Jason Dunstall criticises Hawthorn’s ‘messy’ coaching succession plan

Hawthorn great Jason Dunstall has criticised the Hawks’ decision to announce Sam Mitchell as Alastair Clarkson’s successor as coach and believes the situation has the potential to get very “messy”.

Dunstall, who won four premierships with Hawthorn, said he was “gobsmacked” when he heard the shock news on Tuesday.

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Hawthorn surprised the AFL world by announcing that Sam Mitchell will take over from Clarkson when his contract runs out at the end of 2022.

Dunstall, who was part of the administration that appointed Clarkson as coach in 2004, said he didn’t agree with the decision.

“I was gobsmacked by the news when I heard it today. I didn’t know it was coming,” he told Fox Footy’s AFL 360.

“I was very, very surprised.

“It’s a bold decision, is what it is. It’s brave — knowing you’re giving up the best coach in the modern era who I think still has plenty of currency — gee you’re placing a lot of faith and pressure on Sam Mitchell.

“But only time will tell if it was the right decision.”

“It’s a brave, bold decision. It’s probably not one I would have made.”

Dunstall (left) was part of the Hawthorn administration that appointed Clarkson coach back in 2004.Source:News Corp Australia

“I think it’s a crazy decision,” AFL 360 co-host Mark Robinson said.

“I can’t get my head around that Hawthorn have chosen to go with an untried coach ahead of a four-time premiership winning coach.”

Dunstall said he doesn’t believe coaching succession plans work and it could end badly for Hawthorn.

“In theory they sound great but they just never work,” he said.

“It’ll be 12 months of bad press. We saw it with (Mick) Malthouse and (Nathan) Buckley (at Collingwood). The same thing happened with (John) Worsfold and (Ben) Rutten (at Essendon).

“Does Sam Mitchell want some clear air? He probably does. Maybe something happens at the end of the season.

“A new coach coming in is going to have a little tweak or a twist that he wants to put on. So do you then have to say: ‘Clarko here’s the message we’re going to be selling’.

“Or have you got two powerful coaches, one’s the incumbent and the other’s been there done that for so long selling a different message. It doesn’t work.

“I’m a little bit confused as to how the handover works because the ones we’ve seen in recent years haven’t worked, have they?”

The three-time Coleman medallist said the decision to adopt a handover leaves Hawthorn vulnerable to other clubs such as Collingwood or Carlton looking to snap up Clarkson as their new coach.

“If he’s not the best coach in the competition he’s the equal of anyone coaching,” Dunstall said.

“Any club who has the coaching position on the agenda would be crazy not to be knocking his door down — and I mean bashing it in because he’s the best going around.

“We know he’ll see the contract out if that’s what the club wants and if that’s the way it pans out, great.

Alastair Clarkson has won four premierships with the Hawks but his time at the club is neraly up. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)Source:Getty Images

“But I suspect if someone else came along and they said: ‘How about they finish up at the end of this year?’ to save that messy 12-month handover, it might just happen that way.”

Dunstall said Clarkson “is still passionate about coaching” and rival clubs would be foolish not to pursue him.

“If coaching is on your agenda, I personally would be going a million miles an hour at Clarkson thinking: ‘I think he’s gettable’,” he said.

“I think the landscape has changed so if they right offer came along — I don’t know if it’s Collingwood, or if it’s another club — but if you’re not knocking his door down there’s something wrong.”

Dunstall said Clarkson has created an immense legacy at Hawthorn after leading the club to premierships in 2008, 2013, 2014 and 2015. .

“It’s been an enormous contribution to the club,” he said.

“Where else do you find someone who delivers you 4 flags in 18 years?”

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