New president wants to unite AFL's Hawks

December 13, 2022 07:42 PM AEDT | By AAPNEWS
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New Hawthorn president Andy Gowers has called for unity at the fractured AFL club after he was elected ahead of Jeff Kennett's anointed successor Peter Nankivell.

The victory of board challenger Gowers via a member vote was confirmed at Tuesday night's annual general meeting (AGM) at the Hawthorn Town Hall, concluding a fractious and fiery election campaign.

Gowers was endorsed by the 'Hawks for Change' group and ran on a mandate for change at the AFL club, namely ending the Kennett era.

The 53-year-old played in Hawthorn's 1991 premiership and recorded 89 games for the Hawks, and was later the football director during their 2013-15 premiership three-peat.

Former Victoria deputy premier and Labor figure James Merlino, who is aligned with Gowers, has also been elected to Hawthorn's board.

The pair replace Kennett, who served two terms as president, from 2006-2011 and again since 2018, and Nankivell.

"With the election behind us it is time to unite and focus firmly on our future," Gowers said in his appointment speech.

"I want to get the club back in one piece, the family club, united and moving ahead with a common purpose," he later added to reporters.

"And we all want it to be back where we want it to be and we do that by being united."

Gowers has promised to hold effectively a peace summit with the club's different stake holders: including past players, club legends, coterie figures and members.

He intends to deliver a three-point plan: based on unity, regaining Hawthorn's 'family club' values and reclaiming success, while putting members back at the club's heart.

Kennett refused to release the polling numbers but Gowers favoured doing so as part of a push for greater transparency at the Hawks.

Former Liberal premier Kennett accepted the result but wouldn't go quietly, noting Gowers would address the Hawthorn faithful to allow them to "put a face to the name".

He also took a pointed jibe at Gowers' reference to Kennett leaving a $25 million funding black hole for the clubs' $100 million headquarters at Dingley, via his "late night tweets" criticising the Victorian government.

"With James coming on board the $15 million that the government's been holding back from us, I expect to be delivered tomorrow, James," Kennett said.

"And Andy said when fighting for the election that he knew (of) another $10 million.

"So Andy, put up or shut up - we want that other $10 million quickly."

Kennett had previously conceded his public criticism of Victoria's state government had cost Hawthorn $15 million in funding but Gowers had believed it also deterred wealthy benefactors from contributing a further $10 million.

The new president was unfazed when asked whether he expected Kennett to keep taking pot shots from the sidelines.

Incumbents Katie Hudson and Anne-Marie Pellizzer, the only women on the board, were both re-elected.

The election came at a fraught time for the Hawks, with an ongoing independent investigation into bombshell allegations of racism at the club from 2008-16.

Gowers was unwilling to comment on the club's previous external review or the issue until the independent investigation delivered its findings.

"I'm not going to say or do anything that's going to jeopardise the process that's underway now by the AFL independent panel," he said. 

"It's just not appropriate."


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