Hawthorn coach Sam Mitchell has been dragged into the alleged Alastair Clarkson controversy, with claims he suffered “unsympathetic treatment” towards his young family.
During the 2011 season, Mitchell’s family suffered health problems after wife Lyndall gave birth to twin girls. Mitchell’s mother-in-law was also diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in a testing time for the family.
The Age alleges Clarkson engaged in “controlling behaviour” towards Mitchell – including on the eve of an interstate game telling the star mid to “hand in his mobile phone” – along with the rest of the players in the team, despite one of his daughters being frequently in hospital.
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Journalist Caroline Wilson also alleges Clarkson “expressed surprise” when Mitchell announced he was having twin girls when son Smith was 11 months old and “wondered at the effect this might have upon his playing career”.
Wilson’s article also alleges if not for football boss Mark Evans’ intervention, including returning Mitchell’s phone and having his wife Lynne stay with Mitchell’s wife in Melbourne, the relationship between Mitchell and Clarkson would have been “irreparable”.
Mitchell has previously spoken about his relationship with Clarkson, including in his autobiography Relentless, where he shared a text from the coach in 2011 questioning the last time he “played well” in a final.
“I really enjoyed working with Clarko for most of the time,” Mitchell said on 6PR when the book was released in 2018.
“I think the book goes into a few rough details, like most good honest relationships that you build – not everything is smooth sailing.
“As long as you have an undercurrent of honesty and you work hard, and you want the same things, then you always come out in the same spot at the end.
“We were able to work together really well. He got the best out of me in lots of different ways – some of them I appreciated, some I didn’t at the time – in hindsight, he’s always trying to do the right thing for you as a player and that’s all you can ask for as a coach.”
But Mitchell did open up on a shock near-trade request to rivals Collingwood in 2011 after feeling “so frustrated” during the season Wilson’s article surrounds.
“It got to the point where I was so frustrated that midway through the 2011 season I wasn’t sure I could continue at Hawthorn,” he wrote
“I still had a contract for the following year, but it seemed to me that, if the club or Clarko didn’t value what I was doing, I might have to find a new club.
“Professionally, I had two options — sort out my problem with Clarko, or leave the club. For a period, I was leaning towards the latter.”
In Wilson’s article, it is alleged Clarkson “agreed” to treat Mitchell with “more respect” when the pair spoke at the season’s end, but again “questioned the wisdom of the timing” of his daughters’ birth.
The latest Clarkson claims come after the damning Hawthorn report into the treatment of First Nations players and their partners stemming from more than a decade ago.
Foxfooty.com.au does not suggest the allegations in that report are completely true and accurate, only that they have been made and are being investigated by other bodies.
Clarkson has strenuously denied all allegations relating to the Hawks report and engaged legal representation as the AFL begins an investigation.
Mitchell was eventually traded to West Coast in 2016, where he went on to begin his coaching career before landing as Clarkson’s replacement at Hawthorn.