Hawthorn confirmed on Tuesday of a coaching succession plan that will see Sam Mitchell take over from legendary mentor Alastair Clarkson from the 2023 season.

A number of inspired outings over the past few weeks have cast a light on the bright future of Hawthorn's list and their youngsters, while simultaneously adding a further degree of intrigue into their decision to hand the senior coaching reigns to their club great.

Looking at the Hawks' list, there is promise, with time now on Mitchell's side to work with Clarkson to build a steady list come the conclusion of the 2022 season.

The Hawks' young and dynamic backline has stood tall in recent weeks with the likes of Will Day, Jack Scrimshaw, Denver Grainger-Barras and Changkuoth Jiath all playing their part, with disruptive defensive play from Sam Frost and Blake Hardwick allowing for attacking plays to manifest for their half-backs. 

On the attack, forward duo Tim O’Brien and Dylan Moore have played an inspired brand of footy that see them dominate in the air and between the big sticks, with other youngsters Jai Newcombe, Lachlan Bramble and Jacob Koschitzke displaying ferocity and finesse in their attacking pursuits. 

With the Hawks going strong since the bye, coupled with their youngsters looking the goods, the hopefuls returns of injured star duo James Sicily and Jarman Impey will only provide additional experience to the already developing group for the remainder of the year.

The combination of promising outlets begs the question of whether the incoming succession plan will benefit the club moving forward.

In order to assess this, lets have a look at how other examples of the coaching handover have worked out.

Paul Roos to John Longmire (2011-)

  • 1 Premiership from 3 Grand Final appearances
  • Only missed the final twice, due to current rebuild, not including this year where the Swans currently sit in 6th 
  • Longmire was a Swans assistant from 2002, an established member of staff who already knew the club through and through before the implementation of the succession plan
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 29: Nick Malceski of the Swans is congratulated by team-mates after kicking a goal during the 2012 AFL Grand Final match between the Sydney Swans and the Hawthorn Hawks at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on September 29, 2012 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Mick Malthouse to Nathan Buckley (2012-21)

  • 1 Grand final appearance, 3 prelim final appearances and 5 total finals appearances
  • Buckley took over a Collingwood outfit who had come off a premiership win in 2010 and Grand Final appearance in 2011 after serving under Malthouse for those two seasons
  • Initial success was met with lengthy rebuild and a finals drought from 2014-17
  • After a Grand final appearance in 2018 Collingwood began a slight decline, since then Buckley recently departed after a lacklustre start to the 2021 season where the Pies currently sit in 15th 

Paul Roos to Simon Goodwin (2017-present)

  • 1 Prelim final appearance, two 9th place finishes, one 17th place finish and currently sitting 1st and among Premiership favourites  
  • Goodwin had two-year apprenticeship from 2014-16 before taking over in 2017
  • Upon Roos arrival the club was in disarray and his tenure was more about rehabbing the Demons’ culture and list, laying the groundwork for Goodwin to come in and lead the club to a successful future

John Worsfold to Ben Rutten (2021-)

  • Rutten was the Richmond defensive coach during their 2017 Premiership season
  • Rutten spent 1 season in the same role at Essendon before being ushered in as the successor for John Worsfold
  • The pair spent 2020 as joint coaches where Rutten could grow into the role, the Bombers finished 13th last year with them currently sitting in 11th and only one game out of the 8
  • Gradual but clear improvement for the young side over the 2021 season but ultimately too early to judge
AFL Rd 17 - Port Adelaide v Essendon
ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 12: Ben Rutten, Senior Assistant Coach and Team Defence of the Bombers during the 2020 AFL Round 17 match between the Port Adelaide Power and the Essendon Bombers at Adelaide Oval on September 12, 2020 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Matt Turner/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Summary

  • Longmire most successful with Buckley having some success but not the same degree
  • Verdict out on Goodwin as of yet but looking close to a Premiership - similar trajectory as Buckley for now
  • Too early to tell for Rutten but the signs are positive for the young Bombers outfit he’s assembled 

As you can see the coaching succession plan pathway carries no guarantee for greatness, meaning Hawthorn has a lot to weigh up over the off-season.

One way of viewing the situation is that Clarkson has taken the club to the promised land four times, meaning he’s as likely as anyone to continue leading the club to success in the future given he’s a proven commodity. 

Conversely, Mitchell matches the Longmire build which has been the most successful of the succession plans, as he’s already been an assistant at the club for several years and even played under Clarkson. This gives Mitchell an in-depth knowledge of the club's workings and culture as to not disrupt these and instead continue to build on them, which itself carries the potential for great future success.

It’s ultimately up to the club whether the Hawks allow their legendary coach to stick around and work his magic, or move on with his star assistant and co and hope they can continue to emulate the latter’s success. 

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With the club currently sitting at 17th, the rapid development of their youngsters is sure to aid the transition from master to apprentice.

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