Australian Rules-AFL investigating club for treatment of Indigenous players

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MELBOURNE, Sept 21 (Reuters) – The Australian Football League (AFL) is investigating “extremely serious” allegations over the treatment of former Indigenous players at 13-time champion Hawthorn, including a player who said coaches urged her to abort her partner’s pregnancy. .

Citing an independent study commissioned by Hawthorn, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported that club staff separated players from their families and controlled communication between them so they could focus on their careers.

The players were not identified in either the review or the ABC report.

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A player says former head coach Alastair Clarkson and assistant coach Chris Fagan were among the Hawthorn staff who urged him to ‘get rid of’ his unborn child and separate from his partner, according to the ABC.

“He told me to kill my unborn child,” the player said of Clarkson.

“I was then manipulated and convinced to remove my SIM card from my phone, so there was no further contact between me and my family.

“They told me I would live with one of the other coaches from that night on.”

The player said he had made several suicide attempts since leaving Hawthorn and the club had broken him “as a man, as a footballer and as a father”, reported the ABC.

Clarkson, who led Hawthorn to four AFL championships from 2008 to 2015, left the club last year after 17 seasons as head coach and was recently appointed coach of North Melbourne, where he was due to start to work on November 1.

However, North Melbourne said Clarkson would delay the start of his term to participate fully in the AFL investigation.

“North Melbourne Football Club is aware of serious historical allegations made against individuals who worked at Hawthorn Football Club, including incoming North Melbourne manager Alastair Clarkson,” the club said in a statement.

“The issues raised are now with the AFL Integrity Unit and Alastair welcomes the opportunity to cooperate with any investigation into the allegations.”

Clarkson management did not respond to requests for comment from Reuters.

Fagan left Hawthorn after the 2016 season to coach the Brisbane Lions.

The Lions said on Wednesday they had “mutually agreed” with Fagan that he should step down immediately to cooperate with the AFL investigation.

The club added that Fagan was not consulted during Hawthorn’s review and was eager to be heard.

The AFL said it would set up an external panel to investigate further.

“It will do justice to the defendants and shed light on these very serious allegations,” AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan told reporters.

Hawthorn said he received the final report from the review two weeks ago and immediately forwarded it to the AFL’s integrity unit.

The club said neither management nor the board were aware of the allegations until the review was submitted.

“DIFFICULT READING”

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

Elite striker 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 to 2015.

Hawthorn commissioned the review this year after Rioli, who retired in 2018 at the height of his career, said his decision to resign was triggered by a remark President Jeff Kennett made to Rioli’s wife. .

Kennett, who later apologized to the Rioli family, defended Hawthorn culture in April and said neither he nor the club were racist.

Hawthorn chief executive Justin Reeves said the club had offered its support to the players and families affected, although they remained “anonymous”.

“It’s hard to read, it’s heartbreaking,” he said of the review.

“We are deeply disappointed that some of our former players and their families feel like this about their experiences at the club.”

Reeves said the review gave him confidence that current Hawthorn players felt “culturally safe”.

“But like so many institutions, we have to face our history and our past.”

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Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Peter Rutherford

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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