HAWTHORN has committed to a succession plan with four-time premiership player Sam Mitchell to take over from his four-time premiership coach Alastair Clarkson in 2023.
The Hawks unveiled the move on Tuesday afternoon less than a month after president Jeff Kennett said the club wouldn't change its decision-making timeline planned for the end of the year.
The decision was reached at a board meeting two weeks ago with Clarkson to coach in the Hawks in 2022 and Mitchell to take the reins after that.
Mitchell was set to fall out of contract at the end of this year, with Clarkson contracted until 2022 – his 18th season at the helm.
Clarkson was appointed the Hawks' coach ahead of the 2005 season and took the club to the 2008 flag, followed by the 2013-15 three-peat and will depart the club as its longest-serving coach.
Mitchell, 38, took the reins of the Hawks' VFL affiliate Box Hill this year after two seasons as Clarkson's midfield coach having crossed to Waverley Park after a stint at West Coast.
In a letter to members, Kennett revealed that Collingwood's decision to part ways with former coach Nathan Buckley played a part in Hawthorn's decision to plan for the future.
"About three weeks ago our coach, Alastair Clarkson, approached his direct report and head of football Rob McCartney, and suggested that, given what had occurred at Collingwood, maybe the time had arrived when we at Hawthorn should consider the club's position regarding our future coaching needs," Kennett wrote.
Kennett also said the club put emotion to the side in making the decision to move on from Clarkson.
“It is the responsibility of your Board to plan and structure the transition of personnel within the club. These transitions must take place and should always occur as naturally and as orderly as possible. We at Hawthorn are doing that now," he said.
“Alastair has served us well in his time at Hawthorn, but we must put our emotions into second place and make the tough but right calls for our club’s future.”
Clarkson said that at the heart of the decision is what’s best for the future of the club.
“Understanding nothing lasts forever, the decision to finish my time at Hawthorn at the end of my current contract was the best path forward for the club long-term,” Clarkson said.
“We are all temporary custodians of the brown and gold, and we do our best to serve the colours well during our tenure. I am proud of what we have achieved as a club over the past 17 years.
“At the end of last year, we made a decision to lay the foundations for the next wave of success at Hawthorn. That work has already begun, we are beginning to see glimmers of what the future Hawthorn side will look like, and I am committed to playing my part in continuing this work until the end of next season.
“My philosophy has always been to give my assistant coaches the responsibilities and opportunities they need to achieve their career aspirations. Sam is on this journey and the period of transition between Sam and I provides further opportunity for him to develop as he prepares to step into the senior coach role.”
Mitchell will continue to develop the club's young players as he prepares to take over the reins in 18 months.
“I am looking forward to continuing my work in developing our young crop of players and coaching the Box Hill side over the next 18 months,” Mitchell said.
“Development is an area of football that I am incredibly passionate about and I am confident that over the next 18 months we will continue to see more and more of what our young players are capable of.”