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Hawks make a mess of Clarkson’s departure

It is true the senior players – confused and even upset after the initial succession plan announcement – forced another confrontation on Wednesday when the leadership group met Reeves and football director Richie Vandenberg and explained two bulls in the paddock could not work for them.

But it would be wrong to place blame for the failure of a plan – or even the identification of that failure – that was never seriously thought out or executed upon the players. Nor would it be fair to blame Clarkson or Mitchell. It is true that Clarkson has behaved a little fractiously in recent times and much will be made now of his heartfelt vow last week to complete his contract.

Ending the tenure of a legendary coach is never simple unless that coach is Leigh Matthews and Clarkson’s time might have been up at Hawthorn but this is a clear case of club bosses outsmarting themselves and damaging the club’s once-dignified, watertight image. Even the news of Clarkson’s departure, scheduled to be announced on Monday, leaked from the board.

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Kennett is now a chairman in survival mode, a chairman who has signed up his chief executive for five years and who extended Clarkson’s contract until the end of 2022 with no caveats and allowed it to come to this.

Friday was a torrid day at the club and significantly it took until near twilight for all parties to agree on just how the inevitable was going to be announced and for Clarkson and Kennett to face the media. The coach not for the first time put on his best face and restored some dignity to the situation.

But for Kennett it is worth remembering his own words regarding his short-lived predecessor Richard Garvey when he rode back into the then-leaderless Hawks back in 2017. Kennett said then: “As testament to the values of Hawthorn as the family club, where no individual is bigger or more important than the club, president Richard Garvey has accepted personal responsibility for a board decision that unfortunately has not worked out as hoped …

“His decision and action is a noble act that he has made selflessly in the club’s best interest.″⁣

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