NO MATTER the sport, all great ones are the same. It’s something that probably can’t be taught, something that you either just innately understand or you just plainly don’t: how appeal to your players’ competitiveness, to their motivations. To their spirit.

The exact methods may vary but the trait is there in all the ones that immediately come to mind: Think Ferguson, Mourinho, Jackson, Belichick, Riley.

And Clarkson.

‘FAREWELL CLARKO: FOOTBALL AND LIFE LESSONS FROM THE MASTER COACH’ is now streaming in AFL On Demand

The 2021 season hadn’t yet started, and the AFL.com.au team was sitting down with the revered Hawthorn mastermind for the new series, The Art of Coaching. Not yet engulfed by the rigours and pain points of a campaign in motion, Clarkson was relaxed and candid, willing to just slightly open the door on how the great ones appeal to those under their tutelage.

"I can remember having a conversation with those three young lads – Roughead, Franklin and Lewis – before they emerged as significant talents in the game," Clarkson began, when discussing the way he and Hawthorn harnessed the talent the club took in the famous 2004 NAB AFL Draft.

"I said to them one day, 'what do you think it would be like to get paid $250,000 a year to play footy?' That sum of money now is below the AFL average, but back then it was just like 'oh geez if you can get paid $250,000 a year to play footy how good would that be', knowing full well in my mind that they’re going to get to that pretty quickly."

Right there, Clarkson’s answer didn’t startle or awe. In fact it felt relatively run-of-the-mill. Until it turned to the psychology of it all.

"[My approach is to] have the conversation early around ‘oh wouldn’t it be good,’  then there’s this sense that they understand the journey and the gratitude of how lucky they would be to be in that situation," Clarkson continued.

"We talk about the intangibles of success, not just the tangibles, and people look at money as the tangible – it’s in the bank and you can feel it and touch it and pay for things with it. But it’s the intangibles to success [through which] we appeal to the Hodges and Mitchells and the Riolis and the Birchalls and the Burgoynes and all these guys.

‘FAREWELL CLARKO: FOOTBALL AND LIFE LESSONS FROM THE MASTER COACH’ is now streaming in AFL On Demand

"You can’t take your money to your grave with you, but those memories of success and sacrificing for one another and that sense of commitment you’ve got to others because you know you’ve sacrificed something of your own … then there’s a real sense of belonging, a sense of trust, a sense of community, a sense of love. And that’s what our game’s all about."

With a single response, one so emphatic and so clear, Clarkson was demonstrating once more that he’s among those greats who innately understand how to appeal to a competitor.

Farewell Clarko: Football and life lessons from the master coach’ is part of The Art of Coaching, an exclusive new series in AFL On Demand in which the AFL's 18 coaches share their trade secrets and coaching philosophies, helping us delve into the minds of some of the best analytical thinkers our game has seen.