Fresh questions over Clarkson exit after draw

Fresh questions have been raised over Hawthorn’s coaching succession plan after an undermanned Hawks side pulled off a remarkable draw against the AFL’s ladder-leaders.

Despite missing most of its first-choice backline, the Hawks secured a 12. 7. (79) to 11. 13. (79) draw with Melbourne at the MCG after veteran Luke Breust tied the scores with a goal inside the final minute.

After being smacked by 62 points last week in the first match since the club announced that Alastair Clarkson would be leaving at the end of next season, the four-time premiership winner was able to mastermind a much more positive result this week.

The undermanned Hawks’ performance caused Bulldogs great Brad Johnson to question exactly why the club was getting rid of a coach “at the top of his game”.

“You’re getting rid of a coach that can manufacture and motivate still and that’s critical,” Johnson told Fox Footy.

“What we saw again tonight was an Alastair Clarkson that is completely in on Hawthorn and where their direction needs to go.

“He’s not going to drop away from that, he’s a proud performer anyway in terms of coaching. He manufactured tonight something that I don’t think too many other coaches would’ve been able to achieve.

“You’re getting rid of a guy that’s at the top of his game when he’s doing this with the squad that he had tonight.”

After Johnson’s co-panellist, Hawthorn great Jordan Lewis, suggested that the players drove the result, the Dogs great re-iterated the coach’s role in the result.

“You’ve got to sell the story at the start of the week and I think that’s what the coach does, he creates the story about how we’re going to do this,” he said.

“Terry Wallace used to do it all the time, big games like that, mission impossible. How are we going to do it? How are we going to do things differently to make the opposition second-guess?

“It is up to the players to execute, no question, and then they build confidence throughout that.”

Hawthorn’s efforts were led by 2018 Brownlow Medallist Tom Mitchell, who continued his sensational season with 39 disposals and a goal, while Breust kicked three goals.

Melbourne was led by the midfield duo of Christian Petracca and Clayton Oliver who collected 34 and 33 disposals, respectively, while Bayley Fritsch added three goals.

The draw wasn’t all negative for the Demons, with Simon Goodwin’s side taking a two-point lead over the Western Bulldogs at the top of the ladder with the result.

Melbourne will hope to pick up a win against the Gold Coast in Round 19, while Hawthorn is set to face the Brisbane Lions.

The location and start time for all nine games to be played next week are yet to be determined due to the uncertainty around COVID-19 border restrictions in multiple states.

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