Alastair Clarkson has today confirmed reports from The Age and AFL.com.au that he will step down as Hawthorn coach at the end of this season.
At a hastily-organised press conference, Clarkson admitted the club’s performance had been “nowhere near” the level expected and that club needed “fresh air” from next season onwards.
He felt that having two coaches in charge would lead to a disjointed message in 2022 and that it’d be unfair on Sam Mitchell and the playing group.
Clarkson said the club had a “lot of hard work to do” to get back to the level they want to be at and that they didn’t want to “tread water” for 12 months.
The four-time premiership initially shot down any rumours of him moving into a new coaching role next season – but did leave the possibility of a new job in 2023 open and then eventually admitted he would be allowed to coach elsewhere next season and appeared to allude he would do so if “a really great offer” materialised.
A meeting between senior players and club management on Wednesday reportedly saw the players inform management the situation was crumbling and that Clarkson and Mitchell could no longer work together amicably.
Clarkson’s relationship with colourful club president Jeff Kennett and CEO Justin Reeves has also reportedly deteriorated.
The Hawks had previously announced a succession plan that would see Clarkson leave the Hawks at the end of next season, with club legend Sam Mitchell to ascend to the role full-time beginning in 2023.
But the wisdom of that plan was questioned almost immediately by many in the media, none more so Age reporter and Footy Classified panelist Caroline Wilson. She reported early on that the succession plan had caused friction between Clarkson, Mitchell and the playing group and that mediation sessions had to be held almost immediately.
Despite being heavily criticised for her reports, Wilson stood by them and now appears to have been vindicated.
The Roar’s own Cameron Rose said that if Mitchell was indeed the right man for the job, there was little point waiting until 2023 to pull the trigger.
Clarkson has long been the speculation of rumours elsewhere, too. Collingwood are looking for a full time replacement for Nathan Buckley, while Carlton are also currently performing a review of David Teague’s position.
Clarkson joined Hawthorn way back in 2005, having previously served as an assistant coach under Mark Williams in Port Adelaide’s premiership-winning 2004 team.
In an incredible sign of his tenure, his last game as Port Adelaide assistant was Damien Hardwick’s last game as a player. Hardwick will become the longest current-tenured coach when Clarkson departs.
After two tough years lifting an inexperienced Hawks side off the bottom of the ladder, they burst onto the scene with a run to the semi-finals in 2007.
They stunned the footy world with an incredible upset of Geelong in the 2008 grand final, but regressed badly after that – missing the finals altogether in 2009 and exiting in the first week in 2010.
A narrow preliminary final loss in 2011 and a heartbreaking grand final defeat in 2012 led to speculation Kennett would move Clarkson on, but the coach cemented his status as a legend of the game after that by delivering three consecutive premierships.
They finished in the top four in 2016 and looked a real chance of nabbing a historic fourth straight flag, but went out in straight sets and never won a final again in Clarko’s reign.
They dropped to 12th in 2017 before rebounding back into the top four in 2018 – but again went out in straight sets.
2019 saw them finish ninth, before a return to the bottom four last season. Hawthorn currently sit 17th on the ladder, only nine percentage points out of last.