ALASTAIR Clarkson went against his tide of emotions to encourage champion Hawk Luke Hodge to put himself first when contemplating whether to join the Brisbane Lions.
Hodge and Hawthorn confirmed on Thursday the 305-game, four-time premiership star would turn his back on retirement to play for the Lions next year.
The 33-year-old is expected to combine his playing duties with a coaching role.
Hodge spoke for the first time about his decision at the Hawks' Peter Crimmins Medal night on Saturday, revealing a heart-to-heart with Clarkson removed any latent guilt.
But a Clarkson motto ingrained in all players at the club meant if Hodge wanted to continue as a player – after announcing his retirement in July – it had to be elsewhere.
Hodge cherished playing with and mentoring young defenders James Sicily, Ryan Burton, Blake Hardwick, Kaiden Brand and Conor Glass this year, and discovered a passion for coaching he never thought existed.
"Ever since Clarko and (elite performance manager) Andrew Russell walked in the door, it was all about not thinking of yourself, but thinking about Hawthorn Football Club," Hodge said.
"And whenever you leave the football club, it's got to be in a better position.
"The fact I couldn't play on at Hawthorn is because if I play, and blokes like (Grant) Birchall, (Ben) Stratton and (James) Frawley are back in … all these young kids I've just spoken about, they'll be going back to Box Hill and playing and I reckon that's going to limit their development.
"So that's the reason why I couldn't sign at Hawthorn and ultimately that's the reason why I (initially) retired."
Clarkson endorsed and gave his "blessing" to Hodge's decision to move north.
"We'd all love Hodgey to perhaps retire as a Hawthorn player, (but) we can't be that selfish about it, because there's so much more to this decision," Clarkson said.
"There's his wife (Lauren), there's his three boys, there's his potential coaching future or otherwise. He may not coach beyond his time at Brisbane, but the important thing is he'll know.
"It's ripping my guts out to think he's not going to play his whole career at Hawthorn, but what flips against that is what's best for him, what's best for his wife and what's best for his three boys."
The Hawks honoured Hodge for his contribution to the club, as well as retiring stars Josh Gibson and Sam Mitchell. Mitchell was in attendance, but Gibson was absent after tearing an adductor muscle in a horse riding incident on Saturday morning.
"I sat here this time last year with probably five or six people in the room knowing what was likely to happen (the trade to West Coast) and the rest not, so it was a very awkward night," Mitchell said.
"Tonight, I turned up and felt nothing but love from Hawthorn. When you move clubs, you never know (what reception you will get), but to be invited back, I think that shows what sort of club this is."
Clarkson made an impassioned speech about the club's torrid week, including chief executive Tracey Gaudry and president Richard Garvey resigning and Jeff Kennett returning as Garvey's replacement. Board member and life member Bruce Stevenson also quit.
Garvey, who will remain as a club director, also addressed the week's events to begin the function and thanked Gaudry for her contribution.
More light was shed on Gaudry's departure – after just five months as CEO – in a News Corp article on Saturday that revealed her husband Tony suffered a heart attack and almost died in her second day in the job.
The Hawks referred to "extenuating family and personal circumstances" as a major reason for Gaudry leaving, although there were reports her communication skills were lacking.
"While the events of the past several days have come as a shock to many of you, I stand here with complete confidence in the direction the Hawthorn Football Club is heading," Garvey said.
"We have strong, influential leaders in place, who are all passionate and proud Hawthorn people. There is no more influential leader and no more passionate Hawthorn man than Jeff Kennett.
"I can assure you that under Jeff's guidance, our club will continue to innovate and improve and I have no doubt success is just around the corner."