Former Hawthorn coach Peter Schwab feels there is enough “disenchantment” from Hawks supporters to force serious change on the AFL club’s board, after current president Jeff Kennett last week told members he aims to find a suitable successor by June.
Ex-Australian Super boss Ian Silk is leading a push for upheaval on the board after criticism of the club’s handling of the coaching succession plan involving Alastair Clarkson and Sam Mitchell. Schwab, who is a three-times Hawthorn premiership player and coached the club between 2000 and 2004, ran an online meeting on Tuesday night for the Hawks for Change group.
“With boards, it just seems to be at times that people get appointed – I’m not saying those people aren’t very good candidates – but there doesn’t seem to be that open transparency,” Schwab told SEN. “I think this nomination committee working towards finding Jeff’s successor may stay in place.
“This is no slur on anyone on that board, but you have to be careful you don’t drift away from your members. Ultimately, they’re the people you exist for so I think too many of them feel a little bit disenchanted about some of the things that have happened.”
After leaving Hawthorn at the end of 2011, Kennett’s second stint as president started in 2017 and was meant to last for three years. But he decided to stay on and was appointed for another three-year term to guide the club through the Covid-19 crisis. The former Victoria premier’s term is due to expire at the end of 2023.
Schwab said he was disappointed to see Clarkson depart the club – after winning four premierships in 17 seasons – in the way he did.
“Everyone’s behind Sam [Mitchell],” Schwab said. “But it wasn’t a good ending for someone who’s been arguably one of the greatest coaches we’ve ever had. I don’t think anyone was pleased in the way it was done. Let’s be quite blunt to say you don’t want a massive salary being paid to someone who’s no longer at the footy club.”
Andy Gowers, who played with Schwab at Hawthorn, is also part of the Hawks for Change group and spoke during the online forum. The former Hawks board member hoped the club could eventually end its long association with poker machines. A number of rival AFL clubs have moved away from the controversial form of income in recent years.
“The challenge is replacing revenue,” Gowers told SEN. “I know Ian Silk’s view and my view, and I presume the club’s view, is the ’family club’ shouldn’t be involved in poker machines. The challenge is to find alternative revenue streams to make sure the club is financially viable and successful and stable while easing out of the poker machine interests.”