AFL confirms investigation into Hawthorn racism allegations
Alastair Clarkson and Chris Fagan could be stood down from their respective head coaching positions at North Melbourne and Brisbane on Wednesday as the AFL confirms an investigation will be launched into serious allegations made about Hawthorn’s treatment of First Nations players during Clarkson’s time at the club.
Both men were named in an ABC report, featuring anonymous accounts from three players, which claims First Nations players were coerced into ending relationships and terminating pregnancies.
Clarkson departed the Hawks in 2021 but had been lined up to return to the AFL in 2023, having recently signed a five-year deal with the Kangaroos.
Fagan remains the senior coach at Brisbane, having joined the club in 2017.
Many have already suggested their positions are untenable.
AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan fronted the media on Wednesday following the ABC report, which emerged following a club-initiated, external review into Hawthorn’s treatment of First Nations players during Clarkson’s tenure.
Asked about the current positions of Clarkson and Fagan, McLachlan suggested their clubs would make their positions clear on Wednesday.
“I’ve had conversations this morning with clubs and representatives of those accused and I feel the way that they will be approaching this impending investigation will be clear today,” McLachlan told reporters.
“I will leave it to the clubs and representatives to make their positions clear on how they’re going to approach this.”
Earlier, McLachlan had read a prepared statement, announcing a thorough review into the allegations.
“These are serious allegations and it is important that we treat them appropriately, whilst also ensuring the formal process provides support to those impacted and also natural justice to those people who are accused,” McLachlan said.
“This is a process that is appropriate is held independent of the normal AFL integrity department response.
“As such, we are appointing an external, independent panel that will be made up of four people, led by an eminent King’s Counsel.”
McLachlan also addressed those players and their families who’d been impacted by the alleged treatment.
“There are so many people who are hurting today and who have been hurting for a long time,” McLachlan added.
“To all of them, I want to acknowledge that hurt and say that, as a game, we will do everything to ensure that the hurt you’ve experienced is not a hurt that is experienced by others.”
Meanwhile, Hawks great Luke Hodge, who was a part of the four premierships the club won during that era, was asked about the report on SEN and expressed concern for the players and partners involved.
“Your first thought goes to the players who went through it and the partners and the families that went through it because it doesn’t matter what your job is, it’s always family first and that’s the first people you look after,” Hodge said.
“It’s shocking. Terrible. But you sit back and does it dampen… what we went through as a group, we had a lot of successful years, but at this stage that’s irrelevant because of what young blokes were told or what they were put through.”
The two-time Norm Smith Medal winner also spoke about his experience at the club at the time.
“When you have 18, 19, 20-year-old kids getting drafted, you always hear about break ups and whether it’s the right thing,” he added.
“Personally, I’ve had a lot of private conversations with those guys, especially early on, [for me] it was, ‘Is it the right thing for me to go back and see family and friends in Colac?’
“Because of catching up and my diet wasn’t great and is it the best thing for my football?
“So those conversations are had every day in big groups and small groups and conversations, but I’ve never heard anything to the extent of what was written in the article.”