Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson has signed a three-year contract extension as the challenge looms of regenerating the AFL powerhouse.
Clarkson has confirmed speculation of an additional three years, keeping him in charge of the Hawks at least until the end of the 2019 season.
The 47-year-old is already Hawthorn’s most-successful coach with four premierships.
Next year, he is also set to overtake club legend John Kennedy as their longest-serving coach.
If the Hawks take out this year’s premiership, they will become only the second team in VFL-AFL history to win four straight.
But Clarkson’s decision to sign after lengthy negotiations with the club is based primarily on what happens when this era is over.
He said the new deal was a formality.
“It really feels like if I’m the one who selects to jump off that (what comes next), then I’m sort of abandoning the journey in a sense of some young lads who I’ve been involved with recruiting to the football club,” he told the AFL website.
“I don’t want to do that prematurely – I want to see it through.”
Hawks stars such as captain Luke Hodge, Sam Mitchell, Shaun Burgoyne and Josh Gibson are all over 30.
“It’s driving me in terms of the next wave of players coming through,” Clarkson said.
“We want to test ourselves to see whether we can cope with the changes to our side, as well as obviously the changes to the game.
“The real challenge for our club and our system, in a sense, is to see that that can provide success again for the club.
“That’s a challenge that we’re looking forward to, but that’s probably the reason why we’re going to need a bit of time to do it.”
Hawthorn are the only AFL side that Clarkson has coached and, when he took over in 2005, the Hawks were deep in a rebuilding phase.
But they upset Geelong to win the 2008 premiership and Clarkson has gone on to become the league’s most-successful current coach.
While he is notorious for a volatile temper, Clarkson’s outstanding success and undoubted intellect have made him one of the most-influential figures in the game.
He has no interest in speculating about his potential successor at Hawthorn or when that might happen.
And while other clubs have executed coach succession plans, it is not a concept that interests him.
Five current AFL senior coaches previously worked as assistants to Clarkson at Hawthorn.
“I don’t want to be part of trying to select who our next coach is. I think that’s the responsibility of our board and the management of our club,” he said.
“I just feel like a succession plan is too contrived.
“For different clubs, different environments and different situations, it may suit other clubs. I don’t think it’s going to suit me.”