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Hawks grew without me, says returning Clarkson

Scott free, Clarko back and more Monday's Footy Feed with Matt Thompson
Hawthorn Coach Alastair Clarkson poses for a photograph during an afl.com.au photo shoot at Etihad Stadium, Melbourne on February 10, 2014. (Photo: Michael Willson/AFL Media)
Alastair Clarkson says his absence from coaching duties wasn't all negative
We haven't been playing our most scintillating footy but we've had significant disruptions to our group
Alastair Clarkson
ALASTAIR Clarkson believes he could have returned to coach Hawthorn weeks ago but says his five-game layoff has enabled the "growth of the club”.

The two-time premiership mentor returned to full duties on Monday after receiving the all-clear from a Guillain-Barre syndrome specialist.

Clarkson has been recuperating for a month after he was diagnosed with the syndrome, with Brendon Bolton leading the Hawks to five consecutive wins and to the top of the ladder in his absence.

Each week, Clarkson gradually increased his presence and role at Hawthorn - he flew to Brisbane to scout North Melbourne at the weekend - and he will be back in the hot seat when the Hawks face the Roos at Etihad Stadium on Friday night.

"I've been fine for two or three weeks, really. It's not really my first day at the club in a sense, I've been about the place," Clarkson said on Monday.

"I've been really fortunate that I've been able to do a lot of my rehab here and the doctors and physios being here has been really helpful.

"I've been able to throw my two bobs worth in here and there with the program. But 'Fages' (Chris Fagan, general manager of football operations) and 'Bolts' obviously have run the coaching and administrative side of things really, really well in my absence.

"'Hodgey' (captain Luke Hodge) and the leadership group have been first-class with making sure everything on field has been done in our training.

"It was just making sure I got myself to 100 per cent and I feel like over the last couple of weeks I could have nearly coached but it was just making sure I got the specialists’ approval that I was able to secure at 10.30 this morning."

Clarkson revealed the most difficult part of stepping aside from coaching was the disruption it caused at the Hawks in the first week – when the reigning premiers narrowly escaped a shock upset with a seven-point win against GWS at the MCG in round 11.

The Hawks have played better – but not outstanding football - in the past four games, but Clarkson has seen benefits for the club in his absence.

"We haven't been playing our most scintillating footy but we've had significant disruptions to our group," he said.

"We've worked really well over the last five or six weeks in my absence, but it's hardly ideal.

"The most difficult part was working out what we were going to do in the first week and once that was established then the important thing was that I faded into the background and the club got on with what they needed to do."

"Our program will pretty much return to normal, but strangely enough out of what seemed like a pretty tough situation there's been a lot of growth at the club in the six weeks.

"Without a doubt Brendon Bolton's grown from this opportunity to coach our club in these five games and he'll be better for the experience."

Clarkson said he "knew things weren't quite right" when he struggled with his balance after the Port Adelaide loss in round 10.
 
He had never heard of the syndrome before his diagnosis, but hoped his battle helped put Guillan-Barre "on the map".
 
"It just feels like pins and needles and numbness that you quite often get as a kid when you're watching the 'telly' as a young fella and you stand up and you had no feeling in your feet," Clarkson said.
 
"I had that feeling constantly for four weeks, more or less but every time I did stand up, I felt like it was only going to be two minutes before it was going to disappear.
 
"The frustration was that it just wouldn't go away. Sometimes I'd feel better and walk around in bare feet and put my shoes on to go for a walk and within two minutes I couldn't feel my feet again.
 
"It was just a really, really unusual sensation and difficult to get your head around the fact that the progress going through this rehabilitation is just so slow.
 
"I must say there's a lot of people out there too that have suffered it significantly more severe than what I have.
 
"It knocked me about and I had probably one of the mildest forms of it.
 
"So for those who are out there hopefully they get a lot of support from their families and friends and networks of medical people that can assist them through it."

Twitter: @TravKing_AFL