Respected AFL pundit Kane Cornes has paid the ultimate compliment to Sam Mitchell after describing the Hawthorn coach as potentially "the best coach in the league right now". Mitchell has returned to pre-season training at Hawthorn after a personal ordeal while on holidays with his family in New York.
Mitchell spent Christmas in hospital after a serious bout of pneumonia and remained in the States until after the new year. The Hawks coach was eventually cleared to return home from New York with his family, who then suffered another setback when their passports and luggage were stolen en route home.
The third-year coach will make a 'transitioned' return to his role at Hawthorn after the nasty health ordeal and will do so with a glowing endorsement from Cornes. The Port Adelaide premiership great says despite Mitchell's record of 15 wins from 45 games in his previous two seasons in charge, he's seen enough from the Hawthorn mentor to suggest he could be the best coach in the business.
“This could be one of my big statements already..." Cornes said on SEN Breakfast. “Sam Mitchell could be the best coach in the league right now. We don’t yet know it, but we could look back and say he is the next Chris Scott.
“What he has done with what he has got is better than any other coach. The lack of tools that he has got and his ability to get his team to buy in to his game plan and system, and to have some big scalps like we saw last year with what he’s got... I couldn’t be any more impressed.”
The Hawks finished an underwhelming 2023 season in 16th place after recording just seven wins, but two of those came against premiers Collingwood and grand finalists Brisbane. Cornes clearly views Hawthorn as a club on the up under Mitchell and suggested that if a rival club was looking to go in a new coaching direction, then Mitchell would be the first man he'd target.
“He’d be the one I’d be trying to poach,” Cornes added. “Like a Ross Lyon-style Fremantle approach to get Sam Mitchell. He’d be the one I’d identify, not that Hawthorn will let him go.”
Sam Mitchell targeted by thieves on return home from USA
Mitchell revealed that he was still recovering but "feeling better" when he returned home to Melbourne from New York last month, with SEN reporter Sam Edmund later revealing details about how the Mitchell family were targeted by thieves during their journey home. “Some electronic stuff was taken, but also Sam’s passport was taken as well and maybe a couple of other passports in the family were taken as well," Edmund said on SEN radio.
"This is on the day, I believe, they were due to fly back to Melbourne as well." Police ultimately managed to get Mitchell's passport and luggage back to the family before their flight to Melbourne, which ended up being delayed. "In the end the delayed flight helped them because I’m told it was a pretty wild trip to the airport to make the flight by the time they got their passports and all their belongings back from the robbery, so understandably some very stressful moments," Edmund added.
Hawthorn kick off their 2024 season with a round 1 blockbuster against Essendon at the MCG on March 16. Their preparations leading into that season opener include a simulation match against the Western Bulldogs on February 23 before they meet the Dogs in the Community Series on March 2.
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