Ranking Every Possible 2022 Alastair Clarkson Destination
Last Friday, mixed in between NSW's daily announcement of new Covid cases and Wollongong’s Emma McKeon claiming even more gold in Tokyo, one of the year’s biggest AFL stories broke concerning the premature death of Hawthorn’s coaching succession plan.
Indeed, season 2022 will be the first in 18 years where Alastair Clarkson won’t be moving around the magnets for the Hawks, instead replaced by Sam Mitchell who was a key figure in all four of the premierships the brilliant coach helped smuggle to Waverley Park.
The cessation of one of the most successful coaching partnerships in AFL history also means the game has one hell of a free agent on its hands, the likes of which has vigorously shaken up the AFL’s snow globe.
It’s not often a coach of Clarkson’s standing is available, and should the brilliant tactician desire to coach next year, we’ve decided to rank the suitability of every possible destination.
Let’s take a look.
If you think Jeff Kennett’s schoolboy Machiavellian fantasies have been a bit over the top at Hawthorn, wait until you hear about his reign as premier of Victoria.
Kennet’s role in bringing an end to Clarkson’s time as coach has been unedifying to say the least, and barring an alien invasion and edict to return Clarkson to Hawthorn, we can safely say he won’t be coaching the Hawks in 2022.
Brisbane Lions: 1/10
Chris Fagan served brilliantly under Clarkson and played a massive role in the vast array of riches the Hawks accumulated. And, since winning the main role in Brisbane in 2016 he’s proven his own coaching magnificence, helping to completely overhaul a struggling club and transform it into a perennial premiership threat.
The Lions were incredibly bold opting for Fagan to take over when they did. They’d be incredibly foolish to break up a really good thing at the moment.
North Melbourne: 1/10
Ordinarily, a team about to collect its first wooden spoon in 49 years and who’s lost 27 of its last 35 games would potentially present as an ideal suitor for Clarkson, a club of course he played 95 games for. With that said, one of the few things the Roos have got very right in recent times was last October’s hiring of David Noble with his own excellent work starting to shine through over the last couple of months.
Some of the on-field battles Clarkson and the Cats have fought have had a Shakespearean quality to them, however it’d be another level of drama entirely for the Cats to cut ties with Chris Scott and get into bed with Clarkson.
While Scott has been maligned for routinely coming up short in September, he’s been every bit as brilliant as Clarkson when it comes to the home and away season (Scott actually has a 15-8 overall record against Clarkson), so unless some arrangement is made where he's parachuted in to take over the Cats each September, we can safely say Clarko needn’t seek out Surf Coast real estate opportunities.
Like the Cats, Sydney have had their fair share of blood feuds with Clarkson and the Hawks over the years, though for now both are in serious premiership contention while Hawthorn is in a bit of a mess. John Longmire has once again proven he’s one of the absolute best in the business, and with a truckload of capable assistants around him, the Swans are in no need whatsoever to shake up their coaching situation.
Off the field, Damien Hardwick and Clarkson are the dearest of friends, enjoying tandem skydiving trips while providing one another a solid shoulder to cry on when things aren’t going swimmingly. In their respective coaches boxes these two have combined for 7 premierships and helped reconfigure the entire sport in the process. While the Tigers aren’t having a great year, there’s virtually no chance they’d consider brining in Clarko unless Hardwick wanted to take a couple of years off, and personally asked his buddy to take over.
Western Bulldogs: 2/10
In Luke Beveridge, the Doggies might have just about the best brain in the AFL and they might also have the best playing list too. After years in the wilderness, the Dogs are one of the favourites to add a second premiership in five years to the trophy cabinet, while hosting an attack that’s already scored almost 200 points more than Geelong and Melbourne. With that said, if the Dogs were to spectacularly crash in the finals (god forbid), and perhaps extend their 5-year streak without a September win, a lot of eyes will gravitate toward the coaches box.
No, Simon Goodwin might not be at Clarkson’s level of coaching brilliance, but his Demons have finally achieved some stability and are in with a massive chance of sleighing their 57-year premiership drought. Barring an epic, straight-sets elimination in September, Melbourne are likely more than happy with their current coaching arrangement.
After so many years of scandal and heartbreak, the Bombers have made some serious strides this season under first-year coach Ben Rutten, and are still incredibly in the hunt for Finals despite no less than 5 losses by less than two goals. Just as important as their coaching set up is a list that boasts genuine potential and as this year seen Darcy Parish establish himself as a star. Unless Essendon are complete junkies for drama, they won’t entertain the notion of Clarkson moving to Tullamarine.
