AFL community wants Hawthorn racism probe to end
The AFL community has rallied around Alastair Clarkson as calls for a quick end to the drawn-out investigation into alleged racism at Hawthorn grow louder.
Clarkson has stepped away from his job as North Melbourne coach indefinitely as he continues to deal with the fallout of the ongoing saga.
Four-time Hawthorn premiership coach Clarkson, his then assistant and now Brisbane Lions head coach Chris Fagan, and ex-Hawk player welfare manager Jason Burt have been named in allegations of racism between 2008 and 2016.
All deny any wrongdoing, but are yet to be formally interviewed.
Outgoing AFL boss Gillon McLachlan initially hoped the independent investigation would report findings last December, but now says there is no set time frame.
Fagan issued a statement on Thursday, saying he was "saddened" by Clarkson's plight and urged for the investigation which has dragged on for more than eight months to be sped up.
"I know him (Clarkson) to be a person of very good character who has had an overwhelmingly positive influence on the lives of the young men he has coached," Fagan said.
"The deeply flawed process that we have been subjected to has taken a heavy toll.
"It has been profoundly damaging and unfair.
"It is my hope that it will very soon come to an appropriate end."
Even McLachlan has acknowledged the saga needed to be brought to a close for the sake of all parties involved.
"We understand how much the investigation by the independent panel into allegations of racism has impacted on all people involved, including Alastair, and believe the investigation needs to find resolution," McLachlan said on Thursday.
"The AFL supports current efforts to find a mediated outcome that provides fairness and natural justice for all involved, and encourage all parties to work towards a timely and just outcome."
Sam Mitchell refused to comment on his former coach's decision to step away from North.
Mitchell was back on deck as Hawthorn coach after a bout of COVID-19 when news broke Clarkson was taking time away from the game.
A four-time premiership player under Clarkson, Mitchell didn't want to discuss the veteran coach's decision or their relationship, which is said to be almost non-existent.
A story emerged this week that Mitchell and Hawthorn were unhappy Clarkson gave a speech to AFL academy prospects in which he repeatedly criticised Mitchell's early grand-final performances.
This follows the ill-fated succession plan that saw Mitchell replace Clarkson one season early at the Hawks.
Mitchell said Clarkson's decision to take time out was news to him.
"I just read the press release just before and walked out and I thought North Melbourne summed it up well; they asked for privacy and I think me adding to that narrative is not going to help anyone," Mitchell said.
Mitchell was asked about his reaction to the grand-final story but bluntly said, "I'm not going into it".