There’s “deep reservations” from First Nations families to expand on explosive accusations against Hawthorn in testimonies for the AFL’s external investigation in a key roadblock for the saga, reports the Herald Sun’s Jon Ralph.
The league is currently delicately working through putting together a suitable four-person panel to investigate the shock claims that rocked the Hawks last week, with former coach Alastair Clarkson and ex-footy boss Chris Fagan stood down from their current roles as coach of North Melbourne and Brisbane respectively while the probe takes place.
The accusations initially came to light after Hawthorn commissioned an external report — authored by former Richmond player Phil Egan — while ABC journalist Russell Jackson reported some of the disturbing first-hand accounts.
Watch every match of the AFLW Season LIVE on Kayo. New to Kayo? Start your free trial now >
Speaking on Fox Footy’s On the Couch, Ralph revealed the families involved want “profound change” and “accountability” and believe they’ve already told their stories through both mediums.
“We’re five days on from those really damaging allegations in terms of the First Nations players at Hawthorn, and the AFL still isn’t very close to appointing the four-person pane to investigate these claims,” Ralph said.
“It’s become a political minefield, and my strong understanding is there are deep reservations about – what now are five First Nations families – in terms of them actually testifying. It would be a disaster if they didn’t testify, because we’d never get a resolution on this.
“Those families believe they’ve already told Phil Egan their story, they’ve already told Russell Jackson about it. They haven’t got confidence the AFL can work through this, because of the Eddie Betts saga and some of the allegations there that were never really followed through.”
It comes after the AFL Coaches Association on Monday demanded a former senior coach or footy manager be put on the four-person panel to further complicate the process.
Ralph said the league is working with lawyer Leon Zwier, who’s representing the families involved, on the make-up of the panel, and fears the case could end up in court if no testimonies are given.
“This is going to go so long … there’s livelihoods at stake,” Ralph said.
“They (the families) don’t want it to go to the legal system, but that independent panel, they want it to be truly independent. They feel like they’ve had 30 years of racism issues and people not being censored for racist comments.
“The AFL has said eight weeks, but that will be until the end of the investigation. Then if anyone doesn’t get satisfaction, that party will potentially go to the courts.”
It’s forced North Melbourne and Brisbane to plan contingencies for the off-season without Clarkson and Fagan at the helm respectively given both coaches aren’t allowed to return to their clubs until the matter is resolved.
Ralph revealed new Roos footy manager Todd Viney will run the upcoming trade period with help from list boss Brady Rawlings and senior executive James Gallagher, while former interim coach Leigh Adams would lead training from November 27 when the players return for pre-season.
Meanwhile support from president Sonja Hood to Clarkson last week has reportedly caused a stir behind the scenes.
“Sonja Hood said on the weekend that she was really confident in Clarkson’s side of the story. I think there was some Indigenous figures across the AFL and at the club put out by that, that she was seen to be taking sides and didn’t feel she didn’t need to go as strong in regards to that,” Ralph said.
“It’s messy and we are just at the start of this. It’s going to be a long, tough story on both sides.”
Despite making contingencies, Ralph reports the Lions aren’t currently planning to be without Fagan for 2023.
“Brisbane is adamant tonight, they say: ‘We haven’t even considered anyone other than Chris Fagan coaching us next year. We don’t want to pre-judge the allegations,’ but they do expect him at the club,” he said.
“If it does take until the new year, certainly they’ve got enough coaching staff there that they can work through it.”