Alastair Clarkson is set to chalk up his 500th AFL/VFL game in his playing and coaching career this Sunday against the Saints.

From the 19-year-old who made his debut 33 years ago for the Kangaroos, to the man who has become one of the most revered coaches in AFL history – what an incredible journey it has been.

Recruited from a Victorian country town named Kaniva, Clarkson joined North Melbourne in 1987, where he honed his craft under the guidance of Coach John Kennedy Snr.

Clarkson played 93 games across nine seasons with the Roos, predominately through the midfield or at half forward.

In 1996, he was traded to the Demons and made an immediate impact, averaging 23.5 disposals across his 22 games that year. 

At the end of 1997, Clarkson called time on his playing career, hanging up the boots with 134 games to his name. 

Then comes our favourite part… but we may be a little biased!

After coaching roles with St Kilda (1999), Werribee (2000), Central Districts (2001-02) and Port Adelaide (2003-04), Clarkson was appointed Hawthorn senior coach ahead of the 2005 season, and tasked with leading the club’s rebuilding phase. 

He overhauled the club’s list and introduced new styles of play, including systems that became known as ‘Buddy’s Box’ and ‘Clarko’s Cluster’. 

Each season under Clarkson saw the Hawks’ ladder position improve.

Finally, in his fourth year at the helm, Hawthorn broke a 17-year premiership drought, defeating the Cats in the 2008 grand final. Clarkson’s grand final game plan was widely admired, as he famously encouraged his players to ‘kill the shark’, in a pre-game speech that will go down in footy folklore.

After narrowly missing finals the following season, Clarkson then coached his Hawks to seven consecutive finals campaigns (2010-2016), including four consecutive grand finals (2012-2015) and three consecutive premierships (2013-2015), making him one of the most decorated senior coaches of all time. 

In 2017, Clarkson surpassed his mentor, John Kennedy Snr (299 games), as the longest serving Hawthorn coach.

An incredible custodian of the brown and gold, whose footy smarts, passion and genuine love for the game are there for all to see.

Congratulations on 500 games, Clarko. Thanks for the memories!