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Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson has admitted players were left disappointed by the sudden announcement of the club's coaching succession plan several weeks ago.
The Hawks announced former premiership player and current assistant coach Sam Mitchell would take over the head coaching job following the conclusion of the 2022 season.
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The move backfired slightly in the weeks afterwards however, with rumours of tension between the pair coinciding with a series of poor performances.
After the Hawks turned in one of their more impressive seasons to force a draw with ladder leaders Melbourne on Thursday night, Clarkson was remarkably honest about the impact the plan had taken on the players.
Speaking to reporters after the match, he admitted players had been left 'disappointed' by the way things had transpired and ended speculation he could walk away before the 2022 season.
"The players, until you can ... look them in the eye and say 'I'm staying I'm not going anywhere'. They should have known that from me in the first instance when it was said," he said.
"But because there's so much scrutiny and speculation, they sometimes tend to think 'I wonder if he might go'.
"The McEvoys, the O'Mearas, the Bruests, the Shiels ... they know me very well and knew I was rock solid. For the younger guys it's a bit more difficult for them to work their way through that."
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Clarkson said he was "disappointed" about the way things have transpired in what should be an exciting time for the club.
"We understood of course that there would be speculation. I laugh at it in one way because if they're saying that, they don't really know me well," he said on Friday.
"I'll see through my commitment. I've always been that way. Once you make a commitment to someone you follow it through to the end.
"My commitment to Sam Mitchell is through to the end of next year. That commitment was made 17 years ago when I walked into the Hawthorn Football Club.
"Sam has paid me back in spades and ... it's my turn now to try to help him be a senior coach."
Mitchell on Wednesday denied suggestions he was trying to push Clarkson out of the job, rejecting reports the pair's meeting with Hawthorn powerbrokers last week was set out for mediation.
Clarkson said a decision to have him focus solely on day-to-day operations and assign Mitchell to future planning was a mistake and has undergone a shake-up.
"It's Sam and I looking after now and what's going on in the future," Clarkson said.
"There'll be a bit of tension along the way, but we're going to do it together. I don't know any marriage, business partnership where there isn't healthy tension in terms of having discussions about the path forward.
"We've never been backward in speaking our mind within the walls of the footy club."
Mitchell left Hawthorn at the end of 2016 in a trade to West Coast but returned to the Hawks as an assistant coach after a phone call from Clarkson in 2018.
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