Hawks hold out hope Clarkson returns for flag reunion

·3-min read
Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS

Hawthorn president Andy Gowers is holding out hope Alastair Clarkson will feel comfortable and well enough to attend the Hawks' 10-year premiership reunion.

The four-time Hawthorn premiership coach's relationship with the club has rapidly deteriorated since the messy handover to Sam Mitchell at the end of 2021.

Clarkson has taken leave from his new coaching job at North Melbourne nine games into his five-year contract due to the emotional strain of the ongoing Hawthorn racism investigation.

A week before standing aside indefinitely, Clarkson hit out at the Hawks, calling for the club he coached for 17 years to be investigated over their "shameful" handling of the long-running saga, saying reputations have been "scarred".

Hawthorn chief executive Justin Reeves, who spent more than five years at the helm, on Wednesday resigned due to the "personal toll" amid the fallout from the club's cultural safety review and the ongoing AFL investigation.

Reeves and former president Jeff Kennett were in charge when the decision was made to part ways with Clarkson and install Mitchell as Hawthorn's new coach.

Gowers said he "100 per cent" hoped Clarkson could make his way back into the club for the Hawks' celebrations of their 2013 grand final victory, slated to take place in round 24 against Fremantle at the MCG.

"My description is there's a small part of his heart that beats brown and gold and I hope that section of his heart gets a bit bigger," Gowers said at Waverley Park on Thursday.

"Building that bridge for him and others is something that we're we're really keen to see happen.

"Is it too soon? We'll see. But it sounds like a logical time to formally step back into the club.

"If we can make that happen, that would be fantastic.

"But let's see what we can achieve there.

"The first thing that has to happen is Alastair needs to be well and that's really number one."

Gowers hoped the independent AFL panel appointed to oversee the racism claims at Hawthorn between 2008 and 2016 would soon wrap up and report its findings.

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 during their time at the club.

All deny any wrongdoing.

"The sooner it is wrapped up, the better for everybody involved," Gowers said.

"It will help in a number of ways and the sooner it happens fairly and unjustly, the better."

Gowers said he felt for Reeves but knew the former CEO would still be around Hawthorn due to his son Ned being the Hawks' ruckman.

Despite the fallout and scrutiny on the club as a result of the historical racism allegations, Gowers believed the CEO position was an attractive job.

Hawthorn have appointed chief commercial officer Ash Klein as acting chief executive and will form a sub-committee to search for Reeves' full-time replacement.

"I think for the right candidate, this actually represents a challenge that they'd like to take on," Gowers said.

"Our future is incredibly bright and I think the on-feld efforts that we've seen is incredibly exciting and I believe our members understand where we're headed."