Hawthorn has officially confirmed the shock news that Sam Mitchell will take over as coach in 2022, with Alastair Clarkson to depart.
Speaking to the press on Friday afternoon, the club stated that Clarkson will see out the season, but will be ousted a year earlier than originally planned.
The Hawks originally put in place a succession plan for the master coach to hand over to Mitchell at the end of 2022 and both were adamant in stating they would stick to what was laid out.
That has now obviously all come crashing down.
Here’s what Clarkson had to say at the press conference:
“The purpose of our announcement today is to let you know I’m going to step aside from coaching the Hawthorn footy club at the end of this year,” Clarkson said.
“We’ve come to the realisation that this footy club needs some fresh air from 2022 onwards. It’s my view that the footy club needs to free itself from my shadow.
“I’m of the firm belief that only one coach can steer the club in its rightful direction. That belief has contributed to my decision today.
“Once the announcement was made 3-4 weeks ago about not renewing my contract, each time we had discussions (about the future), we all realised that it was best to get (Sam Mitchell) into the chair.
“We've had some difficult conversations over the past little while about how we could make this work.
“I’m extremely grateful for the relationships I have at this place, notably both Sam and I. I didn’t want this next year to potentially put that relationship in jeopardy. That was also first and foremost in my mind.
“This game spares no one.
“I’m really comfortable with where we are at. For anyone worrying about me, please don’t - I’m a big boy and I’m very proud of what we’ve been able to achieve here.”
Mitchell was next to take the podium, admitting it has been a strange process.
“I'm disappointed that we all end up here with a month to go, but I hope that we get the opportunity over the next month to give Clarko what he deserves,” he said.
“The direction my whole life has gone is through the passion that he’s helped me grow. I’m forever thankful for the position that he’s given me and having his blessing.”
When asked whether he would coach elsewhere in 2022…
“I’m just going to take a breath,” Clarkson said.
"I'm just going to take a breather. Right at the present time, my commitment is to have a spell and see where 2023 will take me.
“Its my time to ride off into the sunset and I’m really excited what the next chapter might bring. I’ve got no idea what it’ll be. I’m genuine in this - I don’t know if it will be in coaching or out of coaching. I don’t know if it will be in the AFL or out of the AFL.
"I think if I went back to the club and said listen, a fantastic offer has come up ... I think Jeff indicated that (the club wouldn't block me), but I'm not in that headspace.
“I don’t think I will (entertain offers in the next few weeks). I want to take a breath and see what the next chapter is for me. And as I said that might not even be in football.”
Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett was last to take the stage and comment.
"This is a momentous moment and we hope as a result of the goodwill that's been shown, we hope we now have clear air. We recognise we are a family club - and this is not the way a family normally behaves - this happens from time to time,” Kennett said.
“The beauty about this club is it has the capacity to continually confound those who make comments about them.
“I don’t think we have misled the members. We’ve done what we thought was the best thing. We thought it would work. As it turns out it has caused a lot of confusion.
“Clarko is getting every entitlement to which he is owed and which he deserves.”