Under-fire Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett has pledged to investigate the alleged racism that saw star Cyril Rioli prematurely retire, but stopped short of guaranteeing anything would be done about the revelations.

Calls for Kennett to resign have increased since Rioli and his wife Shannyn Ah Sam-Rioli made nationwide headlines when they accused the Hawks of “gaslighting”, stemming from an incident at Launceston Airport in 2018.

Rioli’s wife told The Age she felt “belittled” and “humiliated” by comments made by Kennett on her designer ripped jeans at the airport, offering loose change to help sew them up — comments he claims was a joke.

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Rioli said that alleged incident was the “final straw” before he later retired at just 28.

In a letter address to club members on Wednesday, Kennett said the club would investigate the Riolis’ claims to “determine if any other action needs to be taken”.

“We were all saddened by the story that there had been incidents that had upset both he and his wife,” he wrote.

READ KENNETT’S LETTER IN FULL BELOW

“We have taken those claims seriously and are conducting further inquiries to see if there might have been other incidents affecting our past First Nations players.

“Once those inquires have concluded, we will determine if any other action needs to be taken.

“I can assure you that the Board and the administration will not shirk our responsibility to work through these matters.”

Kennett said the best response to the claims would be “a measure and responsible one”.

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“We will firstly seek to establish the facts, before working through the best way of responding to the matters that require addressing,” he said.

“Matters have been brought to our attention. We are taking them seriously, and any failings will be addressed.”

Kennett said he wanted to see Cyril Rioli back at the club so they can “work through the hurt he feels”.

Cyril has been approached by new Hawks boss and four-time premiership teammate Sam Mitchell, but said he remained keen to keep his distance from the club, particularly while Kennett is still president, and doubts he’ll attend next year’s 10-year premiership reunion.

He was open to helping other teams — potentially the Tigers or Eagles — where he has family ties.

“But I wouldn’t go back to Hawthorn after what’s gone on. It’s the only club I wouldn’t put my hand up for right now,” he said.

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JEFF KENNETT’S OPEN LETTER TO MEMBERS

Dear Hawkers,

Well, we are clearly seeing glimpses of what the future holds for our club.

Last week’s game against Carlton was a great one. Sadly, we did not get over the line and collect the four points, but we lost nothing else.

In fact, the way the team came back after a difficult first quarter was fantastic to watch.

We won three quarters but lost the first comprehensively.

That said, the team never gave up, they tackled hard and moved the ball at great speed.

We are now 2-1 from the first three games, having lost the last by a point.

Our investment in players and style of play continues, but it has been an exciting start to the year.

We now move on to the game against St Kilda on Sunday at the MCG where I hope to see as many of you as possible.

Hawks president Jeff Kennett talks to Cyril Rioli.Source: News Limited

Let me address the report published in The Age newspaper on Saturday concerning Cyril Rioli and his wife Shannyn.

We were all saddened by the story that there had been incidents that had upset both he and his wife.

We have taken those claims seriously and are conducting further inquiries to see if there might have been other incidents affecting our past First Nations players.

Once those inquires have concluded, we will determine if any other action needs to be taken.

I can assure you that the Board and the administration will not shirk our responsibility to work through these matters.

Some will demand immediate answers and actions, but, given how important these matters are, the best response is a measured and responsible one.

We will firstly seek to establish the facts, before working through the best way of responding to the matters that require addressing.

Matters have been brought to our attention. We are taking them seriously, and any failings will be addressed.

Can I finally say on this matter: we all want Cyril back with us at Hawthorn. I hope that we can work through the hurt he feels and make him feel welcome and safe in the brown and gold family again.

Go Hawks!



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