Gowers holds hope for estranged Clarkson to attend Hawks’ flag reunion

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Hawthorn president Andy Gowers hopes estranged former coach Alastair Clarkson will make a formal return to the club at their 2013 premiership reunion later this year, and that the Hawks can repair relationships with all parties affected by the ongoing independent investigation.

Gowers, speaking on Thursday after the Wednesday resignation of club chief executive Justin Reeves, said that the Hawks are still dealing with the significant fallout from its cultural safety review, completed by Phil Egan, and that had placed further pressure on the CEO when the allegations against Clarkson, his former football manager Chris Fagan and welfare boss Jason Burt became public and led to the AFL investigation which has exhausted all parties.

Hawks president Andy Gowers hopes to mend fractured relationships.Credit: Getty Images

Reeves’ sudden resignation cited the need to “prioritise his mental health and wellbeing”.

Clarkson, Fagan and Burt have categorically denied the historical allegations made against them and have consistently said they look forward to clearing their names.

Clarkson took indefinite leave from his role as North Melbourne coach last week due to his declining mental health because of the toll from the probe, but Gowers has extended a public olive branch to four-time premiership coach Clarkson, who savaged Hawthorn’s handling of the investigation earlier this month.

Gowers also wants the club to rebuild its “bridges” with the Indigenous families who raised issues about their time at the Hawks, and to restore the relationships with Clarkson, Fagan and Burt.

“100 per cent that’s my hope,” Gowers said.

“I’ve said before, my description is there’s a small part of his heart that beats brown and gold. My hope is that section of his heart gets a bit bigger. I want to be building that bridge for him and others is something we are really keen to see happen.”

The Hawks will play their 2013 grand final opponents, Fremantle, in round 24, and while details of a function have not been released, Gowers said he would love to see Clarkson there, if he was happy to come.

“We’ll see, but it sounds like a logical time to formally step back into the club,” Gowers said.

“If we can make that happen, that would be fantastic. But let’s see what we can achieve there. And the first thing that has to happen is Alastair needs to be well and that’s really what that’s No.1.”

Gowers did not rule in or out the club paying compensation to the Indigenous players and families who raised issues about their time there, and echoed calls for the AFL investigation to end as soon as possible.

“Whatever comes out of the investigation, we’re open to sitting down and discussing it,” Gowers said.

“I’ll be as specific and as broad as that. So, we’re open to discussions with all parties.”

The Hawks have not set a timeframe to have a new CEO installed, but Gowers said the position was highly appealing, well-supported and will suit “the right person”. Ash Klein has been named as acting CEO.

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