LEGENDARY coach Alastair Clarkson says he will leave Hawthorn at the end of this season after the club's controversial coaching succession plan embarrassingly exploded on Friday.

After a 17-season arrangement with the Hawks, the four-time premiership coach said the club needed clear air and had to free itself from his shadow to move forward

Just three weeks after Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett revealed his board had struck a deal to have Sam Mitchell replace Clarkson after the completion of the 2022 season, the club on Thursday night, in a crisis outcome, conceded the arrangement could not work.

Mitchell and a jovial Clarkson presented a united front when they faced the media on Friday afternoon, with Clarkson saying the time was right for a new era.

Alastair Clarkson and Sam Mitchell face the media as Clarko explains his early departure. Picture: Screenshot

"It’s my view the footy club needs to free itself from my shadow," he said.

"We've come to the realisation that this footy club needed some fresh air from 2022 onwards. I’m going to step aside from coaching the Hawthorn footy club at the end of this year. I've had my time in the sun, and I've had a blast."

Clarkson said the move was necessary to streamline the direction of Hawthorn's rebuild.

"We don't want any confusion," he said.

THE CLARKO ERA 17 years, four flags, one giant legacy

"We want to know who's driving the bus, and this guy [Mitchell] is driving the bus. [The players] need one bloke leading the charge."

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Toxic relationship over: Jeff gets his man with 'botched' plan

Damian Barrett with all the fallout from Waverley Park after Hawthorn and Alastair Clarkson part ways

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While Clarkson said he was contractually free to coach elsewhere next year, he denied he was heading to another AFL club at the end of the season.

"I'm just going to take a breather. Right at the present time, my commitment is to have a spell and see where 2023 will take me."

Clarkson has previously been linked to the vacant Collingwood coaching position, while this decision could tempt Carlton to make a call on under-fire coach David Teague, amid the Blues' external review.

It is believed Clarkson will be paid out in full, an amount tallying more than $1 million for the 2022 season.

Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett paid tribute to Clarkson and his impact on the football club.

"The club is much bigger than any of us," Kennett said.

"This is a momentous moment in the life of a football club. And we hope that as a result of the goodwill that's been shown by all parties we now have clear air. We have clean air, we have clarity, and we can move on.

"I don't think we've misled the members, we've done what we think is the right thing... It hasn't worked... I accept responsibility for that."

Sam Mitchell, Jeff Kennett and Alastair Clarkson at the succession plan announcement on July 6, 2021. Picture: hawthornfc.com.au

Clarkson’s toxic relationships with both Hawks president Jeff Kennett and CEO Justin Reeves, who had his contract extended to the end of 2026 in the same period that Clarkson was told he wasn’t required after 2022, has contributed heavily to the decision this week.

Incredibly, at the time of announcing the succession plan, both Clarkson, who led the Hawks to the 2008, 2013, 2014 and 2015 premierships, and Mitchell conceded they had spent a mere 20 minutes discussing how their future arrangements would work. 

Only last Friday, Clarkson referred to personal tragedies in explaining that he would be honouring the final year of his contract at Hawthorn.

Both Clarkson and Mitchell have repeatedly denied reports of a rift since the succession plan announcement.

"I probably shouldn't say it on radio, but I kind of get a bit pissed off with people saying that," Mitchell told SEN last Wednesday

"I've worked with Clarko for nearly 20 years and the fact that people would say that I'm trying to push him out is disrespectful to both of us because we've had a working relationship for such a long period of time."

Alastair Clarkson and Sam Mitchell after winning the 2008 Toyota AFL Grand Final. Picture: AFL Photos

Clarkson's next step is unclear but he has previously been linked to the vacant Collingwood coaching position, while he could tempt Carlton to make a call on under-fire coach David Teague, amid the Blues' external review into their football department.

Clarkson took the coaching reins at Hawthorn in 2005. Mitchell played in all four flags during his reign.

Clarkson's Friday morning press conference was postponed. - with AAP