Brownlow Medallist and Hawthorn legend Sam Mitchell has detailed the conversation he had with coach Alastair Clarkson back in 2016, regarding his move to the West Coast Eagles.
Mitchell recounted the meeting on Brownlow Medal morning in his new autobiography Relentless, which is set to be out on stores this week.
With Clarkson already aware of Mitchell’s plans to go to the Eagles as an assistant coach post his playing days, the he decided to float an idea past Mitchell, which initially left him a little bemused.
“Clarko … seemed a bit awkward from the moment he arrived at our place,” Mitchell wrote.
“He asked if we could go out into the backyard to chat, clearly indicating he wanted some privacy with whatever it was he was going to talk to me about.
“Clarko said: ‘I know your plan was to go to West Coast (as an assistant coach) when your career is over, but would you have any interest in going there and playing first?’
“People love their conspiracy theories, but I’m sure if I had said to him, ‘I’m not interested, Clarko’, that would have been the end of it.
“But one thing really concerned me. How was I going to broach this suggestion with (wife) Lyndall? At this point, I looked across at Clarko and asked, ‘Now that I am thinking this through, how am I going to go inside and tell my wife what you’ve suggested without it sounding like you’re giving me the arse?’
“He said I could explain it the same way he had to me — as an opportunity, not an exit path.”
Mitchell didn’t sit on the decision too long, with the pair moving forward on the idea almost immediately.
“Clarko texted me an hour or so later in his typically to-the-point manner: ‘Explore or park?’” Mitchell said.
“I wrote straight back to him — ‘Explore’.”
With the conversation still between Mitchell and Clarkson at Hawthorn’s best and fairest night, Mitchell kept the news quiet, although he could have found solace in the fact that teammate Jordan Lewis was in the same boat.
“I was sitting on a table with some of my best footy friends, including Hodgey, Roughy, Jordan Lewis, Josh Gibson and Grant Birchall,” Mitchell added.
“In hindsight, the table was a little grumpy that night. I didn’t know it at the time, but Clarko had had a similar conversation about opportunities elsewhere with ‘Lewy’, except the difference was he hadn’t been as comfortable with the discussion as I had been.
“The funniest (text) came from Hodgey, who sent a message asking, ‘Did you just get traded for pick 88?’”
Mitchell headed west and played 22 games for the Eagles, before moving into the coaches box as an assistant at the end of the 2017 season.