AFL news 2022: Eddie Betts appeal to AFL clubs after Hawthorn Hawks allegations

Former Carlton footballer Eddie Betts, one of the AFL’s leading indigenous voices over the past decade, has called for the 18 clubs to carry out external reviews into their past treatment of First Nations people after historical allegations regarding the Hawthorn Football Club have come to light.

In a report released Wednesday, ABC Sports alleges that senior Hawthorn executives demanded the separation of First Nations players from their partners and pressured a player and his partner to end a pregnancy for the sake of his career.

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Four-time Premier Coach Alastair Clarkson was ‘shocked’ to read the allegationsrefuting any wrongdoing or misconduct in a statement.

North Melbourne confirmed later Clarkson’s coaching tenure, which was due to begin Nov. 1, would be delayed while the allegations are investigated.

The Brisbane Lions have also announced that coach Chris Fagan, who has been Clarkson’s best assistant at the Hawks, was taking time off.

The ABC says Fagan and Clarkson did not respond when asked about the allegations.

AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan has confirmed the league will form a four-person external panel to carry out a full investigation into the matter.

Betts made an emotional plea on Fox Footy’s AFL 360 Wednesday night, calling on clubs to ensure the AFL is safe for young Indigenous children.

“It was hard reading to read this today, but I wasn’t surprised, to be honest,” he explained.

“Indigenous people face these issues in many systems, in the education system, the justice system, in the health system. And it always comes back to what I’ve been preaching a lot, and that’s the ‘education.

“Every football club should do a review like this. Every football club should go out and do an external review. Contact the native players, past and present, and see how the football club was.

“We always come back to this. We find ourselves talking about it over and over again. You keep hearing me on this show. You know, preach my heart out, when is it going to stop? When are we going to grow up? When are we going to learn, when are we going to learn?

“And reconciliation, the theme this year was about being brave and making changes, and it’s hard and it’s embarrassing to have these conversations. But you have to be brave. You have to get out of your zone of comfort and start having those conversations that call for it.

“And until we do that, and that’s when we could make changes and move on. But if you know you’re not brave and you don’t don’t call, then we won’t make any changes.

“People are going to believe what they’re going to believe, but I guess it’s tough and it’s tough.

“But I will always believe the players and the brothers.”

The 35-year-old also revealed he knew one of the players who raised the Hawthorn allegations, praising the footballer for his bravery in speaking out.

“I know one of them, who I will contact as well,” Betts said.

“I’m going to reach out to him. I’m just going to tell him how brave he’s been and ‘Thank you for speaking up and raising awareness’ because if he hadn’t spoken, we wouldn’t. wouldn’t have experienced that and people need to be educated.”

Betts also admitted he continued to encounter intolerance, saying he felt out of place in Australia.

“I find myself being followed by security guards in a store,” I said.

“This year I was in a swimming pool. And the lifeguard came to me and told me that I had to get out of the pool. I was holding my child, my baby in my hand.

“I found out that two old white elderly people told the lifeguard to tell me to get out of the pool because I was making their grandson uncomfortable.

“And it made me feel like I don’t belong here in Australia because these issues keep happening.

“Honestly, I don’t feel like I belong here, but my wife keeps telling me that and telling me that from anyone, you should feel like you belong here, from everyone because this is your country, and you should never feel like this.

Hawthorn’s four-time premiership player Jordan Lewis claimed that other Hawks players were “unaware” of the alleged incidents described in the report.

“Having been involved with that football club and understanding the culture and the indigenous players that were there and the love and care that we showed from the point of view of the group of players, and then realizing that they had those experiences which we weren’t immune to, but we weren’t aware of those conversations,” he said on AFL 360.

“I can honestly say, hand on heart, that when he came out this morning and you’re calling ex-teammates and Indigenous teammates to see if they knew anything about it and, for a man, no one has never heard of something like that happening in our time there.

“The alleged conversations that happened to these individuals, we as a playgroup were never aware of or passed on any information that we needed to have comment on.

“It’s clearly disturbing if these allegations are true and have happened to these people when it should have been a really safe environment.”

Mark Robinson of the Herald Sun warned that more tragic details of Hawthorn’s investigation into the treatment of First Nations players could emerge in the coming weeks.

“It made me really sad…that we’re in a situation where we are in 2022 and hearing allegations against two very respected people in the game,” he said on AFL 360.

“I’m reading it in class – it can’t be true. It must be made up. And I’m not saying it was made up – but I was so in disbelief. I wanted to disbelieve.

“I compare it to the era of the slave trade – where white people just tell black people what to think, what to do; white people tell black people whether you can have a child or not.

“Can any of us believe that a football coach said to an indigenous player, ‘Your partner needs to have an abortion.

“If this is true and Alastair Clarkson said so, he will never be seen in the game again.

“This story will go around the sports world – my God. What an awful day.

“It’s a diabolical situation.”

Hawthorn responded to the allegations Wednesday morning.

“Earlier this year, Hawthorn Football Club engaged external First Nations consultants to liaise with current and former First Nations players and staff to learn more about their experience at the club,” said the club in a statement.

“This important work has raised disturbing historical allegations which require further investigation. Upon learning of these allegations, the club immediately engaged AFL Integrity, as appropriate.

“The club will continue to support those who have been part of this process, and their well-being remains our priority.

“While the process indicated that the club’s current environment is culturally safe, it also recommended that some of the club’s current First Nations training and development programs continue to be strengthened.

“The club places the best interests and well-being of our players and staff as our number one priority.

“As the matters raised are confidential, the club will not be providing any further comment at this time.”

Originally published as ‘Heartbreaking’: Eddie Betts’ desperate plea to AFL clubs after Hawthorn Hawks allegations