‘Profoundly heartbroken’: Hawks ‘won’t breach trust’ amid ‘disturbing’ report findings

Ben Cotton from Fox Sports@ben_cotton15

Hawks CEO Justin Reeves says the club is “profoundly heartbroken” by the “disturbing” findings of its report around First Nations players’ experiences at the club, but insists it’ll stay confidential.

ABC first reported the damming claims that have rocked Hawthorn this week, with former club figures Lions coach Chris Fagan and new Kangaroos boss Alastair Clarkson at the centre of the shock accusations that the AFL is set to launch an independent investigation into.

In a letter to members on Friday, Reeves confirmed the Hawks received the externally commissioned report around two weeks ago and that they’d immediately contacted the AFL.

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Hawthorn CEO Justin Reeves and Peter Nankivell spoke to media this week (Picture: NCA NewsWire / Nicki Connolly)Source: News Corp Australia

“Earlier this year, following some media reports, 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,” he wrote.

“This was always about finding out if any of them required any further support in their life after football and learn more about their time at Hawthorn.

“We did not know what we would find, but we felt it was an important and responsible thing to do.

“Around two weeks ago we received the results of that work. And as you can now see, some of those stories are disturbing.

“We are profoundly heartbroken that there are people who feel like this about their experience at our club.

“Upon receipt of that report, we immediately engaged AFL Integrity – both because it was a recommendation, and because it was the most appropriate next step. From here, those named in the reports would be interviewed and be given the opportunity to respond and tell their story.

“The club will continue to offer support to those who have participated in this process, and their wellbeing remains our priority. We want to assure you that will continue to be the case.

“Some may ask why we are not releasing the actual report, and it is a good question. Many of the people who participated in the report did so on the basis that it would be confidential. We won’t breach that trust.”

Reeves also said the report found the current environment is “culturally safe,” but that the club would “strive for ongoing improvement” in that space.

The Hawthorn CEO noted that those named in the reports “would be interviewed and be given the opportunity to respond and tell their story.”

He called it a “very challenging time for our club”.

“As you may have now seen, the AFL is commencing a process to investigate the matters fully,” Reeves said.

“We are completely supportive of this and will co-operate. This may take some time, but we want to assure you all we are committed to this work, and we will keep you all up to date as appropriate.

“We know that the past few days have been challenging, but we must use this as an opportunity to improve our club and make it the best it can possibly be.”

It comes as AFL boss Gillon McLachlan on Fox Footy’s AFL 360 confirmed the league was in the midst of finalising its independent panel to probe the accusations, with the AFL Players’ Association and AFL Coaches’ Association set to be involved with the final appointments.

The Herald Sun reports that the AFL has appointed former Western Bulldogs president and lawyer Peter Gordon, who’s already working with the league on concussion issues, as its own counsel ahead of the investigation.

It’s expected that all parties accused of the disturbing allegations will be heavily represented legally.