Hawthorn Hawks AFL club has been nominated for The Fronwlow Medal after shocking revelations about its treatment of Indigenous players.
The Frownlow Medal is awarded to the player whose off-field demeanour epitomises the values of the modern-day footballer and draws attention to the status of footballers as role models to young Australians. It covers Australia’s four major football codes; the National Rugby League (NRL), Australian Football League (AFL), the A-League (Football) and Rugby Union’s Super Rugby competition. NRL player Shaun Kenny-Dowall won the inaugural medal in 2015, while NRL star Jarryd Hayne is the most recent recipient.
The ABC has revealed that senior coaches and officials made exceptional demands on Indigenous players all for the sake of winning football games. The allegations involve then coaches Alistair Clarkson and Chris Fagan.
During the time in which Hawthorn won four premierships, the club is accused of the following acts:
Removing First nations players from their homes and relocating them, telling them to choose between their careers and their families.
Coaches coercing players to remove SIM cards from their phones and insert new ones in attempts to cut them off from their partners and focus them entirely on the club. In each case, the player was a young First Nations draftee in his first five years with the club.
Intimidation tactics including attempts to separate couples at the earliest stages of pregnancies and parenthood, and the alleged demand that one player should instruct his partner to terminate a pregnancy.
Allegations that Hawthorn has only offered them assistance since becoming aware of ABC Sport’s investigation, and that the club has made no public comment on the report’s findings despite being in receipt of the allegations for weeks.
As a result of the alleged bullying, two of the families have recently been provided with mental health assistance from the AFL Players’ Association due to the suicide risks associated with reliving their traumas for the sake of the review.
One unnamed player alleges that when he told his teammates and coaches that his partner was pregnant, Clarkson and Fagan took him into an office and urged him to “get rid” of his partner, move into the home of an assistant coach and “kill my unborn kid.” He was also told to remove his SIM card so he had no contact with his family.
“They told me I’d be living with one of the other coaches from that night onwards.”
The player’s phone was disconnected and his family did not know where he was.
Hawthorn officials refused a request to meet the player’s partner in her home. Instead, they made the player meet his partner outside in the street. The club claimed the partner’s father was a threat to the player.
The club did not allow the player to meet his partner at all.
The woman was told that the club had decided it was better for his footy career if he didn’t become a father. She was also told to contact the club, and not her partner, for any matter relating to the pregnancy.
The couple was allegedly forced to move house when the woman was 37 weeks pregnant.
Allegations that Clarkson insisted on visiting the player’s house and offered commentary on the house’s cleanliness.
The couple feeling pressured into the decision to terminate a subsequent pregnancy.
Reports that the player later attempted suicide.
Allegations that another player was told to break up with his partner, and that Clarkson, Fagan and a club official did so at the player’s home.
In response to the allegations, Hawthorn said:
“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 began.
“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.
Hawthorn is not the first football club to be nominated for Frownlow honours, and not the first club to be nominated for racism. Collingwood was also found to have mistreated Indigenous players and to have covered up that mistreatment. All of this took place since the AFL introduced an Indigenous round.
Clarkson has also been nominated for Frownlow honours before. In 2017 he was nominated for the hall of fame for verbally abusing a 19-year-old match official at his son’s footy game, punching a hole in the wall of a coaches box, calling a journalist a ‘cockhead’ and grabbing the throat of a fan outside a pub.
The question is, after this saga and the Collingwood saga, plus the treatment of Adam Goodes and other Indigenous players, will anything change?
Image: Hawthorn Hawks