Six Hawthorn AFL racism complainants revealed in letter

Oliver Caffrey |

Hawthorn great Cyril Rioli is among six complainants in the Hawks’ AFL racism saga to publicly reveal their identities, in an open letter confirming they plan to take their case to the Human Rights Commission.

Rioli, wife Shannyn Ah Sam-Rioli, ex-Hawthorn players Carl Peterson, Jermaine Miller-Lewis, as well as his partner Montanah Miller-Lewis, and former Hawks Indigenous manager Leon Egan released a statement to the media on Friday via their lawyer Leon Zwier.

At least three other people who have made complaints during the investigation remain anonymous and are represented by other law firms.

“We are some of the Indigenous families who endured racism at the Hawthorn Football Club,” the letter states.

“We were separated from our families.

“We were told an unborn child would ruin our futures.

“We were treated as special projects and control of our lives was taken from us.

“We told our truths in confidence, because we believed that it would bring change.”

The letter claims that confidence was betrayed and the complainants “never asked for money”.

The six will take their case to the Human Rights Commission and have threatened to go all the way to the Federal Court.

“But they will hear us one way or another,” the letter reads.

“We also believe that with the passing of time the Hawthorn Football Club will acknowledge that our suffering and pain was real.

“We reached an agreement with the AFL not out of fear, but strength, because the AFL finally apologised to all First Nations players for racism in football.”

At a late-night media conference on Tuesday, the AFL announced no adverse findings against Alastair Clarkson, Chris Fagan or Jason Burt over the Hawthorn racism allegations and disbanded the eight-month independent investigation panel.

Clarkson, Fagan and Burt have all vehemently denied any wrongdoing since the allegations surfaced via an ABC report last September.

“None of us deserved this public s**tshow – including them,” the letter adds.

The Hawks saga started last year after Rioli and wife Shannyn publicly claimed they were treated poorly during their time at the club.

In an explosive interview, Rioli claimed his premature retirement, aged 28, came about after a “final straw” incident in 2018.

That prompted Hawthorn to reach out to current and former Indigenous players.

Upon discovering some concerning allegations, the Hawks handed the investigation over to the AFL’s Integrity Unit.

Shortly afterwards, the bombshell racism claims were leaked to the media and several anonymous allegations were made public.

Rioli is one of the most celebrated players in Hawthorn’s history, racking up 189 games between 2008 and 2018.

The exciting forward played in all four of the Clarkson-coached premiership teams and was awarded the Norm Smith Medal for his performance in the 2015 grand final.

Fagan and Burt released scathing statements following this week’s announcement of the shutting down of the AFL’s independent panel set up to investigate the allegations, which focused on a period between 2008 and 2016.

Now-Brisbane Lions coach Fagan blasted the process as a farce, saying he was vindicated and would welcome the chance to test the claims in a public court.

Clarkson remains on indefinite leave as North Melbourne coach after stepping away three weeks ago due to what he described as the emotional and mental toll associated with the saga.

A week prior to going on leave, Clarkson unloaded on Hawthorn, describing his former club’s handling of the situation as “shameful” and calling for the Hawks to be investigated.