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Demons must pursue one man: Clarkson

Alastair Clarkson of Hawthorn is seen during the 2013 Australian Football Hall of Fame induction dinner at Parliament House, Canberra on June 4, 2013. (Photo: Justine Walker/AFL Media)
Could Melbourne lure Alastair Clarkson away from Hawthorn?
SURELY Melbourne's coaching search starts and ends with one person. 

Alastair Clarkson. 

Melbourne chief executive Peter Jackson, now with 'assistance money' from the AFL Commission at his disposal, should call the Hawthorn coach and ask him to name his price.

The 45-year-old is contracted to Hawthorn until the end of 2014, but Jackson needs to put an offer on the table to him that this time around Clarkson cannot refuse.

Melbourne's offer needs to be for five years, so that it becomes purely a business decision for Clarkson – one year with the Hawks or five with Melbourne on the sort of figure that would set him and his family up for life.

Clarkson talks about "unfinished business" at Hawthorn but he is gettable for Melbourne. More than once, he has hinted that the useful working life for a coach at a footy club is about 10 years. By the end of 2014, he will have been with the Hawks for a decade. 

Friday night's clash against West Coast will mark his 200th game as coach. 

There is also the state of play at Hawthorn. By 2015, Hawk stalwarts such as Luke Hodge, Sam Mitchell, Brad Sewell and Brent Guerra will be entering their last season or two or will already be retired. And who knows where Lance Franklin will be? 

The Hawks won't need a massive rebuild any time soon, but will need a fresh tweak, which perhaps should be overseen by the club's next senior coach.

If they do win that second premiership in the next year or two, the feeling will grow that Clarkson has taken this playing group as far as he can. His contribution to Hawthorn would be the equal of the greats – John Kennedy snr, Allan Jeans and Alan Joyce.

Then there is Melbourne. Clarkson has an affinity for the Demons, having played 41 games there in 1996 and 1997 after leaving North Melbourne. With a premiership, perhaps even two, under his belt what greater challenge would there be than to arrest the fortunes of the AFL's most underperforming and dysfunctional club?

It is not like he hasn’t been there before. Coming off the 'line in the sand game' in 2004 and with a culture that was in the toilet, the hard-nosed, hard-working Clarkson had the Hawks in the finals in three years and celebrating a flag 12 months later. 

As arguably the finest coach of the last few years, Clarkson would have little trouble assembling a first-rate support crew – assistant coaches, fitness and sports science – even without bringing across any of his associates from Hawthorn. 

Few coaches have studied and networked as deeply as Clarkson and there are many who would relish the opportunity to join him in the toughest job in football.

Clarkson ticks every box for Melbourne because he is successful, current and has some history with, and affection for, the club.

Melbourne should hope there is no Plan B. But if there needs to be, it should focus solely around attracting to the club an experienced coach with proven senior experience at another club.

Forget the rising assistants. The Demons tried that and failed with both Mark Neeld and before that, Dean Bailey. Therefore, Adam Simpson, Leigh Tudor, Scott Burns, Simon Goodwin, Peter Sumich, Alan Richardson and others will need to look elsewhere for now. 

Instead, Jackson should get out his Rolodex and give these gentlemen a call.

Paul Roos: The 2005 Sydney Swans premiership coach has continually said he is finished with coaching. And at this stage, to make him the offer he can't refuse might mean he would return to coaching because of the money and without the requisite 'fire in the belly'. See 'Malcolm Blight. St Kilda. 2001'.

Mark Williams: 'Choco' thought he would be coaching GWS this year, but discovered a handshake agreement is not what he thought it was. Port Adelaide's 2004 premiership coach is now happily ensconced at Richmond as development coach and match-day boundary rider, but would be an intriguing choice for the Demons. Like Clarkson, he can be abrasive and would shake the place up and let the players know exactly where they stand and what is required. He still harbours strong aspirations to coach a Melbourne-based club.

Rodney Eade: Not sure if 'Rocket' is done and dusted with senior coaching. He distanced himself from the vacancies at the end of last year and claims to be content as director of coaching and strategy at Collingwood. Didn’t land a flag at either the Swans or the Western Bulldogs as coach, but his work at both clubs was elite. Does he have the stamina for what would be a long and arduous re-build? 

Denis Pagan: Out of the caper for six years now as he builds his name as a real estate agent. A dual premiership coach of North Melbourne, his stint at Carlton didn’t end well. But here's an idea: install Pagan for a year to put the building blocks in place while, say, Clarkson serves out his contract at Hawthorn or Roos makes up his mind about a return to coaching. 

Gary Ayres: In his sixth year as coach of Port Melbourne, Ayres has done well to keep the Borough as one of the elite teams of the VFL without an AFL club affiliation to fall back upon. A former Geelong and Adelaide coach, Ayres makes an immediate impact whenever he joins a new club. Was interviewed in 2011 by the Demons and will surely earn another invitation this time around.

Neale Daniher: Yes, he already spent a decade as coach of the Demons. But there is a precedent for coaches leaving their clubs for a time and then returning refreshed for the new challenges ahead. Phil Jackson did it with the Los Angeles Lakers and Joe Gibbs with the Washington Redskins. And Clarkson himself recently said that Daniher was the best coach in the AFL system not currently working as a senior coach.

Ashley Browne is an AFL Media senior writer. @afl_hashbrowne

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs