ALASTAIR Clarkson's departure from Hawthorn ends one of the AFL's greatest coaching reigns - for now. 

The legendary coach leaves the club he led to four premierships, lifting the Hawks from the basement to the penthouse in four short seasons in 2008 before later leading them to just the fifth three-peat in VFL/AFL history (2013, 2014, 2015). 

He leaves with a legacy as the most successful coach in Hawthorn's history, having passed the three premierships won by legendary figures John Kennedy snr and Allan Jeans.

CLARKO BOMBSHELL Legendary coach to part ways with Hawks

A combative character but a much-loved teacher, he joined the Hawks as a surprise appointment at the end of 2004, replacing Peter Schwab when club greats Terry Wallace and Rodney Eade were available. 

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

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The then 36-year-old's path to the job started after a 134-game career with North Melbourne and Melbourne between 1987 and 1997, before moving into assistant coaching roles with St Kilda and Port Adelaide. 

Clarkson then led his own team at VFL club Werribee in 2000 and joined Central Districts in the SANFL in 2001, winning a premiership in his first season there. 

As an assistant at Port Adelaide, he was part of the 2004 premiership under coach Mark Williams and rounded out what would now be considered an ideal coaching apprenticeship. 

The master tactician's first three seasons with the Hawks saw them climb steadily before a breakthrough finals appearance in 2007 and a premiership with a young team in 2008, led by captain Sam Mitchell who will take the reins as coach from next year. 

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

They dropped out of the finals the following year before starting the climb again, with new captain Luke Hodge, making the Toyota AFL Grand Final in 2012 but losing to Sydney.  

That heartbreak was followed by the historic three-peat, launched in 2013 with a 19-win season and eventual Grand Final triumph against Fremantle. 

In 2014, Clarkson faced significant challenges in leading the Hawks to back-to-back flags. 

Superstar forward Lance Franklin had defected to premiership rival Sydney, and the coach had battled the rare Guillain-Barre syndrome, which forced him to miss five games.  

Alastair Clarkson and Lance Franklin chat after a clash in R19, 2017. Picture: AFL Photos

He recovered, however, to lead the Hawks to a thumping 63-point win against the Swans.  

Clarkson's ability to turn the Hawks into a destination club had seen the savvy recruitments of Brian Lake, Josh Gibson, Jack Gunston, Shaun Burgoyne, Ben McEvoy and James Frawley, who would all become premiership players during the era. 

In 2015, it was Clarkson's senior players that ensured the job of a third straight premiership was completed, becoming the first team since Brisbane (2001, 2002, 2003) to win three straight premierships. 

Alastair Clarkson at Hawthorn's family day after winning the 2015 flag. Picture: AFL Photos

The legacy of Clarkson's coaching and teaching through that era can be seen through the competition now, with rival senior coaches Stuart Dew, Leon Cameron, Damien Hardwick, Brett Ratten, Adam Simpson and Luke Beveridge all working underneath him. Brisbane coach Chris Fagan also had a long association with Clarkson in coaching and head of football roles. 

It is also seen in the way the game is played at AFL level, having led the tactical evolution through his close study of many overseas sports.  

After 17 seasons with the Hawks, Clarkson's future is not clear as he prepares to part ways with the club with one year remaining on his contract. 

The 53-year-old leaves a Hawthorn legend and with time on his side if he wants to coach again. With all he has achieved, that decision would appear to be in his hands.

Alastair Clarkson gives the thumbs up at a Hawthorn photo day in 2018. Picture: AFL Photos

Alastair Clarkson's coaching career at Hawthorn

Started: 2005
Games: 386
Premierships: 2008, 2013, 2014, 2015
Wins: 225
Losses: 158
Winning percentage: 59

A timeline of Clarkson and Mitchell's time at Hawthorn

* September 2004 - Alastair Clarkson joins Hawthorn, where Sam Mitchell has just finished his third season as a player
* October 2007 - Mitchell is named captain after Richie Vandenberg retires
* 2008 - Mitchell captains Hawthorn to its first premiership under Clarkson
* October 2010 - Luke Hodge replaces Mitchell as club captain
* 2013 - 2015 - Clarkson leads Hawthorn to three premierships, with Mitchell playing in the three-peat
* October 14, 2016 - Mitchell is traded to West Coast. He plays for one year then retires and wins the 2018 premiership with the Eagles as an assistant coach
* October 6, 2018 - Hawthorn announces Clarkson has re-signed until the end of 2022
* October 18, 2018 - Mitchell returns to Hawthorn as an assistant coach
* July 6, 2021 - Hawthorn announces a coaching succession plan where Mitchell will take over from Clarkson ahead of the 2023 season
* July 21, 2021 - Mitchell has an interview with SEN where he denies there is a rift between him and Clarkson
* July 23, 2021 - Clarkson commits to seeing out 2022 as head coach
* July 30, 2021 - Hawthorn confirms it and Clarkson have parted ways, with Mitchell to take charge at season's end - AAP