Sam Mitchell will take over as Hawthorn coach beginning in 2023, the players have been told, marking the end of Alastair Clarkson’s 17-year reign.
Mitchell, who was out of contract at the end of this season, will replace Clarkson when the four-time premiership coach’s contract expires after 2022.
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Players were stunned when Clarkson informed them of the news. He told them he will be focused purely on 2022, while Mitchell will be more concerned with the mid to long term.
“Hawthorn Football Club has announced it will implement a succession plan which will see Alastair Clarkson coach out his current contract, before handing the senior coaching reigns to Sam Mitchell from 2023,” the club said in a statement.
“Clarkson will coach out his current contract continuing to lead the Hawks for the remainder of the 2021 and the 2022 season, with Mitchell continuing as Head of Development and Box Hill Hawks senior coach for that same period.
“The club had previously committed to having these discussions at season’s end but with the changes in the coaching landscape over recent weeks, the timeline of these conversations was accelerated.”
After Mitchell retired from his playing career, which saw him tally 329 games across Hawthorn and West Coast and win the 2012 Brownlow Medal, he went straight into coaching.
He was an assistant in the Eagles’ 2018 flag campaign before returning to the Hawks for 2019, where he remains, most recently coaching the Box Hill Hawks VFL side. Mitchell turns 39 in October.
Mitchell and Clarkson have worked together on the coaching panel for the last two and a half seasons. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)Source:Getty Images
The 53-year-old Clarkson is widely regarded as one of the greatest coaches in VFL-AFL history. Since taking over in 2005, he has led the Hawks to a dynastic run of four premierships – including three in a row between 2013 and 2015.
Nine of his former assistants have gone on to be a senior AFL coach, either as caretaker or full-time, including premiership coaches Damien Hardwick, Luke Beveridge and Adam Simpson.
“Understanding nothing lasts forever, the decision to finish my time at Hawthorn at the end of my current contract was the best path forward for the club long-term,” Clarkson said.
“We are all temporary custodians of the brown and gold, and we do our best to serve the colours well during our tenure. I am proud of what we have achieved as a club over the past 17 years.
“At the end of last year, we made a decision to lay the foundations for the next wave of success at Hawthorn. That work has already begun, we are beginning to see glimmers of what the future Hawthorn side will look like, and I am committed to playing my part in continuing this work until the end of next season.
“My philosophy has always been to give my assistant coaches the responsibilities and opportunities they need to achieve their career aspirations. Sam is on this journey and the period of transition between Sam and I provides further opportunity for him to develop as he prepares to step into the senior coach role.”
This will be the fifth AFL coaching handover in recent history. John Longmire won the 2012 flag after succeeding Paul Roos at Sydney, while Simon Goodwin is yet to do the same at Melbourne.
Nathan Buckley famously took over from Mick Malthouse for the 2012 season in a problematic process, taking Collingwood to the 2018 Grand Final before stepping down himself last month.
Most recently, Essendon coach Ben Rutten was a senior assistant to John Worsfold in 2020, taking more senior responsibilities as the year went on.
– with Max Laughton
Originally published asLegendary AFL coach’s stunning move
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