Three-time Hawthorn premiership skipper Luke Hodge has thrown his support behind embattled coaches Alastair Clarkson and Chris Fagan during an “extremely challenging time” for the duo.
Clarkson, Fagan and other former senior Hawthorn officials including Jason Burt and Andrew Newbold have been named in a damning report into the treatment of past First Nations players at the club.
Some of the allegations include separating players from their partners and in one of the most disturbing claims, telling a player to urge his pregnant partner to get an abortion.
Trading Day begins 5pm EST on Fox Footy, Monday October 3 – daily news and analysis of the AFL trade period. Stream it live or on-demand on Kayo. New to Kayo? Start your free trial now >
Foxfooty.com.au does not suggest the allegations in that report are completely true and accurate, only that they have been made and are being investigated by other bodies.
Hodge, who played 301 AFL games under Clarkson and Fagan – after heading to Brisbane to finish his career, said both coaches “only ever wanted the best for me and my family”.
While conceding he can’t “speak to the confronting allegations” made in the Hawthorn racism report, Hodge said he wished to share his personal experiences with Clarkson and Fagan in a strongly worded statement.
“Alastair Clarkson shaped me into the person I am today,” he said.
“Inheriting a bit of a brat from Colac, he was never afraid to give me the honest truths that I needed.
“At times that was hard to hear but it came exclusively from a place of love and care for me and my future.”
Hodge said Clarkson showed nothing but support for he and wife Lauren when they started a family, claiming the coach was the “one I turned to”.
“He has always shared his own stories and helped me to be comfortable in my own skin,” he said.
Defending Fagan, Hodge described the Lions coach as “the most extraordinary mentor and confidant”.
“Such is the trust and belief I have in Chris Fagan as a person, I moved my whole family interstate solely because he was leading that club,” Hodge said.
“I am just so proud and not one bit surprised of the culture he has created and what he has built in Brisbane.
“The work Jason Burt did to help young and not so young players transition in and out of footy was simply tireless,” Hodge added.
Hodge explained why he opted to issue a statement after the First Nations player treatment report broke last month.
“I just had to show support in a tough time for those that did exactly that for me throughout the more challenging moments of my life,” he wrote.
“My experience with each of these men is that they only ever wanted the best for me and my family, and I wish them well in what is an extremely challenging time for everyone involved.”
Hodge is the first former Hawk to come out with a strong statement in support of both Clarkson and Fagan.
Lions players have rallied around Fagan in recent weeks with their support, as he takes personal leave from the club.
Hodge’s support comes after The Age published a report of alleged “controlling behaviour” towards former Hawks skipper Sam Mitchell in 2011.
An AFL investigation is due to begin on the racism report’s claims, although there’s still controversy over whether the families involved in the initial interviews will take part in the AFL’s process.