Earlier this month, the Hawks - led by president Jeff Kennett - announced a succession plan which would see club legend Sam Mitchell take over as coach from Clarkson at the conclusion of next season. However, there were reports that neither Clarkson nor Mitchell were happy with the terms of the agreement. Meetings were held following Round 20 involving CEO Justin Reeves and football director Richie Vandenberg, as well as members of the senior leadership group, who communicated the situation wasn't working.
According to one report, Clarko has agreed to a full payout of his contract, Ahead of Round 19, Clarkson said, “On six occasions I’ve signed a contract with this club, and on everyone, it was in sickness or in health, we’re going to continue until the end of the contract,” Clarkson explained to reporters ahead of Round 19. In lots of this journey we’ve been in a healthy position, but like in life, there’ll be times when it’s a challenge. Once I was no longer going to be the coach of the Hawthorn Football Club at the end of next year, the skeptics were saying ‘he’ll move straight away. “(It’s) in sickness or in health for me. I’m going to continue on and do this role until the end of next year.”
Just days before, Mitchell denied the handover was being brought forward - a move it is believed was at the request of Clarkson. Mitchell said on SEN Radio, “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. We’re working on all of these little details and that’s part of what a good organization does. It plans for the future. Right now we’re 17th on the ladder and everyone at Hawthorn is working so hard … and yet all of these people (in the media) who have a genuine lack of knowledge about the internal workings. There’s all this ‘I spoke to this person at the club’. I find it very hard to believe that anyone who is speaking to anyone at the club would say we don’t get along because it’s not a reality.”
Suspicions were raised when a scheduled press conference was canceled. Then Clarkson and Mitchell fronted cameras together for the official announcement after the news broke that Clarkson would depart. Clarkson said, “The club needs to free itself from my shadow. I’m a firm believer that only one coach can steer a playing group." We all realized that it was best to get this bloke (Mitchell) into the coaching chair.” Clarkson, 53, said he would take a break before considering his future.
Many outside the club believe Clarkson has been treated unfairly, "It's an unmitigated disaster," Gerard Whateley told SEN in the immediate aftermath, "(Club president) Jeff Kennett believes he is cleverer than every other person in the room, and he fancies himself as a master politician. He has failed Hawthorn on absolutely every front as he has tried to maneuver this." Kennett himself told the media that he was taking full responsibility for any confusion created by the original succession plan.
Hawthorn fans took to Twitter to voice their displeasure at Kennett for the way he handled it all
“One of our best ever coaches deserved a better sendoff than that. His contract should have at least been honored but it's Kennett's way or the highway it seems.”
“It’s a real pity that the State of Victoria could rid itself of Kennett but very sad that the @HawthornFC cannot rid itself of this person. Time for the CEO & Board to do something.”
“This is sickening. Can’t even put [it] into words. Best coach of the modern era treated like this. Kennett has seriously soured our club.”
“Losing Clarkson but having to keep Kennett seems like a lose/lose situation #afl #hawthorn”
“Not content with wrecking Victoria, @jeff_kennett now working hard to destroy Hawthorn. Letting someone of the quality of Alistair Clarkson go is just unbelievable. Kennett's ego is out of control yet again”
After Mitchell, who spent one season with the Eagles, retired at the end of 2017, he returned to Hawthorn as an assistant coach. He also coached Hawthorn's VFL side Box Hill and has also served as the head of development.
Source: sen.com.au, msn.com.au, thewest.com.au, AFL Record Season Guide
Article last changed on Thursday, August 12, 2021 - 7:13 PM EDT