News People Hawks president and ex-premier Jeff Kennett accused of racism that drove Cyril Rioli to quit club

Hawks president and ex-premier Jeff Kennett accused of racism that drove Cyril Rioli to quit club

Superstar Cyril Rioli says he won't return to the Hawks while Jeff Kennett remains. Photo: Getty
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Jeff Kennett has come under increasing pressure to step down as president of AFL club Hawthorn after revelations about his treatment of Cyril Rioli and the premiership star’s family.

In a report in The Age on Saturday, Rioli said he will not return to the club while Kennett remains in his post.

The four-time flag hero’s stance is the result of a series of issues that Rioli said fractured the relationship between Hawthorn and its Indigenous players during his time there between 2008 and 2018.

They include comments by Kennett towards Rioli’s wife, Shannyn Ah Sam-Rioli, in 2018 that the club legend said contributed to his decision to end his career at the Hawks at the age of just 28.

In response to the revelations, prominent Hawthorn supporters group Hawks for Change called on Kennett to immediately step down.

Former Victorian premier Kennett’s second term as Hawks president is due to end in December next year.

But Hawks for Change, which successfully supported former AustralianSuper boss Ian Silk in his bid to win a spot on the club’s board last December, has been pressuring Kennett to set an earlier date for his departure.

Urged to step down

Silk is one of several possible candidates to take over.

Hawthorn on Saturday released a formal apology to the Rioli family for racism they experienced at the club.

“Racism in all shapes and forms is unacceptable,” the statement said.

“We are sorry that Cyril and Shannyn experienced these incidents during their time at the club.

“We are saddened these experiences have left them feeling the way they do.

“Combating racism and educating everyone both within our own walls and in the community is something we are constantly working on and believe we are getting better at.”

Rioli played 189 games for Hawthorn in a glittering career that included him winning the 2015 Norm Smith Medal and three All-Australian selections.