Hawthorn coach-in-waiting Sam Mitchell has rejected suggestions he is trying to push Alastair Clarkson out of the AFL club, insisting he is happy to work underneath the four-time premiership mentor.
Mitchell on Wednesday spoke about the Hawks' coaching succession plan, declaring it had been a "baptism of fire" since it was announced early this month.
The 38-year-old is slated to take the reins from Clarkson for the 2023 AFL season and denied he wants control in 2022.
"I probably shouldn't say it on radio, but I kind of get a bit pissed off with people saying that," Mitchell told SEN.
"I've worked with Clarko for nearly 20 years and the fact that people would say that I'm trying to push him out is disrespectful to both of us because we've had a working relationship for such a long period of time.
"I did get a little bit frustrated with people saying, 'Oh, he's just trying to get Clarkson out'.
"If I wanted to coach next year I would've continued to pursue the Collingwood opportunity... so every piece of evidence says that isn't true."
Mitchell flatly rejected reports that a meeting with Clarkson and Hawthorn powerbrokers last week was set out for mediation.
He also believed Clarkson remained interested in developing him as a coach, maintaining he has a desire to work with Clarkson and that the pair will do so well leading up to the handover.
Mitchell left Hawthorn at the end of 2016 in a trade to West Coast, where he finished his playing career and was an assistant coach under Adam Simpson in the Eagles' 2018 premiership.
He returned to the Hawks as an assistant coach after a phone call from Clarkson in 2018.
Mitchell said the Hawks had been working on "some form of succession for such a long period of time" but also that it was only recently became formalised.
"The only part that I know was Clarko was not going to be reappointed - that was the board's decision - and that was a separate thing to me taking over," Mitchell said.
"The options that came to me were, 'Hawthorn can go through a process for 2023 or you can do the job'.
"To me, I was desperate to do the job. I love Hawthorn, it's a fantastic club that I've invested half of my life into and I want to continue to try to improve us."
Mitchell conceded there would be speculation around the succession plan all the way through to the handover.
"In every game there's going to be external noise that comes to us," Mitchell said.
"What we need to be really strong with, and which we're still in the process of working out, is internally what our messaging looks like, how we work together on a day-to-day basis, who's in charge of what and how we can get the best outcome for the club.
"At the end of the day, one thing that you could never say about either myself or Alastair Clarkson is we don't have absolute loyalty to the Hawthorn football club."
Australian Associated Press