It wasn’t that long ago that the Dockers cut bait from Ross Lyon and replaced him with Justin Longmuir, and while the latter hasn’t blown the world away, he’s getting more comfortable by the week, most recently piloting the club to its been win in years against Richmond on Sunday. Unlike when Lyon shocked the footy world when he left St Kilda to team up with Fremantle at the end of 2011, the current Dockers list isn’t at the kind of level which would tempt Clarkson to drop anchor out west.
The Crows and Dockers did their most recent round of sacking and hiring in late 2019 and while the wins haven’t exactly gushed fourth for either club, they’d both feel reasonably comfortable with one another’s progression. With that said, it isn’t as though Clarkson would have either of these teams in the forefront of his mind when thinking’s about his next place of employment.
Port Adelaide: 5/10
The Power have a ridiculously talented list and a pretty damn good coach too, a combo of which has them well placed for a second-straight top-4 finish. While Port haven’t been as impressive this season as they were last year, and continue to falter against the best, most clubs would kill for the kind of infrastructure they have in place. Would Port want to risk what they’ve built for a run at Clarko? Would Clarkson want to move to Adelaide?
St Kilda: 6/10
Any notion of Alastair Clarkson sashaying into Moorabbin comes entirely down to how the Saints feel about Brett Ratten. His efforts last season were outstanding helping to extinguish St Kilda’s 8-season Finals exodus, while implementing one of the league’s most attractive brands of footy.
Unfortunately the cameo appearance has been pretty poor, routinely smashed by the league’s best while getting little in the way of middle brilliance outside of Jack Steele. While Ratten is still very likely the man to get the Saints back, the club might still feel compelled to ask the question of Clarkson who could potentially be intrigued by the opportunity to work with a compelling, talented squad.
On the surface this makes plenty of sense: A famous club, down on its luck and in possession of the kind of resources to lure a living legend of the game into their vacant coaching box. If Clarkson wants a massive challenge with gargantuan rewards attached to it, this would be ideal fit, yet the reality is this is a club who remains a fair way back, while there are potentially other opportunities, and playings lists, that could help him land his fifth premiership a lot quicker.
Gold Coast: 7.5/10
The moment the Clarkson-Hawthorn divorce was confirmed, Stuart Dew may well have chocked just a little on his caramel thick shake. It’s of course widely-acknowledged how much the Suns have struggled since their inception, never making finals and continually living in a state of high-anxiety. While there have been some improvements this year, their 98-point weekend shellacking by the Demons was another reminder of just how far off they are. There is talent on this list, and there would be worse places to work than SE Queensland, so this could come down to whether the Suns are sure Dew isn’t for them, and whether the AFL can wire enough money into Clarkson’s bank account.
West Coast: 8/10
The Eagles will still very likely make finals for a 7th-straight season, yet there’s no denying this is a club with some major concerns and is failing to make the most of a tremendously talented list. If the Eagles did want to cut loose from Adam Simpson and pursue Clarkson, they could offer him the prospect of a squad which has a league-high ten All-Australians on it and whom are crying out for a something a little (or a lot) different tactically.
GWS Giants: 8.5/10
Leon Cameron is probably having his best year in the coaches box, though questions still linger as to whether he’s the right man to get the most out of this deep pipeline of talent. While sure, he helped the Giants reach the Grand Final in 2019, they were of course pulverised by Richmond once there and have since spent 27 of the last 36 rounds of football parked outside the top-8. Like West Coast, the Giants are crying out for something a little different, and should Clarkson want to move to a premiership contender as soon as possible, a move to Western Sydney could present his best chance.
The Blues can offer all of the excitement and prestige of the Collingwood job to Clarkson, but unlike the Pies, can put (metaphorically) all of Sam Walsh, Harry McKay and Jacob Weitering on the table to tempt him to move to Princess Park.
Carlton’s off-field situation would also mean he wouldn’t have to deal with the shadow of Eddie McGuire (presidency or no presidency). The question for the Blues is whether they’d want to risk replicating what they did with Brett Ratten in 2012 entirely because of the availability of Alastair Clarkson. If it’s a risk they’re prepared to take, if they feel David Teague really isn't up to it and if Clarko is keen on the opportunity, then perhaps the Carlton gig is his most logical destination.
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