Former Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson has vowed that he and the Hawks would “defend ourselves pretty strongly” when the investigation into alleged racist incidents at the club gets underway.
- Former Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson praises the club’s “magnificent culture” and says he will defend himself in the AFL investigation into the Hawks’ treatment of First Nations players
- Clarkson began his first day in charge of North Melbourne answering questions about the review, which is yet to begin
- Clarkson said he and the Hawks always made the care of players the “highest priority” in his time as coach
On his first official day in his new role as the North Melbourne senior coach, Clarkson spoke to the media on his way into Arden Street.
Clarkson’s start date with the Kangaroos was pushed back after he was named in an external review commissioned by Hawthorn into the treatment of First Nations players at the club during his tenure with the Hawks.
Asked whether it was appropriate that he begin his coaching role with the investigation still ongoing, Clarkson said the decision had been made between him and the North Melbourne club.
“At the minute, they are just allegations and we’re going to defend ourselves pretty strongly in the investigation. And like anyone in this world, until the allegations are proven, you should be able to get on and live your life.”
Clarkson said that he and others named in the initial review — his former assistant, now Brisbane Lions coach, Chris Fagan and former Hawks player development manager Jason Burt — had gone through “a tough four weeks”.
“We’re pleased that the terms of reference have been stamped by the AFL and we just await for information from the AFL when all that will commence,” Clarkson said.
“But, yeah, [we’re] looking forward to the chance to contribute to that and in the meantime, get on with what we need to do here.”
Clarkson, Fagan and Burt have denied any suggestion of wrongdoing or misconduct.
The incoming Kangaroos coach said the investigation would be the most “significant priority” for the next four to six weeks, or however long the process took.
“In the meantime, we’ve got a really good team of people. I mean, they’ve worked pretty well without me the last four or five weeks, so I’m sure they’ll do the same,” Clarkson said.
“I’ll come in and out of the program and the number one priority will be to contribute to the investigation.”
The AFL has named a four-person panel, chaired by Bernard Quinn KC — and including barristers Tim Goodwin, Julie Buxton and Jacqualyn Turfrey — to investigate events at Hawthorn.
Prior to Clarkson’s comments on Thursday morning, a woman at the centre of the Hawthorn review said she would not be participating in the AFL’s investigation.
Asked about his confidence that he would be cleared, Clarkson said he would work through that with the AFL investigation.
“All we do know is that there’s been three or four clubs in the competition over the last 20 years that have been really, really strong clubs, really, really successful clubs and the clubs have all had magnificent cultures and Hawthorn’s been one of those,” he said.
“I’d be very, very surprised if we weren’t able to put a really, really strong case forward that these allegations have been reported in a different way than we saw them when we were at the club.
“It’s been a tough four or five weeks for all of us.
“What we do know is that we always had the care of our players right at the highest priority of our football club.
“Listen, there’s a lot more depth and history to what’s transpired, but we’ll get a chance in the investigation to outline that.”