Sam Mitchell’s Hawthorn-to-West Coast trade bombshell shocked the football world on Wednesday but it might well be something that AFL fans have to get used to.
It’s a brave new AFL world out there and Alastair Clarkson’s Hawks have been at the forefront of it for some time.
Hawthorn supporters will hate to lose a four-time premiership great, but this move makes a lot of sense for the player and both clubs.
Mitchell has long been up-front about his coaching ambitions.
At 34 with one, possibly two, years of footy left in him he can help the Eagles on the field before moving into Adam Simpson’s coaching box.
Geographically it’s a huge move, but philosophically Mitchell might as well be shifting next door.
Simpson, a good friend of Mitchell’s, won the West Coast job ahead of the 2014 season after four years honing his coaching skills under Clarkson.
There are now six branches to the Clarkson coaching tree: Damien Hardwick at Richmond, Chris Fagan at Brisbane, Leon Cameron at Greater Western Sydney, Luke Beveridge at the Western Bulldogs, Brendon Bolton at Carlton and Simpson.
As an assistant coach to Simpson, Mitchell would almost become a sub-branch of that fertile tree, with a view to becoming the seventh Clarkson disciple in the head coaching ranks down the track.
The Hawks will be happy too – it was Clarkson’s idea after all.
They get much-needed salary cap relief as they look to accommodate Sydney recruit Tom Mitchell and Gold Coast trade target Jaeger O’Meara.
The draft pick received in return for Mitchell, probably a third or fourth rounder, could also help grease the wheels of an O’Meara trade.
The shock value of the move has a lot to do with Mitchell’s stature in the game, but it’s not an entirely new idea.
Adelaide veteran Scott Thompson was recently linked with a playing-coaching move to Melbourne before he re-signed with the Crows, while Luke Power and Dean Brogan played for the Giants while also holding down assistant coaching roles.
It’s a low risk-high reward move for West Coast, who insist they won’t be giving up their first-round draft pick, even for a player who could end up being the missing piece in their premiership puzzle.