Chris Fagan responds to damning claims in Hawthorn AFL scandal

Chris Fagan has denied any wrongdoing after being embroiled in the Hawthorn racism scandal during his time at the AFL club. Pic: Getty
Chris Fagan has denied any wrongdoing after being embroiled in the Hawthorn racism scandal during his time at the AFL club. Pic: Getty

Brisbane Lions coach Chris Fagan has "categorically" denied any wrongdoing with regard to the disturbing allegations at Hawthorn, where he used to be an assistant coach under Alastair Clarkson.

Both coaches say they will co-operate with an independent investigation into racism claims from their time at Hawthorn, following a series of allegations described as "sickening" by the federal government.

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Earlier this year, Hawthorn commissioned an external review into claims of racism at the club during Clarkson's tenure as coach.

The external review document was given to Hawthorn hierarchy and the AFL's integrity unit a fortnight ago.

According to an ABC report, the document includes allegations of key Hawthorn figures demanding the separation of young Indigenous players from their partners.

The report claims one couple was pressured to terminate a pregnancy for the sake of the player's career, during his time at Hawthorn.

One former player claimed a group of coaches that included Clarkson and Fagan - a senior assistant at Hawthorn at the time - urged to have his partner's pregnancy terminated, break up with his partner, and move into the home of an assistant coach.

Fagan has since mutually agreed to take a leave of absence from the Lions, while North Melbourne said on Wednesday that incoming coach Clarkson won't commence his role at the club until the investigation is complete.

The AFL is set to appoint a four-person panel of investigators, led by a King's Counsel, with league boss Gillon McLachlan hopeful the panel will be finalised before Saturday's grand final.

The Lions coach admits he has been left rocked by the disturbing claims, but says he is innocent and intends to "defend" himself against any allegations.

"I was shocked and deeply distressed by the allegations reported in the media yesterday concerning my time at the Hawthorn Football Club," Fagan said in a statement to AFL.com.au 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."

Fagan said in a statement that he hopes people will give him a chance to defend himself, after welcoming the investigation.

"I intend to defend myself," Fagan said in his statement.

"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 yesterday.

"I intend to participate fully in the investigation and look forward to being heard and being accorded due process and fairness."

Clarkson also denied any wrongdoing in a statement on Wednesday.

Alastair Clarkson speaks to the media after being appointed North Melbourne coach. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)
Alastair Clarkson speaks to the media after being appointed North Melbourne coach. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

"The health, care and welfare of our players, staff and their families were always my highest priorities during my time at Hawthorn," Clarkson said.

"I was therefore shocked by the extremely serious allegations reported in the media earlier today."

Four-time premiership coach Clarkson was at Hawthorn between 2005 and 2021.

AFL says all parties will be afforded 'natural justice'

Fagan was a senior assistant coach to Clarkson and general manager of football at the Hawks from 2008 to 2016, before being appointed Brisbane coach in 2017.

The furore prompted Eddie Betts to call on all AFL clubs to conduct reviews of their historical treatment of Indigenous players, similar to that undertaken by Hawthorn.

The suggestion has been put to the AFL multiple times, but the league is yet to commit to facilitating the process.

"There's a lot of good suggestions and there's a lot of people that need to be heard," McLachlan told reporters on Thursday.

"Our priority at the moment is to finalise the terms of reference, get the independent panel together and kick this off because these are incredibly serious allegations.

"There's been huge courage by a number of people to come forward and we need to give the accused time to respond and get to the bottom of this as quickly as we can."

McLachlan did indicate on AFL 360 on Thursday night that more information was set to come out of the report, but could not go into more detail because of confidentiality issues.

“I need to be careful, it’s a confidential report. There was actually more in the papers yesterday, more substantive stuff, than was in the report in many senses,” the AFL boss said.

“But there’s also some additional pieces in the report that haven’t come out. The flavour of what you read represents accurately the flavour of what’s in the report, if that makes sense.”

The AFL has said all parties will be afforded "natural justice" through its investigation.

with AAP

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