North Melbourne have been left reeling from bombshell allegations directed at incoming coach Alastair Clarkson.
The four-time premiership coach says he was “shocked” to read the serious historical allegations about mistreatment of Indigenous players during his time at the Hawthorn Football Club, refuting any wrongdoing or misconduct.
On Wednesday, ABC Sport reported an external review of Hawthorn Football Club had uncovered allegations senior staff at Hawthorn demanded the separation of First Nations players from their partners and pressured one player and his partner to terminate a pregnancy for the sake of his career.
Watch every match of the AFLW Season LIVE on Kayo. New to Kayo? Start your free trial now >
North Melbourne has confirmed Clarkson’s tenure will be delayed as the AFL’s Integrity Unit investigates the allegations. He was due to begin work on November 1.
North Melbourne legend — and assistant coach — Brent Harvey on Friday morning revealed just how significantly the bombshell allegations have impacted the club.
He said the club’s coaching staff are “in the dark” about Clarkson’s immediate future and there is uncertainty surrounding what the club will look like when players return for pre-season training.
The club also has the 2022 Trade Period to manage,
“We literally don’t know. We’re in the dark right now,” Harvey told RSN Breakfast Club.
“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.”
He went on to say: “We know what we’re going to do. The show still goes on. We’re going to be one coach short and we’re going to take pre-season training. A few of the coaches are going to have to step up, including myself. I’m part time, I might have to do a little bit more.”
He said the club’s coaching staff will come together for the first time on November 7, but Clarkson is now unlikely to be there.
After a disastrous season where the club won just two games, North Melbourne sacked football boss Dan McPherson and assistant coaches Heath Younie and Anthony Rocca.
When Clarkson’s tenure begins, the club will have had four senior coaches in 24 months — Rhyce Shaw, David Noble, Leigh Adams and now Clarkson.
Clarkson released a statement on Wednesday evening claiming he was “not afforded any due process” during the external investigation commissioned by Hawthorn.
“The health, care and welfare of our players, staff and their families were always my highest priorities during my time at Hawthorn Football Club,” the statement read.
“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 co-operate in the investigation.
“As the matters are now subject to an investigation, I will not make any further comment at this stage.”
Clarkson was last month announced as the new coach of North Melbourne on a five-year contract reported to be worth $5 million.
Clarkson’s former Hawthorn deputy and current Brisbane Lions coach Chris Fagan also released a statement on Thursday “categorically” denying the allegations of mistreatment of Indigenous players.
“I was shocked and deeply distressed by the allegations reported in the media yesterday concerning my time at the Hawthorn Football Club,” Fagan said.
“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.
“I had no opportunity to, and did not, participate in any way in the review commissioned by the Hawthorn Football Club. I was not interviewed. Nor was I invited to be interviewed. No one associated with the review ever put any allegation to me for a response.
“I intend to defend myself. 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.
“In the meantime, as announced by the Brisbane Lions Football Club yesterday, the club and I have mutually agreed that I will take a leave of absence from the club.
“As the matter is now under investigation I will make no further comment at this stage.”
The AFL Integrity Unit is now investigating the accusations.