|Full name||Alastair Clarkson|
|Date of birth||27 April 1968|
|Original team(s)||Kaniva (TFL)|
|Height||177 cm (5 ft 10 in)|
|Weight||79 kg (174 lb)|
|Position(s)||Forward / Midfielder|
|1987–1995||North Melbourne||93 (61)|
1 Playing statistics correct to the end of 1997.
3 Coaching statistics correct as of 2021.
|Sources: AFL Tables, AustralianFootball.com|
Alastair Clarkson (born 27 April 1968) is an Australian rules football coach and former player. He was the head coach of the Hawthorn Football Club in the Australian Football League (AFL) between 2005 and 2021.
Hailing from the small town of Kaniva, Victoria, Clarkson played eleven seasons of AFL football - nine for North Melbourne (1987-1995) followed by two for Melbourne (1996-1997). He played 134 games in total, playing either in the midfield or on the half-forward flanks. After retiring from playing, Clarkson served for periods as an assistant coach at St Kilda (1999), head coach of VFL club Werribee (2000), head coach of SANFL club Central District (2001-2002), and assistant coach at Port Adelaide (2003-2004).
Clarkson was appointed head coach of Hawthorn at the end of the 2004 season, in which the club had placed second-last. Hawthorn returned to the finals in 2007, Clarkson's third season in charge, and the following year defeated Geelong in the grand final to claim their first premiership since 1991. From 2012 to 2015, Clarkson cemented his place in club history by coaching Hawthorn to four consecutive grand finals. The Hawks emerged victorious in 2013, 2014, and 2015, becoming only the sixth team in league history to win three consecutive premierships. Clarkson is one of the few men to have coached four premiership teams and is widely considered among the most innovative and successful coaches in AFL history.
Clarkson grew up in the small rural town of Kaniva, Victoria. He moved to Ballarat at the age of 14 to board at Ballarat Clarendon College, where he played in the school cricket and football teams. When not playing for his school, Clarkson would play for the Kaniva & Districts Football Club in the Tatiara Football League.
Clarkson was recruited by the North Melbourne Football Club, where he made his Victorian Football League debut in round 15 of the 1987 season against the Melbourne, kicking the winning goal after the siren.
Clarkson was 19 and at the end of his first season with North Melbourne when the Kangaroos met Carlton in October 1987 in the controversial Battle of Britain, an exhibition match at The Oval in London. Several players from both teams were suspended after a spiteful game, Clarkson's four-match penalty for coward punching Ian Aitken from behind being the longest. Aitken's jaw was broken from the attack.
He played mainly as a half-forward and stood at 171 cm, before moving into the midfield. In 1995, he was made captain of the reserves side, with chances of senior selection unlikely due to the presence of midfielders such as Wayne Schwass, Anthony Stevens and Anthony Rock. He played 93 games with the Kangaroos for 61 goals in his nine seasons until 1995.
During his playing days with North Melbourne, Clarkson was employed by Wesley College, Melbourne, as a physical education teacher.
With limited opportunity at the Kangaroos, Clarkson was traded to the Melbourne Football Club where he debuted in 1996. He was a solid player and averaged 23.5 disposals in 22 games that year. He played 19 games in 1997, taking his tally with the Demons to 41 games, before retiring at the end of the season.
Clarkson served as a runner with the Melbourne Football Club in 1998 and was an assistant coach under Tim Watson at St Kilda in 1999, before taking over as head coach at Werribee in the VFL in 2000. He moved to Central District in South Australia, where he was premiership coach in his debut year 2001. In 2002, Clarkson guided Central District to the SANFL minor premiership and guided them to their second successive SANFL Grand Final. However, they ended up losing to Sturt. In 2003 he became the midfield coach at Port Adelaide and was part of their coaching team in the premiership season of 2004.
Clarkson was appointed to his first senior Australian Football League (AFL) coaching role for the 2005 season when the Hawks appointed him to lead their rebuilding phase. Clarkson replaced caretaker senior coach Donald McDonald, who replaced Peter Schwab during the 2004 season, after Schwab quit during the season when the Hawks were struggling. Clarkson was prepared to delist older players and introduce a youth policy. Club veterans Rayden Tallis, Mark Graham, Kris Barlow, Luke McCabe and Lance Picioane left the club and Nathan Thompson was traded to North Melbourne. Hawthorn had five wins in Clarkson's debut season in the 2005 season. Another round of culling saw the delisting of Angelo Lekkas and Nick Holland and the trade of Jonathan Hay and Nathan Lonie. Clarkson brought to the club delisted players Brent Guerra and Stephen Gilham whom he knew from his time at Port Adelaide. In the 2006 season, the side improved as Clarkson showed innovation by restructuring the forwards with a system that became known as "Buddy's box". The team won its last four games in a row to finish in 11th spot on the ladder. The Hawks continued to improve in the 2007 season, winning 13 games and finishing fifth on the premiership table. This took them into the finals, where they defeated Adelaide in an elimination final, before being eliminated in a semi-final against North Melbourne.
