Kangaroos great Brent Harvey has revealed the crippling impact the alleged Hawks racism scandal has already had on the struggling AFL club.
The future of incoming boss Alastair Clarkson – who inked a five-year deal last month to take over as head coach at Arden St from November 1 – is now in limbo due to allegations he pressured an Indigenous Hawthorn player to get his partner to abort their unborn child.
Clarkson, 54, has refuted the explosive accusations, which centre around his time in charge of Hawthorn, where he won four premierships.
The racism allegations were detailed in a report by the ABC on Wednesday, which claimed they are contained in an investigation commissioned by Hawthorn earlier in the year.
Among the many allegations made by unnamed former Hawthorn players included Clarkson and former assistant coach Chris Fagan telling a player and his partner to terminate their pregnancy and break up so the player could focus on football.
Clarkson and Fagan have both strenuously denied the allegations, with the matter now to be the subject of an independent investigation launched by the AFL.
Legal experts believe Hawthorn will be dragged before the courts if the accusations are proven to be true.
Speaking on RSN Breakfast Club on Friday, Harvey – who played his entire 432-game AFL career with the Kangaroos, winning a premiership in 1999 – conceded the club is plagued by uncertainty.
‘We literally don’t know. We are in the dark right now,’ the current assistant coach said about how the club is dealing with the Clarkson situation.
‘So it’s going to be interesting going forward. No.1, how the football club reacts and No.2, what we do as a coaching group, because we are already two short. We already got rid of two coaches and we haven’t added any just yet.’
He went on to say: ‘We know what we’re going to do. The show goes on. We are going to be one coach short and we’re going to take pre-season training. A few of the coaches are going to have to step up, including myself. I’m part-time, I might have to do a little bit more.’
The club’s coaching staff are tipped to come together for pre-season training in early November – but whether Clarkson will be at the helm remains to be seen.
It follows a disastrous season on the field where the club won just two games, finishing with the wooden spoon.
After the poor run of results, North Melbourne sacked football boss Dan McPherson as well as assistant coaches Heath Younie and Anthony Rocca.
If and when Clarkson’s tenure begins, the club will have had four senior coaches in 24 months — Rhyce Shaw, David Noble, Leigh Adams and the embattled Clarkson.
Both Clarkson and Fagan have released statements in recent days outlining their innocence in relation to the racism allegations.
‘The health, care and welfare of our players, staff and their families were always my highest priorities during my time at Hawthorn Football Club,’ the statement from Clarkson read.
‘I was therefore shocked by the extremely serious allegations reported in the media. I was not interviewed by the authors of the report commissioned by the club, and nor have I been provided with a copy of the report.
‘I was not afforded any due process and I refute any allegation of wrongdoing or misconduct and look forward to the opportunity to be heard as part of the AFL external investigation.
‘I have contacted the president of North Melbourne Football Club and we have mutually agreed that I will step back from my responsibilities at the club so I can fully co-operate in the investigation.’
Fagan also categorically denies the allegations of mistreatment of Indigenous players when he was Clarkson’s off-sider at the Hawks.
‘I was shocked and deeply distressed by the allegations reported in the media concerning my time at the Hawthorn Football Club,’ Fagan said on Thursday.
‘I deny, categorically, the allegations of wrongdoing by me in relation to First Nations players at the Hawthorn Football Club. I have had very positive relationships with First Nations players throughout my many years in football, and, indeed players from different racial and ethnic groups.
‘I had no opportunity to, and did not, participate in any way in the review commissioned by the Hawthorn Football Club. I was not interviewed. Nor was I invited to be interviewed. No one associated with the review ever put any allegation to me for a response.
‘I intend to defend myself. It is my hope that people will judge me based upon the way I actually conduct myself and not by what is written in the media. I support and welcome the investigation announced by the AFL. I intend to participate fully in the investigation and look forward to being heard and being accorded due process and fairness.
‘In the meantime, the Brisbane Lions Football Club and I have mutually agreed that I will take a leave of absence from the club.’