Jeff Kennett has come under increasing pressure to step down as president of AFL club Hawthorn after revelations about his treatment of Cyril Rioli and the premiership star’s family.
- Cyril Rioli revealed a number of issues fractured relationships between Hawthorn and its Indigenous players from 2008 to 2018
- A Hawthorn supporters group has called for president Jeff Kennett to step down
- Rioli’s manager Adam Ramanauskas says Rioli would be a valuable addition to any club in a mentoring role
In a report in The Age on Saturday, Rioli said he will not return to the club while Kennett remains in his post.
The four-time flag hero’s stance is the result of a series of issues that Rioli said fractured the relationship between Hawthorn and its Indigenous players during his time there between 2008 and 2018.
They include comments by Kennett towards Rioli’s wife Shannyn Ah Sam-Rioli in 2018 that the club legend said contributed to his decision to end his career at the Hawks at the age of just 28.
Rioli’s manager Adam Ramanauskas told ABC Sport Cyril was still at “the peak of his powers” when he retired at 28, but said at the time he supported the player to do what made him happy.
“When he first came to us and said he wanted to retire, it was finding out what the reasons were around that and understanding them,” Ramanauskas said.
“The reality of the conversations were one, trying to see if we could get Cyril to continue to play. But secondly, making sure that Cyril was happy in his life.
“At the end of the day, Cyril just said it was time to go home and that’s what he wanted to do. We supported him with that decision.”
In response to the revelations, prominent Hawthorn supporters group Hawks for Change called on Kennett to immediately step down.
Former Victorian premier Kennett’s second term as Hawks president is due to end in December next year.
But Hawks for Change, which successfully supported former AustralianSuper boss Ian Silk in his bid to win a spot on the club’s board last December, has been pressuring Kennett to set an earlier date for his departure.
Silk is one of several possible candidates to take over.
Hawthorn on Saturday released a formal apology to the Rioli family for racism they experienced at the club.
“Racism in all shapes and forms is unacceptable,” the statement said.
“We are sorry that Cyril and Shannyn experienced these incidents during their time at the club.
“Combating racism and educating everyone both within our own walls and in the community is something we are constantly working on and believe we are getting better at.”
Rioli played 189 games for Hawthorn in a glittering career that included him winning the 2015 Norm Smith Medal and three All-Australian selections.
While he said would not return to Hawthorn in its current guise, he flagged the possibility of working with another AFL club in the future.
“He’s got his cousins at West Coast, at Richmond (Willie and Daniel). He’d be fantastic at a club in a mentoring role,” Ramanauskas said.
“Not just for Indigenous players, but any player. He’s a very rounded person and he’d be of benefit anywhere he went.”
Source: AFL NEWS ABC