his first love was recorded as… “sport”. Often the case with elite athletes, Addis was not only a star at footy. He was an accomplished cricketer too. In fact, I can even picture a teenage Clarkson running amok around Kaniva on a Saturday night, still in his cricket whites. While his slightly older sister Ruth was quiet and sensible (just like me!) Addis was mischievous (to say the least) but nonetheless popular with his peers and most adults.

Tasmanian Teams: From Kangaroos to Hawks

The rise of Clarkson through the ranks from player to coach in the AFL has been well documented. He was recruited to the North Melbourne Kangaroos in 1987 when the league was still based entirely in Victoria. I have a vague recollection of Addis kicking the winning goal after the siren in his first senior match… but that could be just a fabrication. Who doesn’t want the home-town lad to be a hero?

I have another vague recollection of Clarkson breaking the jaw of a Carlton opponent during an international exhibition match. I hope that’s an unreliable memory. His reputation as an “angry man” almost defies belief. I recall a confident but friendly boy, always sporting a broad smile. Let’s put any wall-punching in the Hawthorn coaching box down to white-line fever, shall we?

And let’s stop calling him Clarko, when his name is Addis. No wonder he’s angry!

*Thanks to Janet Kuchel for digging out this information about Addis Clarkson from the Kaniva High School year book for me. Kaniva College (as it’s now known) is a P-12 government school in the West Wimmera region.

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