Alastair Clarkson deserves to be considered one of the AFL’s coaching greats according to one of his best Hawthorn recruits, Jack Gunston.
Clarkson’s fourth premiership success on Saturday moved him past any Hawthorn forebear for flags won at the club, overtaking three-time winners John Kennedy Snr and Allan Jeans.
He became just the second man to mastermind a three-peat in the modern era, after the AFL’s player of the century Leigh Matthews, who produced the same feat at Brisbane.
After 11 seasons in charge at Waverley, Clarkson sits in rarified coaching ranks and Gunston is keen to heap praise on his mentor.
“He’s a great,” the 23-year-old said.
“He’s a great coach to play under; he just does wonders; he knows the right times to say things … he’s a great innovator.
“The good thing about Clarko is he brings in good people and he’s a good man himself.
“That’s what builds a whole footy club and a culture.”
Gunston wasn’t referring to himself but he was one of Clarkson’s most-successful pickups, joining the club from Adelaide after the 2011 season.
In the four years since, the sharpshooter has made four grand finals, winning three.
No current player has more goals in grand finals than Gunston, who fought off an ankle injury to take his place and kick four majors in the 46-point victory over West Coast.
He admitted his anxiety that he might not overcome that ankle knock.
“I was nervous, just how I was going to go and how I was going to pull up,” he said.
“But since I ran Monday, I knew I was going to be right to play.”
He said he had long stopped convincing himself that moving back to his home state from the Crows was the right decision.
“After your second year, you probably have no right to leave but it’s a decision I made and I’m comfortable with,” he said.
“One premiership probably satisfies it … your first one is always special – back to back’s good; three in a row is better.”