Sam Mitchell has avoided pouring any more fuel on the fire ahead of his much-anticipated AFL coaching duel with Alastair Clarkson.
And Clarkson has revealed he is going to extraordinary lengths to do the same.
WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: Alastair Clarkson refuses to share a flight with Hawthorn amid racism probe.
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Saturday’s Hawthorn v North Melbourne match in Launceston will be the first time they have been senior coaches in the same game.
Mitchell is in his second season as Hawks coach, while Clarkson has taken over the Kangaroos after leading Hawthorn to four premierships.
They have a turbulent history, with Mitchell’s autobiography detailing how the pair had to meet and thrash out some differences in late 2011 when he was a star Hawthorn player.
Mitchell originally was supposed to take over from Clarkson at Hawthorn in a coaching succession plan.
But that plan spectacularly fell apart and Clarkson left the Hawks a year early in late 2021. His relationship with the club has deteriorated even further since Hawthorn was embroiled in the racism scandal.
In what was set to be an incredibly awkward moment, the teams and the coaches were going to share a charter flight back to Melbourne after their game on Saturday afternoon.
But Clarkson has aborted the plan.
“We’ve got a charter flight coming back together. So I won’t jump on that flight, I’ll come on a different flight,” Clarkson told journalists on Thursday.
“I just don’t think given the investigation that I’m embroiled in with Hawthorn, I don’t think it’s a great idea that we’d be sitting on a plane together.
“It’s only because of COVID that all of a sudden (teams sharing a flight became) a great idea.
“But we actually said for a long period of time we don’t think the races should be together anymore, just because of the emotion of what might happen when two teams come off at halftime and at the end of the game, so let’s separate them.”
Mitchell also played a straight bat at Thursday morning’s media conference.
“I know you’d love a big quote about Mitchell and Clarkson and all that stuff, but I’m the coach of this football club, that’s my priority,” he said.
“That’s enough to fill my cup at the moment, so I have enough on my plate.”
Mitchell conceded he was not ignorant about the extra significance of this match.
“I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t thought about it at all, watching the opposition, seeing what they do, and seeing why they’re doing it,” he said.
“You’re scouting it the same as every other game, you just potentially have a little bit more idea about the mind of the coach.”
He added there had been no contact with his old coach ahead of the game, also noting that was nothing unusual.
– With AAP
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