The impact of Hawthorn's external review into allegations of racism within the club has left North Melbourne 'in the dark' as to the future of their coaching structure as they prepare for AFL pre-season.
Kangaroos great Brent Harvey, who is working part-time as an assistant coach for the club, said it was unclear right now what direction the club would take after the recently hired Alastair Clarkson agreed to delay his start with the club to participate in an AFL investigation sparked by the Hawthorn report.
'DISTRESSED': Chris Fagan responds to damning Hawthorn racism furore
Three Indigenous families involved at Hawthorn during Clarkson's time as coach between 2005 and 2021 told the ABC in a report released on Wednesday that they were allegedly bullied and told to choose between their football careers and their families.
In a statement on Wednesday evening coinciding with his announcement that he would be delaying the start to his tenure at North Melbourne, Clarkson said he was 'shocked' to learn of the allegations, which he has strenuously denied.
The timing of the revelations have seriously dented North Melbourne's hopes of a smooth rebound from their disastrous 2022 season, having pinned their hopes on a Clarkson-led revival.
The club will potentially need to navigate the off-season trade period without Clarkson, with Harvey telling RSN's Breakfast Club that the Kangaroos were still uncertain about the short term future of their head coaching position.
"We literally don’t know. We’re in the dark right now,” Harvey said.
“So it’s going to be interesting going forward. No. 1, how the football club reacts and No. 2, what we do as a coaching group, because we’re already two short.
"We already got rid of two coaches and we haven’t added any just yet.”
Harvey admitted the allegations reported earlier in the week were 'hard to fathom', but said it was important Clarkson had the opportunity to respond to them in the AFL investigation.
The Kangaroos are due to come together on November 7 for the beginning of pre-season, and with Clarkson potentially out of the picture the club is facing the potential needing to hire a fifth head coach in two years.
Rhyce Shaw, David Noble, interim coach Leigh Adams and now potentially Clarkson will have been in and out the door in a scenario Harvey could scarcely comprehend.
“It’s incredible,” Harvey said.
“We’re going to have five coaches in 15 minutes and it feels that way when you reflect on it.”
Hawthorn allegations leave AFL world in shock
According to the 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.
One former player claimed a group of coaches including Clarkson and current Brisbane coach Chris 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 Clarkson won't commence his role at the club until the investigation is complete.
“The health, care and welfare of our players, staff and their families were always my highest priorities during my time at Hawthorn Football Club," Clarkson said in a statement on Wednesday evening.
“I was therefore shocked by the extremely serious allegations reported in the media earlier today. 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.
“I have today contacted the president of North Melbourne Football Club and we have mutually agreed that I will step back from my responsibilities at the club so I can fully cooperate in the investigation.”
North Melbourne said in a statement they were aware of “serious historical allegations made against individuals who worked at the Hawthorn Football Club, including incoming North Melbourne coach Alastair Clarkson”.
“The matters raised are now with the AFL’s integrity unit and Alastair welcomes the opportunity to co-operate with any investigation relating to the claims,” the club said.
“Alastair was due to commence work with North Melbourne on November 1 however he will delay the start of his tenure to allow time to fully participate in the investigation.”
“Given the matters raised are confidential and the investigation is ongoing, the club will not provide any further comment at this time.”
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