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Mitchell’s 0-2 Hawks will take on Clarkson’s 2-0 Kangaroos in Launceston in what is the first meeting between the duo who were central to Hawthorn’s four premierships between 2008 and 2015 since their acrimonious split.
After initially announcing a succession plan which would’ve seen Mitchell learning alongside Clarkson, Hawthorn announced that Clarkson would leave the club at the end of 2021 after a glittering stint spanning close to two decades.
The four-time premiership winner had a 12-month sabbatical from the coaches’ box before being announced as North Melbourne’s new senior coach late last year.
There has been widespread reports of a falling out between the duo, and veteran AFL columnist Damian Barrett suggested the relationship still remains on rocky grounds.
”That type of fire had occasionally been directed at each other,” he told Nine’s Footy Classified.
“There is no great relationship to speak of, that’s not a secret. They’re not even deciding to actually promote this game.
“There’s a chance that there will be a crossover on the plane home because the two teams are booked on the same plane out of Launceston back to Melbourne.
“Now whether they choose to jump on that plane is up to them, but it’s been pretty fiery.”
“They’re combative guys,” Footy Classified host Eddie McGuire added.
“We know Alastair Clarkson doesn’t muck around. They don’t take any prisoners, these guys, and they’re good at holding grudges.”
McGuire said Hawthorn had the “negative trifecta”, having a new coach, an inexperienced list and a rookie president in Andrew Gowers nagivating choppy waters.
After a pair of heavy losses to start the season, the pressure is on Mitchell, who Essendon great Matthew Lloyd suggested needs the win more than his old mentor.
“I think this is huge for Sam Mitchell,” he told Footy Classified.
“The more you lose, the more the pressure comes on him in terms of this racism review, I know that’s a bigger issue, but even the list and the way they’ve built it up. The more Sam Mitchell takes hidings, he’s being questioned.
“On Monday night, I saw Sam Mitchell and you could see the battering he’s copped in the first few weeks. I personally could sense that’s not the confident Sam Mitchell I’ve known for most of my life, it was a big week for him.”
However, Geelong great Jimmy Bartel backed Mitchell to be able to see things through at Hawthorn.
“I don’t think his confidence will be rocked,” he told Footy Classified.
“He’s been pretty steadfast in the plan ahead. We can have this discussion again about how they’ve cut their list, but having experienced players, they were going nowhere quickly.
“At the start of the year, how many games did we actually think Hawthorn were going to win?”
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