VETERAN coach Alastair Clarkson has defended the way Hawthorn handled the announcement of its coaching handover to Sam Mitchell and insists it won't be long before the lowly Hawks return to near the top of the ladder.
It was recently announced that Clarkson will finish up with the Hawks at the end of the season, with Mitchell to begin life as the new Hawthorn coach some 12 months earlier than initially expected.
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The decision to part ways with the four-time premiership coach and thrust the untried Mitchell into the helm drew plenty of criticism, but Clarkson defended the process after watching his young charges upset Collingwood by 19 points at the MCG on Sunday afternoon.
"There is some real upside and it’s not all doom and gloom," a bullish Clarkson said.
"I know the club has been bashed around a little bit in the last little while with the way we have handled this (coaching handover), but by and large there are some real strong prospects at our footy club.
"We will go to the draft and find some more players and it will be a slow build more than a rapid one.
"We know what path we have got to take and are really confident with some of the guys."
Clarkson showed he was still at the top of his game on Sunday by producing a superb coaching performance that shut down the Magpies' dangerous running game and restricted their use of the corridor.
Ball magnet Tom Mitchell won 44 disposals, while dashing defender Lachlan Bramble (25 disposals), strong marking forward Jacob Koschitzke (three goals) and the much-improved Dylan Moore (20 touches) also impressed Clarkson.
"It has been some time since the mighty Hawks have won two in a row, so it was pleasing that we were able to put in another strong performance," Clarkson said.
"Every game we play we want to compete and win, but every bit of exposure they (younger players) get is really important.
"In 2006 we were five wins going into round 19 and won our last four games of the year to help launch into our next season.
"These late games you can really easily fall into the habit of limping to the line and thinking that your season is done, when really what we are trying to do is help set ourselves up for next year and beyond."
While interim Collingwood coach Robert Harvey was left disappointed by the intent of his side, he was buoyed by the performances of some of his younger players.
Livewire Jack Ginnivan booted three goals up forward in just his third AFL appearance, while young onballer Finlay Macrae won 20 disposals in a polished display against an experienced Hawthorn midfield.
"The first half they were too good for us in a lot of areas and our intent was off," Harvey said.
"The positive is we do keep coming and the character of the group is they keep coming, so there is a lot to work with there.
"The kids keep turning up and don’t look out of place and they all have their moments and look part of the landscape and fitting in really well."
Harvey admits he is unsure whether he is a chance to win the coaching job at the Pies on a permanent basis and said his only focus is on the remaining two rounds of the current campaign.
"I enjoy the role and I do enjoy seeing the players trying to get the best out of themselves, and that (2022 coaching plans) will come in time and at the right time," he said.
"I am solely committed to doing the job at hand, so nothing changes there. I have got two more weeks of that and I am going to try and execute that the best I can."