Hawthorn coaching handover was doomed from the start

Add Hawthorn's handling of Alistair Clarkson to the list of succession plans that haven't worked. Photo: Grant Viney/AFL Photos via Getty Images
Add Hawthorn's handling of Alistair Clarkson to the list of succession plans that haven't worked. Photo: Grant Viney/AFL Photos via Getty Images

Hawthorn's coaching succession plan was designed with the best intentions but was destined to fall apart.

When you're dealing with proud, stubborn men with egos such as Alastair Clarkson, Sam Mitchell and Jeff Kennett, it was never going to end well.

There have been a few notable exceptions, but succession plans for coaches rarely work.

The Hawks handled this handover appallingly, culminating in last Friday's awkward media conference as Clarkson, Mitchell and Kennett made a valiant but ultimately unsuccessful attempt to explain the sudden turn of events that forced the handover to be brought forward to next season.

Since the plan was announced last month, the trio consistently denied speculation it would not proceed, with the Hawks adamant that Clarkson would be in charge next season and Mitchell his understudy before taking over in 2023.

It is easy in hindsight, but the problem with the succession plan can be traced back to the end of 2018, when Mitchell returned to Victoria for family reasons after a stint as an assistant with West Coast.

The Hawks viewed Mitchell as Clarkson's heir apparent and immediately took him back.

But it would have been far more beneficial for Mitchell to complete his apprenticeship with another Victorian club before returning to Hawthorn and eventually taking over from the four-time premiership coach.

Mitchell's return to Hawthorn placed tremendous pressure on Clarkson, Kennett and others in positions of authority.

The big questions remain - what is Clarkson's next move? Will he coach next season? If so, where?

There are family considerations - his son Matt will complete high school next year - but the passion is still there.

Plenty of offers will come Clarkson's way, but my feeling is his next move is to the struggling Gold Coast.

The AFL is desperate for Gold Coast to succeed, and Clarkson previously worked alongside Suns CEO Mark Evans at Hawthorn.

Maybe Clarkson could become coaching director to help senior coach Stuart Dew, who also has a long-standing relationship with him.

Clarkson deserves to be sent off in style by Hawthorn in the remaining three games - he has made a massive contribution as coach for 17 seasons.

Ariarne Titmus is a successful Tassie export. Photo: Clive Rose/Getty Images

Ariarne Titmus is a successful Tassie export. Photo: Clive Rose/Getty Images


Ariarne Titmus is well on the way to becoming Tasmania's greatest international sportsperson after her magnificent achievements in the pool at the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Australia's latest swimming star spent her formative years in Launceston before moving with her family to Queensland six years ago to pursue her Olympic dream.

While the glorious deeds of Ricky Ponting and David Boon on the cricket field made them Tasmania's favourite sons, their achievements are not as widely recognised worldwide as Titmus because their sport is limited to a few countries.

Australia's current Test captain Tim Paine and former Test bowler and prominent media commentator Max Walker, who also played football for Melbourne, are also famous Tasmanians.

Tasmania has a proud tradition of producing some of the AFL's greatest players.

Darrel Baldock, Peter Hudson, Royce Hart, Ian Stewart, Matthew Richardson, Brent Crosswell, Peter Jones, John Greening, Graham Wright, Verdun Howell, Rodney Eade, Robert Shaw, Jack Riewoldt and Nick Riewoldt are among those who have left a huge mark on the VFL/AFL.

Two current coaches, Chris Fagan (Brisbane) and David Noble (North Melbourne), as well as another former senior coach Brendon Bolton, also hail from the Apple Isle.

Baldock and Hudson already have statues in their honour in Tasmania and the impressive Launceston Leisure and Aquatic Centre appeals as an ideal place to pay tribute to Titmus, but it is too early for that yet.

Titmus has her sights on competing in the Paris Olympics in three years, when she hopes to resume her rivalry with the great American Katie Ledecky.


No one appreciated Titmus' efforts more than her coach Dean Boxall and it was hard to fathom the criticism he copped for his joyful celebration after the swimmer's first gold medal.

Boxall channelled his favourite wrestler The Ultimate Warrior as he celebrated Titmus' victory over Ledecky in the 400m freestyle final.

The blond-haired coach might have been in the wrong area and removed his face mask in this era of COVID-driven caution.

But you could understand his unbridled delight at Titmus' performance and those precious journalists/commentators admonishing his behaviour were out of line.

Sport needs colourful characters and Boxall's celebration was entirely appropriate.


While Titmus has become a household name, her stellar efforts were overshadowed by Dolphins teammate Emma McKeon, who won four gold and three bronze medals.

By winning seven medals in Tokyo to go with the four she won in Rio de Janeiro five years ago, McKeon has won more Olympic medals than any other Australian, surpassing the nine won by Ian Thorpe and Leisel Jones.

McKeon, 27, took the monumental achievement in her stride, displaying the grace and humility of a champion.

Apart from the heroics in the pool, there has been plenty to cheer about for Australia, including Jessica Fox's breakthrough gold in the C1 canoe slalom final.

Has Howard got it right? Email: howardkotton11@gmail.com; Twitter: @hpkotton59.

This story Hawthorn coaching handover was doomed from the start | Howard Kotton first appeared on The Canberra Times.