HAWTHORN coach Alastair Clarkson has emphatically declared he will see out his full contract with the club, while conceding the coaching speculation has impacted the playing group.
The Hawks' plan for Sam Mitchell to replace the premiership-winning mentor for the 2023 season has been in the spotlight, with rumours of tension between the pair.
I'M COACHING UNTIL NEXT YEAR Emphatic Clarko shoots down sceptics
Clarkson said he was "disappointed" about the way things have transpired in what should be an exciting time for the club.
"We understood of course that there would be speculation. I laugh at it in one way because if they're saying that, they don't really know me well," he said on Friday.
"I'll see through my commitment. I've always been that way. Once you make a commitment to someone you follow it through to the end.
"My commitment to Sam Mitchell is through to the end of next year. That commitment was made 17 years ago when I walked into the Hawthorn Football Club.
"Sam has paid me back in spades and ... it's my turn now to try to help him be a senior coach."
Mitchell on Wednesday denied suggestions he was trying to push Clarkson out of the job, rejecting reports the pair's meeting with Hawthorn powerbrokers last week was set out for mediation.
Clarkson said the coaching drama had created confusion among the playing group and disrupted preparation leading into their heavy loss to Fremantle a fortnight ago.
"The players, until you can ... look them in the eye and say 'I'm staying I'm not going anywhere'. They should have known that from me in the first instance when it was said," he said.
"But because there's so much scrutiny and speculation, they sometimes tend to think 'I wonder if he might go'.
"The McEvoys, the O'Mearas, the Bruests, the Shiels ... they know me very well and knew I was rock solid. For the younger guys it's a bit more difficult for them to work their way through that."
Clarkson said a decision to have him focus solely on day-to-day operations and assign Mitchell to future planning was a mistake and has undergone a shake-up.
"It's Sam and I looking after now and what's going on in the future," Clarkson said.
"There'll be a bit of tension along the way, but we're going to do it together. I don't know any marriage, business partnership where there isn't healthy tension in terms of having discussions about the path forward.
"We've never been backward in speaking our mind within the walls of the footy club."
Mitchell left Hawthorn at the end of 2016 in a trade to West Coast but returned to the Hawks as an assistant coach after a phone call from Clarkson at the end of the 2018 season.