02/03/2024

Alastair Clarkson and Sam Mitchell celebrate premiership glory. (Photo: AFL)

Legendary Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson will part ways with the Hawks after 17 years and four premierships. With senior coaching jobs available at season's end, is the AFL ready to leave behind one of the league's greatest coaches?

With Hawthorn set to cut their coaching succession plan short, legendary coach Alastair Clarkson’s era will come to an end this weekend.

After the playing group addressed their concerns on the coach handover, the Hawks board prematurely pulled the plug on its succession plan.

A beloved figure at the club, Clarkson won four premierships in his 17 seasons as coach, turning a club that was on its knees into an AFL powerhouse.

It was a decision that was met with backlash from those outside of the club. Despite being on track for two bottom four finishes in consecutive seasons, the notion he’d outstayed his welcome was harsh.

The outcries since Clarkson announced he’d be leaving the club at the end of the season appear to be justified.

Since then, the Hawks have claimed victories over Brisbane, Collingwood and the Western Bulldogs and look a different side having turned into a pressure machine.

In the past month the side are ranked third in the competition for forward half turnovers, first for points from turnovers and rank second for points differential from turnovers.

Though a bewildering decision to call time on the accomplished coach’s tenure, his next coaching job doesn’t seem too far away.

Collingwood are currently on the hunt for its next senior coach, while Carlton’s internal review would suggest David Teague’s coaching days could be numbered.

Expected to be a hot commodity, here’s a look back at Clarkson’s Hawks reign and why the Blues and Magpies should be vying for his signature.

Clarkson celebrates just one of many premiership successes. (Photo: AFL)

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He knows how to rebuild

Clarkson is proven in rebuilding a squad. Appointed in 2004 to turn Hawthorn around, he’d win a premiership in 2008 before coaching the club’s famous three peat.

When Clarkson was appointed Hawks coach back in September of 2004, he inherited a club starved of success.

Despite prior Hawks coach Peter Schwab claiming his side had the quality to win the 2004 premiership, reality was the Hawks were a bottom four side and were aging fast.

Clarkson’s rebuild process was simple: move the veterans on and usher in a new era. And in his first draft he selected modern greats in Jarryd Roughead, Lance Franklin and Jordan Lewis to the club.

Exciting prospect Richard Tambling would be overlooked in the draft by the Hawks, with Clarkson insisting the need to draft key position players.

It would be a decision that would pay dividends in the long run.

In 2008, Clarkson reached the pinnacle, taking the Hawks from fourteenth in his first season to league premiers.

Key forwards Franklin and Roughead combined for 188 goals in the flag year, while Lewis was pivotal in the midfield alongside Luke Hodge and Sam Mitchell.

2008: The Year of Buddy
Franklin is swamped by fans after kicking his 100th goal in 2008. (Photo: Hawthorn FC)

Additionally, Clarkson would begin to show his coaching brilliance with innovative game plans known colloquially as ‘Buddy’s Box’ and ‘Clarko’s Cluster.’

In comparison, Terry Wallace who was interviewed but overlooked for the Hawks coaching job in 2004, floundered at Richmond in its rebuild.

Finishing bottom of the ladder in 2004, Wallace first year was hopeful, but would not bring success to the Tigers thereafter.

His heavy reliance on veterans Matthew Richardson and Nathan Brown wouldn’t prove successful, and Tambling was underwhelming.

By 2009 Wallace would be out of a job, while Clarkson would continue to evolve his game and deliver another three premierships.

There’s every chance that with Wallace in charge and not Clarkson, Hawthorn would still be without a flag since 1991.

With both Carlton and Collingwood boasting developing squads, Clarkson is primed to take on another rebuild if he joins either two clubs as coach.

He brings a winning culture

The coaching philosophies and styles of recent premiership coaches can be attributed to Clarkson.

Since 2013, four coaches have won premierships. One of which is Clarkson and the others his former assistants, implementing his teaching to other clubs.

Adam Simpson, after his stint as Hawks assistant coach would take the reins of West Coast and turn them into a powerhouse side, winning a premiership in 2018.

Damien Hardwick would take the Richmond job in 2010 and rebuild the struggling Tigers into a dynasty with three premierships in the past four years.

Luke Beveridge would end the Western Bulldogs premiership drought in 2016, taking the side from the bottom four to premiers in two seasons.

Lions coach Chris Fagan also worked alongside Clarkson as the Hawks general manager of football. In 2017 he took charge of a struggling side and turned them into a premiership contender.

Carlton’s last premiership came in 1995 and Collingwood’s 2010. With both teams starving for success, Clarkson can be influential in turning the fortunes of another struggling side.

He’s the best deal out there

While the possible coaching candidates for Carlton and Collingwood boast impressive resumes, none come close to the prestige of Clarkson.

And though he’s never been awarded as the coach of the year, his record most certainly speaks for itself.

In addition to his four premierships, Clarkson is the longest serving Hawthorn coach.

Coaching in the AFL is a cut throat environment, and while many coaches have come and gone since 2005, Clarkson has remained.

He’s a seasoned coach that has moved with the times, adjusting game plans when oppositions has figured the Hawks out or became outdated.

Modern, innovative and proven, if you’re an AFL club in need of a coach, there’s no one better positioned for the job.

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