Author of Hawthorn review says alleged mistreatment of Indigenous players ‘like a nightmare’

The Guardian 10 days ago

Phil Egan says he has not heard anything like those allegations before at a football club and there should now be an audit of all clubs

Hawthorn Football Club
Hawthorn Football Club engaged consultant Phil Egan, a former Richmond player, to conduct an external review of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s experiences with the Hawks. Photograph: Joel Carrett/EPA

The author of a damaging review into Hawthorn Football Club that contained allegations of serious mistreatment of First Nations former players has described the findings as “like a nightmare”.

The club engaged consultant Phil Egan, a former Richmond player, to conduct an external review of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s experiences with the Hawks. The review will not be publicly released but the ABC has reported some of its findings.

According to the ABC, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players were separated from their families.

One former player said he was told to “get rid of” his unborn child, leave his partner, move house and change his number.

Another player said he was also told to end a relationship with his pregnant partner.

Egan said hearing the allegations was “very distressing”.

“To hear and see the trauma as it was personally conveyed to me was like a nightmare,” he said.

“Find your grandkids and kids … hug them and tell them every day how important they are and how much you love them.”

The incidents allegedly took place when Alastair Clarkson was head coach. The ABC reported that one of the players, Ian (not his real name), made the allegation he was requested to have his partner terminate their unborn child.

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

“He told me to kill my unborn kid.”

Egan said he had not heard anything like those stories before at a football club, but pointed to the racism Aboriginal people experienced under the Aboriginal Protection Board, one of the bodies responsible for the stolen generations.

“I was born on Manatunga Reserve in Robinvale; Protection Board policies ruled and controlled our lives as a people,” he said.

The AFL has appointed an external panel to investigate the findings.

The AFL chief executive officer, Gillon McLachlan, described the report as a “challenging, harrowing and disturbing” read.

“I want to say to the women and the partners, and also the players who have shared their stories, that our first priority is to you, and to provide the care and the support that you need,” he said.

“You have been heard, and as a support and a community, we will do our best to wrap our arms around you in support.

“It is important that we continue to communicate with you and to you. Your welfare is the most pressing priority for us because I know that sharing these stories is not easy, but it is important that you do, and we want to thank you all who have shared their experiences as part of this review.”

Hawthorn’s chief executive officer, Justin Reeves, called the allegations “heartbreaking” and said they came as a “surprise to everyone”.

Egan said there should now be an audit of all clubs.

Clarkson has now signed a coaching deal with North Melbourne, but has stepped down while the investigation is under way.

Clarkson said he was “shocked” by the allegations, and rejected any wrongdoing.

The former Hawthorn coach Chris Fagan, now with the Brisbane Lions, was also named in the report and has stood aside. He said he was “shocked and deeply distressed” by the allegations and denied allegations of wrongdoing.

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