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Hawthorn coach Sam Mitchell says he ‘feels for everyone’ linked to racism saga

Hawthorn coach Sam Mitchell says he ‘feels for everyone’ linked to racism saga

Whether Cyril Rioli can mend relations with Hawthorn amid the club’s racism saga is up to the four-time premiership star, Hawks coach Sam Mitchell has said.

Key points:

  • Hawthorn coach Sam Mitchell says it will be up to Cyril Rioli if he wants to mend relations with the Hawks
  • Mitchell is a former teammate of Rioli, with the pair winning four flags together between 2008 and 2015
  • Rioli is one of a group of players and relatives who released an open letter on Friday regarding their treatment at the club

Rioli is among six Hawthorn-linked complainants pledging to take their grievances to the Human Rights Commission.

Rioli, his wife Shannyn Ah Sam-Rioli, ex-Hawthorn players Carl Peterson, Jermaine Miller-Lewis and his partner Montanah Miller-Lewis, as well as the club’s former Indigenous manager Leon Egan, have publicly identified themselves as the players and family members as the complainants.

Mitchell won four flags between 2008 and 2015, as a teammate of Rioli.

Asked on Saturday if Rioli could mend relations with the Hawks, Mitchell replied: “That will be up to him.”

“Cyril has been a friend and teammate of mine for a long period of time, and one day I am sure we will get in touch and chat it out,” Mitchell said.

“The whole ordeal, and just everyone involved in it, you just have to feel for everyone in the way it has played out.

“And it’s impossible to know what people think and feel and all the different aspects.

“Cyril was a fantastic teammate, I loved playing footy with Cyril … you just can’t help but feel for everyone involved.”


The AFL last Tuesday said there would be no adverse findings against Alastair Clarkson, Chris Fagan or Jason Burt from an independent panel investigating allegations of mistreatment of First Nations players during their time at Hawthorn.

Clarkson, who has stepped aside as North Melbourne’s coach, was Hawthorn’s coach at the time, with Brisbane Lions coach Fagan his then assistant. Burt is the former welfare manager at the Hawks.

All deny any wrongdoing.

Mitchell is in his second season as Hawthorn coach after replacing Clarkson, and his side were thrashed by 55 points by Port Adelaide on Saturday.

But Mitchell dismissed any connection between his team’s form — they were 82 points down at half-time — and the racism controversy.

“It doesn’t affect the team,” he said.

“Certainly the focus for all of us is really clear: that we want to be going back to winning finals, winning premierships, and we’re on that path and that is our clear focus.”

Mitchell also said the saga wasn’t impacting on him personally as coach.

“The board has done a great job … it’s not my role to deal with off-field things,” he said.

“I am really clear and the board has been great at [saying] ‘just you coach the football team, you help the football department, you take us back to premiership success and you be part of that group that is going to do that’.

“As a young coach I have got my hands full with coaching this group of players and getting the best out of this group, and the club will handle the off-field.”





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