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 reins to Sam Mitchell from 2023.

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. 

Clarkson was appointed as Hawthorn’s senior coach ahead of the 2005 season and tasked with leading the club’s rebuilding phase. In the 17 years since, he has coached a total of 357 games for the brown and gold, 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. Clarkson is the club’s longest serving senior coach. 

Clarkson said that at the heart of the decision is what’s best for the future of the Hawthorn Football Club.

“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.”

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Hawthorn's Coaching Future | Full Press Conference

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 reins to Sam Mitchell from 2023.

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Hawthorn President Jeff Kennett acknowledged the remarkable impact Alastair has had on Hawthorn. 

“Alastair sits in esteemed company alongside John Kennedy Snr and Allan Jeans as our most successful coaches. He will always be part of the fabric at Hawthorn,” Kennett said.

“To me, Alastair has always been a teacher and the most educated coach in the AFL, with a unique ability to infuse this wisdom among his players. Part of his role next year will be to better prepare Sam for his future responsibilities.

“The Board and I see the same attributes in Sam. He is clearly ready to prove himself. Another year at Box Hill and continuing to work with Alastair before taking over the role at the end of next year will be the perfect preparation for him to step into the role of senior coach of our great club.

“It is the responsibility of your Board to plan and structure the transition of personnel within the club. These transitions must take place and should always occur as naturally and as orderly as possible. We at Hawthorn are doing that now.

“Alastair has served us well in his time at Hawthorn, but we must put our emotions into second place and make the tough but right calls for our club’s future.”

Sam Mitchell was drafted to Hawthorn in 2001, the premiership captain played 307 games in the brown and gold before departing for West Coast in 2016 to seek experience outside the walls of Waverley. Returning to the club in 2019 as an assistant coach, Mitchell then stepped into the dual role of Head of Development and Box Hill senior coach at the end of 2020.

Mitchell is excited for the future at Hawthorn and is embracing the opportunity to continue to work alongside Clarkson over the next period of time before stepping in as senior coach at the end of the 2022 season.

“I am looking forward to continuing my work in developing our young crop of players and coaching the Box Hill side over the next 18 months,” Mitchell said.

“Development is an area of football that I am incredibly passionate about and I am confident that over the next 18 months we will continue to see more and more of what our young players are capable of.”