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AFL insider Caroline Wilson has passionately defended her coverage of Hawthorn’s succession plan amid an explosive response from Sam Mitchell, warning the former Hawks star to be “very careful”.
Hawthorn announced earlier this month that Mitchell would take the reins as head coach at the end of next season as part of the club’s much-discussed succession plan.
However, earlier this week Wilson claimed there was a meeting at Hawks headquarters with Mitchell, outgoing coach Alastair Clarkson, Leading Teams boss Ray McLean, Hawthorn footy boss Rob McCartney and other senior club members, and after this meeting Wilson said that those in the room left feeling that Mitchell wanted the top job in 2022 and that Clarkson would leave after this season.
“Absolutely not. That didn’t happen,” Mitchell told SEN radio on Wednesday, refuting Wilson.
“We’ve been working on some form of succession plan for such a long time, if you’ll give me the privilege I’ll explain to you how long ago this started and how it’s still all on track. There’s still plenty to do elaborate of course.
“Everyone talks about that meeting like it was a one-off or the only time we’ve ever met. I heard some media reports about it and it’s like, if you’re in an organization like Hawthorn, you’re going to have all these discussions all the time and if you all agree on everything, what’s the point of so many people doing it?
“You have to have people with different views all the time. Some of what happened at that particular meeting… we caught up, everyone knew we were doing it, and at the end of that meeting we didn’t have every answer, what would be clear for everyone to see that when you work through something this big it is a continuous work in progress.
“All we’re working towards is Clarko coaching next year and I’m keeping the role that I love working with these young guys and watching them progress and now a ton of them are currently getting games and I absolutely love that.”
Clarkson and Mitchell in ‘mediation session’
Later that night though Footy classifiedWilson hit back at Mitchell’s response and supported her reporting.
“I am completely convinced of my sources,” she said.
“Why on earth would I make something up? Why would I risk my reputation knowing that people at this gathering would come out and have their say?
“It’s absolutely possible that Sam didn’t say ‘I want to coach next year and I want you gone’ – I never mentioned that.
“What I did say was that people left that meeting with the impression that Sam Mitchell would rather be the senior coach next year and I’m sorry, but it’s not Sam’s 100 percent desire to team up with Alastair Clarkson next year.” to coach.
Wilson defends Hawks follow-up report
“It could be today after meetings have been held since that meeting and I might add that some of those meetings have been held without Alastair Clarkson’s presence, which would not normally happen.
“It’s just obviously not true for Sam to say no leaks come from Hawthorn. I’ve never seen Hawthorn leak like this.
“And Sam has to be very careful what he says about his premiership coach because I’ve heard back that he told people at that football club to just be careful.”
Former AFL coach Ross Lyon said the lack of support around Mitchell’s claims on the subject was “deafening”, suggesting Wilson’s reporting was correct.
“It’s not uplifting and if there had been some serious pushback I think both Sam and Alastair would have done something together today,” Lyon said.
“There was only one party in that meeting that spoke about Caroline not telling the truth. It’s deafening on the other side, the silence.
“I really feel for Alastair. When he signed the four-year contract, there was no question of a succession plan.
“It has been forced upon him in such a short time and the respect to say that we had a 20 minute meeting to schedule it says it all about this arrangement and I cannot comprehend what Alastair has been through.”
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