Australian Rules-Clarkson denies wrongdoing after indigenous allegations

MELBOURNE : Former Hawthorn head coach Alastair Clarkson has denied any wrongdoing during his time at the Melbourne-based Australian Rules club after allegations that indigenous players were mistreated.

The Australian Football League (AFL) said on Wednesday it was investigating “serious allegations” about the mistreatment of indigenous players, including one that the coaches urged a player to have his partner’s pregnancy aborted.

Clarkson, who was head coach at Hawthorn for 17 seasons until last year, released a statement on Wednesday evening saying he was “shocked” by the 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,” it read.

“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.”

Citing an independent review commissioned by Hawthorn, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported that the club’s staff had separated players from their families and controlled communication between them so they would focus on their careers.

The players were not identified in either the review or the ABC report.

One player said Clarkson and assistant coach Chris Fagan were among Hawthorn staff who urged him to “get rid” of his unborn child and separate from his partner, according to the ABC.

The player said he had made multiple suicide attempts since leaving Hawthorn and that the club had broken him “as a man, as a footballer and as a family man,” the ABC reported.

Clarkson was due to formally take over as head coach of rival team North Melbourne in November but said he had agreed to step back from his responsibilities at the club to focus on the investigation.

Fagan, who left Hawthorn after the 2016 season to coach the Brisbane Lions, has also stood down from his duties to cooperate with the AFL probe.

The Lions said in a statement that Fagan was not consulted during the Hawthorn sponsored review and looked forward to the opportunity to be heard as part of the AFL investigation.

Hawthorn said it had received the final report of the review two weeks ago and immediately passed it on to the AFL. The club said neither management nor the board were aware of the allegations until the review’s submission.

The emergence of the review has overshadowed the lead-up to the biggest day in the AFL calendar, Saturday’s Grand Final between the Geelong Cats and Sydney Swans at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

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