Hawthorn’s contentious succession plan has become untenable after less than a month, with legendary coach Alastair Clarkson to exit the Hawks at the end of the AFL season.
The Hawks have brought forward Clarkson’s planned departure by a year, with the four-time premiership coach to hand over the reins to Sam Mitchell after the club’s round 23 game against Richmond.
Hawthorn president, Jeff Kennett, refuted claims he and other senior staff misled members with their coaching handover and caused friction within the club.
‘We’ve come to the realisation that this footy club needed some fresh air from 2022 onwards,’ Alastair Clarkson said
Hawthorn President Jeff Kennett (pictured right) has explained the clubs early dumping of legendary AFL coach Alastair Clarkson as the club believes it will do more harm than good to keep him in the job till the end of the season
‘No I don’t think we’ve misled the members, we’ve done what we thought was the best thing. We thought it would work – as it turned out it’s caused a lot of confusion, no one is perfect, I accept responsibility for that and we adjust,’ Mr Kennett said in a press conference.
Hawthorn announced on July 6 that the most decorated coach of the modern era would remain in charge throughout the 2022 season and Mitchell would continue leading the Hawks’ VFL team Box Hill.
Clarkson, Mitchell and Hawthorn have all been adamant that the plan would work and have hit out at reports saying otherwise.
But the club conceded this week during a series of meetings that the prolonged handover would do more harm than good and have opted to cut ties soon rather than allow Clarkson to coach into an 18th season.
The 53-year-old fronted a press conference with Mitchell at Waverley Park on Friday afternoon.
‘We’ve come to the realisation that this footy club needed some fresh air from 2022 onwards,’ Clarkson said.
‘I’m so grateful to the club and for the opportunity that I’ve had and for the support I’ve had from the Hawthorn people.
‘I hope all that support that I’ve had gets transferred straight on ‘Mitch’ and the really important task they’ve got in rebuilding our footy club.’
Clarkson (pictured) will be replaced after Hawthorn’s round 23 clash with Richmond, but was meant to remain coach until the end of the season
Clarkson said he would take time out to consider whether he continues in football after ‘riding off into the sunset’.
But he admitted he would no longer be contractually obliged to Hawthorn and could coach elsewhere next year if he wanted.
‘Now I’ve got 12 months to sit back and take a breath and work out what the second half of my life is going to look like,’ he said.
Clarkson has previously been linked to the vacant Collingwood coaching position, while this decision could tempt Carlton to make a call on under-fire coach David Teague, amid the Blues’ external review.
After taking the reins at Hawthorn in 2005, Clarkson coached the Hawks to the 2008 premiership, then a three-peat between 2013 and 2015, with Mitchell playing in all four flags.
The announcement comes a week after Clarkson delivered an impassioned monologue during his weekly press conference, emphasising his dedication to helping Mitchell.
‘I’ll see through my commitment. I’ve always been that way. Once you make a commitment to someone you follow it through to the end,’ Clarkson said last Friday.
Mitchell pulled out of the running for Collingwood’s coach, vacated by Magpies legend Nathan Buckley, ahead of the succession plan announcement.
Sam Mitchell (pictured with Clarkson) will take over the coaching duties of Hawthorn, and the pair fronted the media for a press conference
Both Clarkson and Mitchell actively denied reports of a rift between the pair in recent weeks.
Mitchell claimed in an SEN interview last week that speculation was ‘disrespectful’ and he was ‘pissed off’ about claims of a deteriorating relationship between the two.
Hawks president Jeff Kennett has also been vocal in criticising reports about any unrest at the club but on Friday admitted the situation had become untenable.
‘This is a momentous moment in the life of a football club,’ Kennett said.
‘We hope that as a result of the goodwill shown by all parties that we now have clear air.
‘I say that in particular for the players, who for the last two or three weeks, have been confused.
‘We recognise that while we are a family club, and this hasn’t been the most traditional way of a family to behave. It does happen from time to time.’