Hawks legend Dermott Brereton backs Jeff Kennett after claims made by Cyril Rioli

Hawks legend Dermott Brereton backs Jeff Kennett after club president was told to QUIT over incident that made Cyril Rioli leave footy

Hawthorn legend Dermott Brereton believes there was no ‘malice’ behind comments made by Jeff Kennett to Cyril Rioli’s wife, amid calls for the Hawks president to quit after the player walked away from footy.

On Saturday, Rioli broke his silence about the incident during the 2018 Indigenous round that forced him to walk away from the game forever. 

An incident involving club president Kennett and Rioli’s wife Shannyn Ah Sam-Rioli at Launceston Airport proved to be the final straw for Rioli, who was already highly critical of the club and its relationship with its Indigenous players.

Shannyn said Kennett had mocked her designer jeans with intentional rips in them, at one point pulling loose change from his pockets so she could pay to have them repaired. 

It deeply offended Rioli’s wife and despite apologies from Kennett and a personal letter from the club to Shannyn, Rioli ultimately retired from the Hawks and the AFL.

‘I’ve never really spoken about what happened in Tassie, but I think there was a lot of gaslighting at the end of my career by the club,’ Rioli, who retired aged just 28, said.

Hawthorn legend Dermott Brereton has leapt to the defence of Jeff Kennett amid calls for the club president to resign

‘But bloody oath it was hard sometimes. Some things that happened to my teammates. The comments by coaches about the blackfellas all sitting together. The white fellas were always welcome to join us. I don’t think they (the club) really had any idea of what it was like for us, in reality.

‘Seeing the way they treated Shan. It was the final straw. It opened my eyes seeing how distraught she was and defending her and seeing how they were to us.’ 

However, Hawks great Brereton has backed Kennett, who he described as one of the ‘great insulters of life’, insisting that he did not believe the comments were racist.

Kennett is under fire for comments he made to Rioli's wife Shannyn in 2018 that ultimately saw the club legend retire from the Hawks and the AFL

Kennett is under fire for comments he made to Rioli’s wife Shannyn in 2018 that ultimately saw the club legend retire from the Hawks and the AFL

Rioli and his wife Shannyn Ah Sam-Rioli now live in Darwin and have and have had nothing to do with the club since the incident at Launceston Airport

Rioli and his wife Shannyn Ah Sam-Rioli now live in Darwin and have and have had nothing to do with the club since the incident at Launceston Airport

‘I don’t believe there was malice in it, that’s the way he is,’ Brereton said via The Herald Sun

‘You are talking about a man who is one of the great insulters of life, the way he went through his political career he could have grown men crying within minutes. 

‘But I didn’t realise that (Cyril’s experience), that is the first I have read of it now

‘There was a time at Hawthorn, this is hearsay, that they weren’t the most open to the indigenous people. I have never known that, I have never seen that, I have never heard anything like that around the football club.’

However, Brereton believes that Kennett meant no 'malice' in his comments about Rioli's wife's jeans in 2018

However, Brereton believes that Kennett meant no ‘malice’ in his comments about Rioli’s wife’s jeans in 2018 

The full statement released by supporter group Hawks for Change in the wake of comments made by Cyril Rioli about the club and Kennett

The full statement released by supporter group Hawks for Change in the wake of comments made by Cyril Rioli about the club and Kennett 

Prominent supporter group Hawks for Change have consequently released a statement calling for Kennett to resign.

‘Hawks for change is deeply disappointed and concerned by reports that Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett made highly inappropriate remarks which led to distress for Cyril Rioli, his wife and their family which resulted in their subsequent departure from the Hawthorn Football Club,’ the statement read.

‘Jeff Kennett’s disrespect of the Rioli family is the latest shameful example of why he is not fit to serve as president of our beloved football club.

‘Jeff Kennett, through his actions, has again brought the reputation of the Hawthorn Football Club into disrepute.’

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