AFL investigates treatment of past Indigenous players at Hawthorn


Generic photo of AFL football
Photo: AAP

The AFL is investigating “extremely serious” allegations about the treatment of Indigenous former players at 13-times champions Hawthorn.

Citing an independent review commissioned by the club, the ABC reported that former Hawthorn staff are alleged to have demanded Indigenous players separate from their partners to focus on their careers.

One player said the club had left him “broken” after they pressured him and his partner to terminate a pregnancy for the sake of his career, the report said.

The players were not idenitified in the ABC report.

Melbourne-based Hawthorn said in a statement on that it had engaged the AFL’s integrity unit immediately after the review raised the historical allegations.

The AFL, the top flight competition of Australian Rules football, said it would set up a panel to investigate further.

“It will give natural justice to those accused and get to the bottom of these very serious allegations,” AFL Chief Executive Gillon McLachlan told a media conference in Melbourne on Wednesday.

“I’ve read the report. There’s more today that is not in the report and obviously it’s a tough read.”

The ABC reported that one player had alleged in the review that former head coach Alastair Clarkson and assistant coach Chris Fagan were among a group of staff that urged him to have his partner’s pregnancy terminated.

“Clarkson just leaned over me and demanded that I needed to get rid of my unborn child and my partner,” the ABC quoted the unnamed player as saying.

The club sought to cut off contact between the player and his partner by having him remove the SIM card from his phone, he added.

AFL football

AFL football

“I’ve lost the love of the game. I’ve had suicide attempts. They broke me as a man, as a footballer and as a family man,” the player said.

Clarkson, who led Hawthorn to four AFL championships from 2008-15, left the club last year after 17 seasons as head coach. He was recently appointed to coach AFL club North Melbourne from 2023.

Clarkson’s management has not responded to requests for comment from Reuters.

Fagan is now head coach of the AFL’s Brisbane Lions. Reuters has contacted the Lions for comment.

McLachlan said he had spoken with representatives of the accused in the report and their clubs, and expected them to respond.

AFL generic Hawthorn Hawks

Photo: Photosport

Once slow to recruit talent from Indigenous communities, Hawthorn developed a slew of Indigenous champion players in the past two decades.

Elite forward Lance Franklin, now at the Sydney Swans, and the retired trio of Chance Bateman, Cyril Rioli and Shaun Burgoyne were key contributors to the club’s dominant phase from 2008-15.

Hawthorn engaged external consultants to conduct the review earlier this year after Rioli, who retired in 2018 at the peak of his career, said his decision to quit was triggered by a remark made by President Jeff Kennett to Rioli’s wife.

Kennett, who later apologised to Rioli and his wife, defended Hawthorn’s culture in April and said neither he nor the club were racist.


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