AFL great says Mitchell has to learn grey

West Coast assistant Sam Mitchell is returning to Melbourne and may look for a gig with the Hawks.Before Sam Mitchell commits to any AFL club’s colours, coaching great David Parkin thinks he needs to learn the meaning of grey.


Parkin, a major influence in Mitchell’s career, smiled on Wednesday when asked about what the aspiring coach should do next.

He compared Mitchell to Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley, another famously-driven footballer, perfectionist and high achiever.

“Sam has the problem Bucks had early – he doesn’t know the difference between black and white,” Parkin said.

“There’s a thing called grey in between. Sam is smart enough to do what Bucks has done over time.

“It’s taken a while for Bucks to become the person he is, which has allowed him to become a better coach.

“He understands there’s a lot of grey in the world, which I don’t think he understood originally.”

Late last month, Mitchell confirmed that he wants to leave his role as an assistant coach at West Coast and return to Melbourne for family reasons.

There is strong speculation that Mitchell will return to Hawthorn, where he built his reputation as one of the game’s best midfielders.

Parkin acknowledges the argument that Mitchell should go to another club first and continue to build his coaching resume, perhaps at a struggling outfit such as Carlton or St Kilda.

But the Hawthorn and Carlton premiership coach thinks a more successful club might be a better option.

“You might go to a club that needs help and make a difference there,” Parkin said.

“My advice to him would be to go to fertile ground, where you know what’s there will help you develop personally, but then you can make a difference and help that club go where they want.”

Parkin was the keynote speaker at Wednesday’s MCG launch of a book commemorating the Norm Smith Medallists.

He has watched every grand final live since 1949 and said Gary Ablett Snr’s nine goals in the 1989 decider remains the best Norm Smith Medal performance.

“I was entertained, despite the fact he was in the opposition camp, like nobody has entertained me in any grand final before,” Parkin said.