Bombshell report reveals Clarkson and Fagan’s role in disgraceful Hawthorn racism

WARNING: This story contains details of intergenerational trauma for Indigenous people, incidents of pregnancy loss and self-harm

A bombshell report by the ABC has unveiled shocking instances of the club’s treatment of Indigenous players during Alastair Clarkson’s time as coach.

Written by journalist Russell Jackson, it reveals the Hawks’ club-wide external review of the period found details of key figures at the club, including Clarkson and then-assistant Chris Fagan, bullying First Nations players, changing their phone numbers and pushing one player towards making his partner terminate a pregnancy, among other incidents.

During the period the review focused on, the Hawks had more than 20 First Nations players at the club, with many interviewed as part of the review.

Former great Cyril Rioli made allegations earlier this year that a string of racist incidents with officials at the Hawks, including president Jeff Kennett, saw him retire from the game at just 28.

One player, whose name has been changed to ‘Ian’, told ABC Sport that Clarkson had urged him to convince his partner to terminate her pregnancy and then break up with her, in an ‘intimidating, confusing and upsetting’ meeting.

“Clarkson just leaned over me and demanded that I needed to get rid of my unborn child and my partner,” Ian said.

“I was then manipulated and convinced to remove my SIM card from my phone, so there was no further contact between my family and me. They told me I’d be living with one of the other coaches from that night onwards.

“He told me to kill my unborn kid.”

Partner ‘Amy’ recounted a meeting between her and senior Hawks officials, including player development manager Jason Burt, during which she alleges their concerns stemmed from Amy’s father being ‘a threat’ to Ian, and refused to allow her to make contact with him.

“For the whole week Jason had repeatedly told me that Ian had made these decisions on his own, but I knew there was more to it,” Amy said.

“Burt actually confirmed my thoughts when he said Hawthorn had decided it was better for Ian’s footy career if he didn’t become a father. He was already a father!

“I had asked for Ian to be present at this meeting because this was about something that would affect his whole life, not just his footy career but they kept him away. I knew then that the club had something to do with Ian’s phone call to me.

“They didn’t care. They just wanted him to move on from his family and focus on football. Burt said that from then on, I needed to contact him with anything relating to the pregnancy. I felt so alone.

“These people had no idea who he was, who I was, what sort of family we were. They just judged us and broke us apart.”

Hawthorn Hawks logo

(Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

With Ian only permitted by the club to reunite with his family after five months, during which his mental health had withered, Amy alleges the Hawks forced the pair to move to a suburb ‘more in keeping with Hawthorn’s image’.

“I just wanted to keep my family together and for Ian to live his dream of playing AFL footy. But it meant moving away from family support at a very stressful time,” she said.

While the couple would have their child, when Amy fell pregnant again six months later, she made the heartbreaking decision to terminate the pregnancy.

“Hawthorn says it‘s the family club. Yet they tore ours apart,” she said.

The ABC report also features the accounts of two other players, referred to as ‘Zac’ and ‘Liam’, who were also forced by the Hawks to sever ties with their families.

‘Zac’ alleges the club told him that partner Kylie was ‘holding him back from progressing his career’ and urged him to end the relationship. Kylie was seven weeks pregnant at the time.

A meeting with the pair and Clarkson, Fagan and Burt at the couple’s house then ensued, during which Clarkson informed Kylie the relationship was over and Zac would be collecting his belonging and leaving.

Clarkson then ‘ordered Zac out of the house empty-handed’, then told Zac ‘Great work mate, you’ve done the right thing’.

A few weeks later, Kylie would suffer a miscarriage. Burt would flippantly tell Zac the news at training.

Zac would depart Hawthorn and reunite with Kylie at the end of the year.

Liam recounts that the Hawks would only allow partner Jacqui and their young child to visit him in Melbourne after four months. When he told the club that they would be permanently relocating, the club would first only allow her to stay for ten days, and then told Liam he had ‘failed a test’ by putting his family before his footballing career.

The club are alleged to have only offered some of the families affected by the report assistance after discovering the ABC’s investigation.

It took until the morning the findings were published that the Hawks finally made public comment.

“Earlier this year the Hawthorn Football Club engaged external First Nations consultants to liaise with current and former First Nations players and staff to learn more about their experience at the club,” the statement reads.

“This important work has raised disturbing historical allegations that require further investigation. Upon learning of these allegations, the club immediately engaged AFL Integrity as is appropriate.

“The club will continue to provide support to those who have participated in this process, and their wellbeing remains our priority.

“While the process indicated the current environment at the club is culturally safe, it also recommended that some of the club’s current First Nations training and development programs should continue to be strengthened.

“The club places the best interests and welfare of our players and staff as our number one priority. 

“Given the matters raised are confidential, the club will not provide any further comment at this time.”

The report comes after Hawks great Rioli’s claim earlier this year that a series of racist incidents during his time at the club, including an encounter with president Jeff Kennett, ended his relationship with the club at which he won four premierships and the 2015 Norm Smith Medal.

“I wouldn’t go back to Hawthorn after what’s gone on,” Rioli told The Age.

“It’s the only club I wouldn’t put my hand up for right now.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *