Alastair Clarkson has declared it’s now over to Sam Mitchell to create his own vision for Hawthorn, as he reaffirmed a desire to take a break from coaching.
On a drama-filled day when Clarkson’s 17 seasons and 390 matches as Hawthorn coach came to an end with a draw against Richmond at a closed MCG, he crashed Damien Hardwick’s post-match press conference, shared a laugh, and also took a slight dig at Carlton.
Alastair Clarkson and Damien Hardwick embrace after a dramatic draw.Credit:Getty Images
Amid much banter between the two great mates who have a combined seven premierships as senior coaches, both men endorsed Craig McRae as a strong candidate for the vacant Collingwood coaching position.
McRae is considered the frontrunner among the candidates who have been interviewed by the Magpies so far, but they are still awaiting an answer from Clarkson and Don Pyke as to whether they are interested in the role.
Clarkson didn’t directly answer when asked whether he would field a call from the Magpies or Carlton, the latter expected to sack David Teague as early as Sunday, but maintained he was still leaning towards a year off.
“I have enjoyed this caper for 17 years. As I said … unfortunately, what has been said in the last three or four weeks, hasn’t ended up materialising over the following couple of days,” Clarkson said on Saturday.
“It’s difficult to say … but my intention is to have a spell from the game to assess. My family and the extended network around me … have made an enormous sacrifice for me to do what I have done for the last 17 years. It’s not just 17 years, I have been chasing this AFL dream for 45 years … I have been coaching the last 25.
Alastair Clarkson and Sam Mitchell during the Hawks’ clash with the Lions.Credit:AFL Photos
“I am happy to pass the baton on to ‘Mitch’ as the next coach of our footy club. To be fair, I would like to spend the next 12 months working out what the next chapter is, but I have said all along that chapter might be inside of footy, outside of footy, inside the AFL, outside the AFL, inside Australia, outside Australia.”
Hardwick said he expected to see Clarkson at another club in the near future.
“I presume so, I don’t think he will ever be lost to the game,” he said.
“That’s the thing. You have one of the greatest minds of the modern era sitting beside me. He will take a moment, take a breath, then get back into something. If it’s coaching, it’s coaching, but he has a lot of things he can do.”
Alastair Clarkson and Shaun Burgoyne leave the MCG for the final time in Hawks colours.Credit:AFL Photos
Clarkson will be paid out about $900,000 by the Hawks, despite not coaching his final season.
After much tumult over a succession plan which was ultimately abandoned, Clarkson enjoyed three wins and a draw in his final month at the Hawks, the latter after the Tigers booted the final five goals, the last by Jack Riewoldt with two seconds remaining.
It’s now over to Mitchell to guide the Hawks through a new era.
“For mine, it’s a baton change. I think we have been able to show in the second half of the year there is enough emerging talent at our footy club to move forward,” Clarkson said.
“Mitch has got to work out what his vision is for the footy club, where he wants to take it. It’s his responsibility now to write a new chapter for the Hawthorn footy club. There has been some great chapters written. I have been really fortunate to be a part of the last one – it’s time for us to renew and get a new chapter written.”
McRae is currently an assistant at Hawthorn, having also spent time with Hardwick at Punt Rd. Both men endorsed the former triple premiership-winning Brisbane Lion.
Hardwick said McRae was well-drilled, incredibly smart, and articulate, while also endorsing Adam Kingsley, his senior assistant, for the Magpies role.
Clarkson backed both men, saying their experiences from working at multiple clubs in various roles held them in good stead. He then took a veiled swipe at the Blues for their lack of club “alignment”.
“I could have been sacked after my second or third year. Dimma nearly was after the end of 2016,” Clarkson said.
“That’s the unfortunate part we hear out of Carlton at the moment with Teaguey – you just wish clubs would hold their line on this a little bit.”
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