Jeff Kennett revealed his dialogue with Cyril Rioli is ‘moving in the right direction’, but the Hawthorn president admitted he did not know whether the former Hawthorn star will ever reconnect with his former club.
Last month, the four-time premiership winner revealed several alleged racial incidents off the field at the club led to him retiring from football aged 28.
In an interview with The Age, Rioli’s wife, Shannyn Ah Sam-Rioli, revealed she was left feeling ‘belittled’ and ‘humiliated’ by remarks Kennett made about her designer ripped jeans at Launceston Airport, in which he offered loose change to help sew them up.
Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett said he’s spoken to Cyril Rioli a couple of times since the latter revealed alleged racial abuse at the Hawks led him to quit the AFL
The Hawks president claimed the comments were a joke, but Rioli said the incident was the ‘final straw’ before he quit footy in 2018.
The 2015 Norm Smith medalist also told the newspaper that a senior Hawks player asked his fellow players whether the partner of an Indigenous teammate was ‘also a b***g’.
Rioli added he would not return to the club while Kennett remained in charge of the Hawks, a role he has held for 13 years over two spells since 2005.
Kennett, however, said he’s spoken to Rioli a few times since his bombshell interview and hinted progress has been made.
Rioli’s wife Shannyn Ah Sam-Rioli said she was left feeling ‘belittled’ and ‘humiliated’ by remarks Hawthorn boss Jeff Kennett allegedly made about her designer ripped jeans
The four-time premiership winner alleged several other racial incidents off the field convinced him to retire from professional football aged 28
‘I have been in touch with Cyril a couple of times. We’re moving in the right direction,’ he told The Herald Sun.
After abruptly quitting footy, Rioli moved to Darwin with his wife to be closer to his father, who was recovering from a heart attack. The Hawks will be in town on May 28 when they face Gold Coast at Metricon Stadium, but Kennett admitted he did not know whether Rioli would attend.
‘Whether he’ll come to that game or not, it’ll be up to him at the time,’ the 74-tear-old said.
‘Suffice to say, it will be a wonderful day, a wonderful game, Darwin is a wonderful city. […] He has wished the club and me well on two occasions. Whether that leads to him coming in a couple of weeks, I don’t know.’
Kennett is ‘convinced’ players had felt ‘culturally safe’ at Hawthorn over the last few years
Speaking last month, the Hawthorn president refuted allegations the club was racist and insisted the Hawks were ‘doing what we can to listen’ and ‘to learn what has happened in the past’.
‘I do not accept and I completely, absolutely, utterly reject that I am in any way racist. It’s an awful slur for anyone to have to bear,’ he said via Wide World of Sport.
He also added he was ‘convinced’ players had felt ‘culturally safe’ at Hawthorn over the last few years.
‘We are very much convinced […] they feel so safe that if something was said or done that they thought caused them harm, they would be confident to go and report it to any number of senior people at the club,’ he said.