Hawthorn legend Shane Crawford has praised Alastair Clarkson for stepping down as coach earlier than planned and tipped Collingwood to be the next club keen to sign him.
This week it emerged that the Hawks had ditched the succession plan which was meant to see former Hawthorn star-turned coach Sam Mitchell taking the reins as head coach at the end of 2022. Things got messy as speculation about Mitchell’s ambition to get the head coaching job sooner built, leading to Clarkson and the club agreeing to part ways at the end of this AFL season instead.
Crawford, who played under Clarkson for four seasons at Hawthorn, said in the end it was the right move for all involved.
“The players were very confused. The good thing now is it gives clear air, they can get on with it,” he said on Nine’s Sports Sunday.
“Everyone’s on the same page and I think it’s a good thing and it’s great for the players.”
Crawford said if Clarkson had stayed on for another season it would have been detrimental to the goals of the succession plan.
“He’s had a bit more time to think about it and thought, it’s just going to be a bit of a disaster because the media are going to jump on it every week,” Crawford said.
“When we win they’ll say he should still be around and when they lose, they’ll say get Sam Mitchell in. The coaches were going to be the focus for the whole year which was going to take away from the development and get the footy club going again.”
Clarkson confirms Hawks exit
Crawford believes after the dust has settled there’s little doubt that Clarkson would be a very attractive recruit at a number of AFL clubs in desperate need of a coach of his calibre.
And after the exit of Nathan Buckley, Crawford said Collingwood would be an obvious option.
“If he does coach next year, and I reckon he will, Collingwood are very much in the ballpark, and there’s rumours about other clubs, but they’d be crazy not to get Alastair Clarkson,” he said.
“He is unbelievable at what he does. He’s different. He punches walls.”
Crawford was also pleased that Clarkson will now have the opportunity to be recognised for his incredible contribution to the club, bringing the Hawks four AFL flags.
“The one thing I was worried about… Alastair Clarkson has been an absolute legend. He’s gotten the club back on its feet, he brought it to premiership glory,” Crawford said.
“I didn’t want someone whose given so much to the club just to end and not feel loved, so the good thing is he has four more games or so to coach out, we can give him a lot of love and send him off in the right way. He’s just been enormous for the Hawthorn Football Club.
Crawf on Clarkson’s early exit
“I do think he has Hawthorn’s best interests at heart, and certainly Sam Mitchell with whom he’s had a long working relationship,” Crawford added.
“He wants people that aren’t yes men, he wants people to challenge them.
“He’s super driven. He’s an animal. I was lucky enough to be coached by him for four years. He’s just a machine the way that he does things. He’s been an amazing coach in the way he’s introduced rolling zones, and he’s had a different way of defending and he was ahead of time the way he did everything.
“But in saying that, off the field as well… the amount of times he dragged players to hospital visits, taking the team to bushfire affected areas, to camp out and build fences, he gives so much back to the community. He wants the players to be better people, he wants them to work away from football and have that better balance with their life.”
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