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AFL News: Hawks racism saga in stalemate again, Gawn 'stood down' before smashing Saints, Aleer's rise no Giant surprise

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27th May, 2024
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Hawthorn remain committed to resolving the long-running racism saga after the Human Rights Commission terminated a claim by former Hawks First Nations players and their partners.

The commission has thrown out the case, believing there was little chance the Hawks, former staff – including Alastair Clarkson and Chris Fagan – and the ex-players could come to an agreement.

The players, headlined by four-time Hawthorn premiership star Cyril Rioli, and their partners, now have 60 days to take the matter to the Federal Court.

“As we have always said, we would like to see this matter resolved fairly and quickly for everyone involved,” Hawthorn president Andy Gowers said in a statement on Monday.

“We have engaged with the (Human Rights Commission] process in good faith and have made multiple attempts to resolve the matter with all parties.

“It is unfortunate that this was not possible via this process.

Alastair Clarkson

Alastair Clarkson (Dylan Burns/AFL Photos)

“However, we remain committed to, and will work towards, having the matter resolved.”

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Former Hawthorn coach Clarkson and ex-Hawks football boss Fagan met with the complainants in person in March just before the Easter weekend.

It was the first time Clarkson, now North Melbourne coach, and current Brisbane Lions mentor Fagan had met with the players and their partners since allegations regarding their time at the Hawks aired in an ABC report in September, 2022.

Clarkson, Fagan and former Hawks welfare boss Jason Burt have denied any wrongdoing.

The AFL last year said there would be no adverse findings against Clarkson, Fagan or Jason Burt from an independent panel investigating claims of racism during their time at Hawthorn between 2008 and 2016.

Former Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett weighed in on the latest developments, calling it the “correct outcome”.

“With so many claims now being lodged against the AFL and clubs, the verasity (sic) of all claims should be subjected to being tested in a court of law. Not by the AFL or clubs,” Kennett posted on X, formerly Twitter.

“Compensation through mediation is no proper test of any claim unless charges admitted.”

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Gawn ‘stood down’ before barnstorming display

Melbourne captain Max Gawn has revealed Simon Goodwin had made the call to pull him out of the round-11 clash with St Kilda before he convinced the coach otherwise.

Gawn was at his dominant best against the Saints on Sunday, racking up 34 hit-outs, 27 disposals, 10 clearances, seven marks and a goal in a 38-point victory that lifted the Demons back into the AFL’s top four.

But the imposing ruck master almost didn’t play, having woken up with a sore calf after it was corked in a loss to West Coast the previous week.

Gawn passed a fitness test with high-performance boss Selwyn Griffith on the MCG an hour before the match.

“In my head, I was playing no matter what – so I didn’t understand what the hysteria was,” Gawn told Triple M Melbourne on Monday.

“But then I worked out I wasn’t playing, so that’s what the hysteria was.

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“Goody had made the decision that he wasn’t going to risk me.”

Despite passing the fitness test, Gawn still had to clear one more hurdle when he was confronted by Goodwin in the change room before the match.

“I get downstairs and (Goodwin) is involved in a different conversation with the coaches about pulling me (out of the game),” Gawn said.

“He comes right up in my face, like nose-to-nose sort of stuff, and he goes, ‘Are you ready to perform?’. I’m like, ‘Oh yeah, I’m ready to get out of here’. And he goes, ‘No, no, no. Are you ready to perform?’.

“That’s all I heard in the first 10 minutes (of the game); in the back of my head was Goody, ‘Are you ready to perform?’.

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“It clearly worked.”

Gawn produced a best-afield display in a win that improved Melbourne’s season record to 7-4, ending a two-game losing skid in the process.

The Demons sit fourth ahead of a clash with ninth-placed Fremantle (6-4-1) in Alice Springs on Sunday.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 26: Max Gawn of the Demons competes in the ruck against Rowan Marshall of the Saints during the round 11 AFL match between Narrm (the Melbourne Demons) v Euro-Yroke (the St Kilda Saints) at Melbourne Cricket Ground, on May 26, 2024, in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Max Gawn. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Goodwin put a spotlight on his side’s contest work and ability to defend the ground after they were humbled by West Coast last weekend, and felt they responded well.

“The boys went after that and it was a really pleasing performance right across the board for the whole day,” Goodwin said.

“It was really encouraging. We’re still a work in progress … and that’s OK, but it was a step forward.”

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Melbourne’s win came at some cost, with versatile tall Harrison Petty substituted out with what Goodwin said was a sprained ankle.

It will require further assessment ahead of a clash with Fremantle in Alice Springs on June 2.

St Kilda spearhead Max King (three) kicked multiple goals for just the second time in six weeks under close watch from May, and Jack Higgins booted two on return from suspension.

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Aleer’s magic no surprise to teammates

Greater Western Sydney defender Leek Aleer waited patiently for his chance to shine on the AFL stage, and now he has literally grabbed it with both hands.

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The 22-year-old’s stunning intercept marks in the dying moments helped the Giants snap their three-game losing streak in a thrilling four-point win over Geelong at GMHBA Stadium on Saturday night.

Giants captain Toby Greene had pulled off a stunning right-foot snap to snatch the lead but the Cats continued to surge with more than seven minutes remaining.

It was Aleer, a stand-in for injured defender Jack Buckley, who emerged as the match-winner in just his seventh appearance at senior level.

After picking off Tom Stewart’s long bomb inside-50, the lanky defender silenced the Geelong crowd when he launched over Tyson Stengle and Tom Hawkins to pull off another spectacular mark with just one minute left to play.

“I’ve watched it a lot. It’s pretty surreal,” Aleer said on Monday, having become an overnight football celebrity.

“I’ve been pretty patient waiting for an opportunity. I’m just glad I was able to take it with two hands.

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“To be part of a big moment of the game like that means a lot to me because it means a lot to the club.

“A couple of Geelong supporters who I’m mates with back home weren’t too happy.”

Going for a spoil would have been the safer choice for any defender in that situation, but Aleer was unwilling to let the Cats score again off one of his soft-drops.

The South Australian had gifted Stengle his second major of the night and allowed Geelong to level the scores after failing to secure a mark earlier in the final term.

“Spoiling did cross my mind but I knew if I spoiled it, it was just going to come back,” Aleer said.

“I was pretty filthy. To see Geelong score off the back of my mistake, I just wanted to attack the footy, continue attacking the footy.

“Taking a mark felt like the right decision at the time. With that last play, I just wanted to help the team win.”

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Born in Kenya to Sudanese parents before moving to Adelaide, Aleer made his debut for the Giants in 2022 after being drafted at pick No.15 in 2021.

The key defender had already established his prowess in the air after breaking the all-time draft combine record for the running vertical jump, with a leap of 107cm.

It shattered previous records set by Kyron Hayden (103cm) and Nic Naitanui (102cm).

Fellow defender Lachie Whitfield was not surprised as he watched Aleer flaunt his attributes against Geelong, and expects a welcomed selection headache for Kingsley when Buckley recovers from his calf injury.

“We’ve seen it for ages. He’s been jumping over heads for a couple of years at training. It’s about time,” Whitfield told AAP.

“He probably should have played 30 or 40 games already if it wasn’t for Sam (Taylor) and Jack being so pivotal in their role.”

© AAP

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