AFL legend 'gobsmacked' by 'crazy' Hawthorn announcement

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·Sports Reporter
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Jason Dunstall, left, is unsure whether Sam Mitchell, right, is the right man for Hawthorn's coaching job.
Hawthorn great Jason Dunstall says the Hawks' hiring of premiership star Sam Mitchell to replace veteran coach Alastair Clarkson is a risky move. Pictures: Fox Footy/Getty Images

Hawthorn legend Jason Dunstall has cast doubt over the wisdom of the coaching succession plan announced by the club on Tuesday.

The Hawks revealed longtime premiership coach Alastair Clarkson would step down at the end of the season, with former premiership player Sam Mitchell to take over in 2022.

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Mitchell, who played under Clarkson after he was named coach in 2005, was an assistant coach for West Coast in their 2018 premiership season before returning to Hawthorn in the same role.

However Dunstall, who was part of the Hawthorn administration which elevated Clarkson to the head coaching job, said he was 'gobsmacked' by the move.

The four-time premiership winner said the club risked placing rookie coach Mitchell under unwarranted pressure.

“I was gobsmacked by the news when I heard it today. I didn’t know it was coming,” he told Fox Footy’s AFL 360.

“I was very, very surprised.

“It’s a bold decision, is what it is. It’s brave — knowing you’re giving up the best coach in the modern era who I think still has plenty of currency — gee you’re placing a lot of faith and pressure on Sam Mitchell.

“But only time will tell if it was the right decision.

“It’s a brave, bold decision. It’s probably not one I would have made.”

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Fellow panellist Mark Robinson was also taken aback by the succession plan.

Previous attempts to move from one coach to another, such as Collingwood's Nathan Buckley/Mick Malthouse swap and Essendon's John Worsfold/Ben Rutten handover, have yielded mixed success.

However Robinson felt Hawthorn lost out by making Clarkson, already in high demand, available to rivals.

“I think it’s a crazy decision,” he said.

“I can’t get my head around that Hawthorn have chosen to go with an untried coach ahead of a four-time premiership winning coach.”

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Clarkson will part ways with Hawthorn after four premierships in 18 seasons, setting in motion another chase from rival clubs for the most decorated coach of the modern era.

The 53-year-old believes the upcoming scenario will be no different to most during his career, which has constantly seen him linked to other teams.

"I don't mean to say this in a manner that portrays arrogance or ego, but I've had plenty of opportunities over the journey to move," Clarkson said in a media briefing.

"Including a significant offer from North Melbourne last year, which (Sydney coach John Lomgmire) and I were heavily courted by North Melbourne."

Alastair Clarkson and Sam Mitchell won multiple premierships together as coach and player. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
Alastair Clarkson and Sam Mitchell won multiple premierships together as coach and player. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Clarkson is non-committal on his plans post-Hawthorn, with Mitchell to continue coaching the Hawks' VFL affiliate Box Hill next year.

"My moral obligation is the commitment I made to the players and to the club and that is through to the end of next year," Clarkson said.

"At the end of next year, I'm hoping to be able to take a breath and see what life looks like.

"What I call the five Fs - family, football, friends, my farm and fitness.

"Unfortunately because of footy, the other four are compromised. I'm embarrassed to say that."

Hawthorn's move to secure Mitchell came with the former Hawks skipper in talks with Collingwood about their vacant coaching position.

He showed interest in replacing Nathan Buckley but informed the Magpies in recent days he would be pulling out of the interview process.

With AAP

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