Hawthorn’s internal crisis takes surprising new twist

Sam Mitchell has moved quickly to quash any talk of him wanting Alastair Clarkson to vacate the head coaching position at Hawthorn a year ahead of schedule.

Reports swirled earlier this week that Mitchell was hoping to shove Clarkson aside and take up the reins at the Hawks in 2022 instead of 2023, such is the succession planned by the club for Mitchell.

But when quizzed whether there was any truth to that scenario, the 38-year-old emphatically denied that was the case.

“Absolutely not,” Mitchell told SEN.

“That has not happened.

“We’ve been working on some form of succession plan for such a long period of time, if you’ll do me the privilege, I’ll explain how long ago this started and how it’s still all on track. There’s still plenty to work out, of course.

“In 2016 when I left to go to West Coast, Clarko said ‘it will be great for him, he’s got coaching aspirations to get some experience at a new club’, then he rang me halfway through 2018 and said ‘it would be great for you to come back, it would be ideal if you took over from me at some stage, no promises, but it would be a great situation for us, so let’s try and work towards that.’”

Mitchell will take over as the Hawks’ head coach in 2023. Picture: Daniel Pockett / AFL Photos via Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

Clarkson has delivered an incredible amount of success for the Hawks since he took over as head coach in 2005, winning four premierships in his tenure. He led the club to three consecutive flags in 2013, 2014 and 2015, but has failed to win one since.

Mitchell revealed that as soon as he knew Clarkson would not be continuing on as Hawks coach in 2023, it shaped as the perfect plan for him to commence his head coaching career.

“I said I’ve built such a strong relationship and it’s been the plan for such a long period of time and now it’s coming around,” Mitchell said.

“For me, I’m a little bit bemused by the whole situation.

“I’ve been working with Clarko for the best part of 20 years consistently, but apparently we still don’t get along.”

A meeting involving Mitchell, Clarkson and club officials was touted as the moment the former aired his wish to take over in 2022, but he believes nothing was said that indicated such a scenario.

Clarkson has been the Hawks’ head coach since 2005. Picture: Daniel Pockett / AFL Photos via Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

“Everyone talks about that meeting like it was a one-off or the only time we’ve ever met,” Mitchell said.

“I heard some of the media reports talking about it and it's like, if you’re in an organisation like Hawthorn, you are going to have all of these discussions all of the time and if you all agree on everything, then what’s the point having so many people doing it?

“You have to have people with differing views all of the time.

“Everything we are working towards is Clarko coaching next year and me maintaining the role which I love, working with these young fellas and watching them progress and now a heap of them are getting games at the moment and I’m absolutely loving that.”

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