GWS Giants next coach, Alastair Clarkson, candidates, interim coach Mark McVeigh on competing with him

Greater Western Sydney coaching contender Mark McVeigh has conceded, like all aspirants, he is “up against it” if Alastair Clarkson wants the Giants’ job.

Clarkson has discussed the senior coaching role with GWS decision-makers, in a move that suggests he is at least open to being Leon Cameron’s long-term successor, after McVeigh stepped up as caretaker in May.

The four-time premiership coach resigned as Hawthorn’s coach at the end of last season – paving the way for Hawks great Sam Mitchell to take over – and opted to sit out of AFL football this year.

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Clarkson spent time overseas and even got involved with Tasmania’s pitch for its own AFL team but there is an expectation he will coach somewhere in 2023.

The Giants were the first team to have a vacancy when they parted ways with long-time coach Cameron, putting them in pole position for Clarkson, if he is interested.

Giants interim coach Mark McVeigh, pictured right speaking to football boss Jason McCartney, wants to keep the job for next season. Picture: Phil HillyardSource: News Corp Australia

“If I look at Alastair Clarkson from afar; you respect him so much because of what he’s been able to do, ”McVeigh said.

“Ultimately, it’ll come down to, I suggest, what he would like to do, where he wants to go and he’s earned that right. I bring my own set of values.

“They’d be different to his, they’re different to Leon Cameron’s and they’re different to other assistant coaches who will go for that role.

“I’ll present to the footy club, and I’ll talk to them about that, (but) whether that’s good enough, we’ll wait and see.

“I know and I understand that if Alastair Clarkson says,‘ I want to come to the Giants ’, I’m up against it, just because that’s the way it should be. He’s been an incredible coach for a long period of time. ”

James Peatling has recovered from his hamstring injury and will return against Port Adelaide. Picture: Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

McVeigh hopes his understanding of the GWS environment and strong relationships with players will work in his favor.

The Giants have won three of their six games since McVeigh’s been in charge, albeit against teams below them on the ladder in West Coast, North Melbourne and Hawthorn, with Port Adelaide up next.

They will regain James Peatling (hamstring) and are considering recalling star on-baller Jacob Hopper, who amassed 18 disposals and five clearances in his VFL return last week from multiple knee surgeries.

McVeigh said they had “massively” missed Hopper, who enjoyed an outstanding 2021 season, as much for his on-field leadership as his actual football.

“It’s a hard one because he’s obviously been out for 15 weeks and he played in heavy, wet conditions, so you weren’t able to see that open, transition play that you’d get in dry conditions and how he’s covering the ground, ”He said.

Jacob Hopper could return to the senior side as soon as this weekend. Picture: Phil HillyardSource: News Corp Australia

“The one thing I do know about him is he’s a professional and he prepares really well. His knee’s pulled up fine, which is great. (But) we’ve got selection pressure there as well.

“Our midfield is traveling along really nicely. When you talk about Steve Coniglio, Tim Taranto, Tom Green, Josh Kelly, just to name a few, there’s some good players there that are obviously going well. ”

McVeigh said a decision would be made in the next fortnight or so on whether the likes of Ryan Angwin, Conor Stone, Harry Perryman, Finn Callaghan and Brent Daniels would play again this season.

But he confirmed defender Jack Buckley, on the comeback trail from an ACL setback, was close to returning and would quickly play senior football if everything goes well.

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