When St Patrick's College coaching icon Howard Clark talks football, people listen. Mr Clark focuses on character and ability, in that order. Needless to say, he will not be tolerant if an individual lacks the former.
There is an inextricable bond between Mr Clark and the Melbourne Football Club, the organisation which recruited him when he was a teenager before ill health cruelly cut short his career. That bond was as strong as ever on Saturday evening.
"It was a remarkable game for the first two-and-a-half quarters," Mr Clark said, reliving the game. "When (Melbourne) broke it open, it was phenomenal. I thought they were gone. When the Bulldogs got to 19 points up, they had all the momentum. Bontempelli and a couple of others were getting on top. Melbourne didn't look like it."
Melbourne's on-ball division caught Mr Clark's eye when the red-and-blue grip on the premiership cup was slipping.
"(Luke) Jackson was a key to it. He jumped over the top of Stef Martin," Mr Clark said. "Petracca was phenomenal. Oliver doesn't play a bad game."
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True to his reputation as a fair man, Mr Clark heaped praise on the Western Bulldogs captain, Marcus Bontempelli.
"Isn't he a magnificent player, footballer and person, Bontempelli?" Mr Clark said. "You would like to think 'The Bont' will win a Brownlow at some stage. He will go down as one of the greats."
Demon veteran Tom McDonald, with whom Mr Clark has a strong relationship due to the forward's time as a school boy, was almost on the football scrap heap at the end of 2020. In 2021, McDonald was a player reborn, his after-the-siren goal the rich icing on a super-sweet cake. Mr Clark was overjoyed.
"It was humbling to see Tom achieve the goals he set out for himself," he said. "To combine his studies, and finishing a degree in commerce at Melbourne University, with playing 194 games and taking the ultimate prize in football, the premiership, it's a proud and humbling moment."
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