Clarkson went against his own policy on draft day 2007 when, in addition to youngster Cyril Rioli, he recruited the recently retired Stuart Dew, whom he also knew from his time at Port Adelaide. He also introduced a new style of play that became known as the "Clarkson cluster". Early dominance in the 2008 season led Hawthorn to announce that Clarkson had signed a contract until the end of 2011. In the 2008 season, he took the Hawks to second place at the end of the minor round before leading the team to the premiership victory in the 2008 AFL Grand Final against Geelong, a team which had lost only one game during the year. In doing so, Clarkson became the first (and, as of 2017, only) person to be a premiership-winning coach in both the AFL/VFL and the SANFL.
After the 2008 premiership, opposition teams worked hard at picking the "Clarkson cluster" apart. Dogged by injuries to key players, the Hawks slipped down the ladder to finish ninth in 2009. After a poor start to 2010, when the club lost six out of its first seven games, including an embarrassing 43-point loss to Essendon in Round 6 after which the entire club came under scrutiny, the team finally abandoned the cluster for a more precision-kicking style. Aided by recruiting established players to cover weaknesses, the club climbed its way back up the ladder. Shaun Burgoyne and Josh Gibson arrived in 2010, David Hale in 2011, Jack Gunston in 2012 and Brian Lake in 2013, which helped Clarkson to again lead the Hawks to a premiership win, this time over the Fremantle in the 2013 AFL Grand Final.
In 2013, Clarkson became only the third man behind John Kennedy, Sr. and Allan Jeans to coach Hawthorn for 200 games. He is the only man to coach the club in 200 consecutive games. In Round 8, 2014, he became the equal second longest-serving coach of Hawthorn, with Allan Jeans, when he coached his 221st AFL match against the Sydney Swans.
Clarkson has been coach of the Australian team in the International Rules Series in 2014 and 2015. The IRS is a hybrid game played between an Australian team of AFL players and one made up of Irish Gaelic footballers at the end of each of their seasons. It is played alternately in Ireland and Australia. The 2014 game was the first time in the competition's 30-year history that just one game decided the series winner.
In May 2014, Clarkson was admitted to hospital after a back injury which was later diagnosed as Guillain-Barré syndrome. Assistant coach Brendon Bolton became the interim senior coach for five matches, winning every game in Clarkson's absence. Clarkson returned in July after his absence of five matches. and coached Hawthorn to their 12th premiership win when they defeated Sydney 21.11 (137) to 11.8 (74). This placed him alongside Allan Jeans and John Kennedy Sr as Hawthorn's most successful premiership winning coaches, with three premierships each.
In 2015, Clarkson coached Hawthorn to their third straight flag, in the process becoming Hawthorn's most successful coach, and tying Leigh Matthews as the only coaches to win three straight premierships in the 21st century.
On 6 July 2021, the Hawthorn Football Club announced that it will implement a succession plan which will see Clarkson coach out his current contract, before being succeeded as senior coach by assistant coach Sam Mitchell from 2023. However, on 30 July 2021, it was announced that Clarkson would leave Hawthorn at the conclusion of the 2021 AFL season, with Mitchell immediately succeeding him.
A number of Alastair Clarkson's assistants have gone on to coach at senior level in the AFL.
1 Bolton returned to Hawthorn soon after his tenure as Carlton coach ended in round 11, 2019.
2 Ratten had previously coached at Carlton between 2007 and 2012 before joining Hawthorn as an assistant coach in 2013.
2 Mitchell succeeded Clarkson as coach at the conclusion of the 2021 AFL season.
|Season||Team||No.||Games||Totals||Averages (per game)|
^ Due to illness, Clarkson was unavailable for senior coaching for five matches in 2014. Brendon Bolton coached Hawthorn in those five matches from round 11-15 (all of which Hawthorn won).
In addition to his role in the Battle of Britain exhibition match, Clarkson has been sanctioned for his bad temper on several occasions during his coaching career. In Round 22, 2009 against Essendon, Clarkson was fined $15,000 for confronting and threatening Matthew Lloyd after Lloyd had flattened Hawthorn's Brad Sewell and started a brawl at the start of the third quarter of the match, and for abusing an interchange steward who attempted to intervene in the incident.
In July 2012, while serving as the runner for his son's team in a South Metro Junior Football League under-9s match, Clarkson was reported for abusing 19-year-old umpires' adviser Thomas Grundy; he was suspended for four SMJFL matches for the incident. The incident occurred one day after he had punched a hole in the wall of a Melbourne Cricket Ground coaches' box during an AFL match.
In May 2013, Clarkson again created controversy after calling AFL Media journalist Matt Thompson a "cockhead".
After Hawthorn's round 4 loss to Port Adelaide in 2015, footage was released of Clarkson appearing to grab the throat of a fan outside a hotel in Adelaide. After the club defended his actions, Clarkson suggested he was worried about his safety as three heavily intoxicated men had made physical contact with him after he refused photos, causing Clarkson to push one of the men. Unlike his previous incidents, Clarkson received almost unanimous support within the football industry, as well as from the general public over his actions.
Clarkson holds a Master of Business Administration from Monash University, and also a Bachelor of Sports Science. Clarkson is married to Caryn, a schoolteacher. Clarkson's older brother, Andrew, was killed in a drink-driving accident aged 24, when Clarkson was an adolescent in Kaniva. He has two daughters, Stephanie and Georgia and a son, Matthew.