AFL news 2022: Justin Reeves letter to members, Hawthorn scandal, Alastair Clarkson, Chris Fagan

Hawthorn CEO Justin Reeves issued a letter to members on Friday in the wake of the damning report which rocked the AFL on Wednesday.

On Wednesday, ABC Sport reported an external review of Hawthorn Football Club had uncovered allegations senior staff at Hawthorn demanded the separation of First Nations players from their partners and pressured one player and his partner to terminate a pregnancy for the sake of his career.

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Former Hawthorn club figures Alastair Clarkson and Chris Fagan are at the centre of the allegations which is set to see the AFL launch an independent investigation.

Reeves detailed the entire story in his letter to members and noted the club was “profoundly heartbroken” by the findings.

“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.”

Hawthorn’s current environment, as noted by the report, is “culturally safe” but Reeves said the club would continue to “strive for ongoing improvement”.

“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.”

North Melbourne has confirmed Clarkson’s tenure will be delayed as the AFL’s Integrity Unit investigates the allegations. He was due to begin work on November 1. Clarkson refuted “any allegation of wrongdoing or misconduct”.

Clarkson’s former Hawthorn deputy and current Brisbane Lions coach Chris Fagan agreed to take a leave of absence and also released a statement on Thursday “categorically” denying the allegations of mistreatment of Indigenous players.