Hawthorn Football Club has to deal with a conflicted past, says former Indigenous Liaison Officer

“I believe he is trying to improve the club,” Egan said of Reeves. “And I want to give him the opportunity to take responsibility for doing better and acknowledging the past.” The club has yet to hire an official. Do betterstyle review of his practices, but Egan said Reeves took many notes during their lengthy meeting at Waverley Park on Tuesday, which was also attended by the club’s new Indigenous manager, Brady Gray.

Of Hawthorn’s recent cultural failures, as described by the Riolis, Egan said, “They (the Hawks) have been victims of their own success. That doesn’t excuse him, but that’s how it was. They were too busy winning to care about issues such as providing adequate cultural awareness.

“They were so successful that nothing else mattered.”

Burgoyne, who retired last year after 407 AFL games – 250 with the Hawks – confirmed he had repeatedly asked club bosses to expand Egan’s role. He also confirmed that he called a meeting with then-club chairman Andrew Newbold and CEO Stuart Fox in 2015 in the days following constant boos of Adam Goodes by Hawthorn fans at the MCG in late May of that year, but club bosses found themselves in a difficult position, unwilling to upset their members and supporters.

“It was the last insult for me. I entered the club a few days later and handed in my resignation. I didn’t want to worry the players… I just left.

Leon Egan

Now an Indigenous manager in Port Adelaide, Burgoyne said he was unaware of the racial slurs revealed in age made by a white player to an Aboriginal teammate in 2013. Deeply concerned by Rioli’s estrangement from the club, Burgoyne stressed he will always treasure his time at Hawthorn. But Burgoyne also said Hawthorn’s role in Goodes’ treatment remained an abiding source of great personal regret for him.

Burgoyne and his Indigenous teammate Jarman Impey recommended to Reeves in early 2021 that the club bring Egan back to Hawthorn in a full-time role. Egan said he appreciated the offer but chose to stay in the private sector, where he now oversees his own civil construction business.

Premiership team-mates Shaun Burgoyne and Cyril Rioli.Credit:Eddie Jim

“But I appreciated the offer,” Egan said, “and Justin knows I will continue to talk to him and hold him to account.” Of the club’s claim that their current trio of Indigenous players had told coach Sam Mitchell they had no cultural issues with today’s Hawthorn, Egan said: “Of course they will say that. But everyone there now deserves the chance to do better.

Hawthorn’s native players in 2015 – including Burgoyne and Norm Smith’s medalist that year Rioli – were also unaware that Egan had asked a club official for a pass to the premiership celebrations , but were told the Grand Finals locker room was off-limits to all but immediate family members.

“To so many of these boys, I was their family,” Egan said. “I was so disappointed and that was the last insult to me. I entered the club a few days later and handed in my resignation. I didn’t want to worry the players about it. I just left. “


The club also turned to Egan in 2018 after Hawthorn Kennett chairman Shannyn Ah Sam-Rioli’s swap deal, which Cyril Rioli described as ‘the last straw’ for the couple who described a number of racial red flags they encountered during Rioli’s 11 years. at the club.

One of the couple’s main regrets was that Egan, a trusted advisor and father figure, left the club too soon, was not replaced the following season and was only employed one day a week . Egan and his wife, Kate, have hosted a number of Hawthorn players over the years, including Jed Anderson, James Sicily, Impey, Jermaine Miller-Lewis and Dayle Garlett, as well as Shai Bolton from Richmond.

The Hawks could only find the funding to pay Egan one day a week over a period in which the club consistently saw seven-figure profits and received significant sponsorship for Indigenous programs from the Epic Good Foundation. . It was also at a time when he regularly recruited Indigenous footballers from across Australia.

The shortage of Indigenous footballers ended at Hawthorn in 1999 when Chance Bateman – the first Indigenous player at the 100-player club – arrived from Perth. Under coach Alastair Clarkson, the club transformed with the recruitment of Lance Franklin, Rioli, Burgoyne and Bradley Hill among others. Three Indigenous players — Chad Wingard, Impey and Tyler Brockman — are on Hawthorn’s 2022 roster.

A former police officer, Egan’s extensive Australian rules football experience included long-standing roles with AFL SportsReady, a company dedicated to improving employment pathways for young Australians, AFL Victoria and the Clontarf Foundation.


Of his time as a teenage aspiring VFL footballer in the late 1980s, he said: ‘Maybe I wouldn’t have been good enough anyway, but I found out later that it wasn’t. would have made no difference at the time. Maybe that’s partly why I wanted to make an impact when I returned to the club.

After leaving Hawthorn, Egan was eventually recruited by the AFL Players Association in 2018, highly recommended by Burgoyne among other senior Indigenous players in the competition, to lead the players’ union’s Indigenous and multicultural programs. He still advises the AFLPA and a number of AFL clubs, and hosted a cultural awareness session at Geelong Football Club on Thursday.