Warring parties go face to face in Hawthorn racism row

Anna Harrington |

Alastair Clarkson has strongly denied claims of racism during his time as coach at the Hawks.
Alastair Clarkson has strongly denied claims of racism during his time as coach at the Hawks.

North Melbourne coach Alastair Clarkson and his Brisbane Lions counterpart Chris Fagan will attend conciliation sessions alongside former players in the wake of Hawthorn’s explosive racism saga.

Clarkson and Fagan were due to miss training on Tuesday to attend the sessions at the Human Rights Commission in Melbourne.

Former Hawthorn star Cyril Rioli – who was among those to raise allegations of systemic racism at the club – flew into Melbourne from Darwin on Monday to take part in the talks.

It will be the first time former Hawthorn coach Clarkson and the club’s ex-football boss Fagan have met with the complainants since allegations regarding their time at the Hawks aired via an ABC report in grand final week in 2022.

Clarkson, Fagan and former Hawks welfare boss Jason Burt have all denied any wrongdoing.

The talks are due to take place across Tuesday and Wednesday.

Former Hawthorn player Cyril Rioli.
Cyril Rioli played nearly 200 AFL games over a 10-year spell with Hawthorn from 2008. (Mal Fairclough/AAP PHOTOS)

“We handle it the way we handle everything else, we just keep going on,” North Melbourne president Dr Sonja Hood told ABC Radio on Monday when asked about Clarkson’s absence from training.

“I’m just delighted that, after 500 days or whatever it’s been, Alastair finally gets to hear directly from the people who have been hurt in this process.

“They need to have their say and I’m really pleased that he finally gets to have his.”

Hood conceded it would be an “emotional” week for Clarkson but was confident the coach would be back at the helm for North’s Good Friday match against Carlton.

“We’ve got plenty of support around him and plenty of support around the family,” she said.

“We’ve got plenty of people that can step in and take the role if that’s what’s needed.

“But I’m pretty confident he’s going into this in exactly the right mindset. He’ll come out ready to coach on Friday.”

Fagan is expected to return to coaching Brisbane on Wednesday, ahead of Thursday’s grand-final rematch with premiers Collingwood.