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HomeSportsJeff Kennett and Hawthorn: Highs, lows and everything in-between

Jeff Kennett and Hawthorn: Highs, lows and everything in-between

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Jeff Kennett has officially been replaced as Hawthorn president by 1991 premiership player Andrew Gowers.

Following a club AGM on Tuesday, Gowers managed to overcome fellow candidate, vice-president and Kennett’s preferred successor Peter Nankivell.

The recent appointment of Gowers marks the end of Kennett’s second stint (2017-2022) as Hawthorn president and a combined 13 years at the club in that capacity.

He initially started his tenure at the club in 2006 and served until 2011 before stepping down.

As most AFL lovers know, Kennett was at the heart of many controversies.

For all the seasons gone by, the 74-year-old ensured that has imprint on the club was left behind and his impact everlasting.

Here are just some of Kennett’s contributions as Hawks president.

Highs

Tasmania deal

In 2006, Kennett brokered a deal with Tasmania worth around $12 million that saw the club play four home games at Launceston’s Aurora Stadium.

Initially possessed by St Kilda, the deal saw the club be named the “Tassie Hawks” from a sponsorship standing between 2007 to 2011.

A report by The Sydney Morning Herald at the time said that the sponsorship would not impede on the official name of Hawthorn, its colours or base for the historic club.

“Hawthorn will always be called the Hawthorn Football Club,” Kennett said.

“Most people will call us the Hawthorn Football Club, but if they’re talking about our sponsor they’ll call us the Tassie Hawks and we’re very proud of that.

“If you don’t think outside the square you end up rotting.

“If you stand still you get overtaken.”

‘Five2Fifty’ plan

Kennett delivered a five-year business plan for the Hawks known as ‘five2fifty’ back in 2007.

It detailed that within five years, the club would win two flags and obtain 50,000 members.

This plan almost seemed on the conservative side once the 2008 season completed, with Hawthorn crowned as champions of the AFL.

The club had also reached nearly 42,000 members by the end of that year and would surpass their target half way through 2009.

Three-peat

It is widely assumed and known that the behind-the-scenes work that Kennett did through 2006-2011 led to some of the most extraordinary success the club experienced.

Shortly after his resignation at the end of the 2011 season, Hawthorn made four consecutive grand finals (2012-2015), winning three and announcing themselves as arguably the best team of the modern era.

In 2011, they lost a preliminary final to Collingwood by three points and in 2016 they lost to Western Bulldogs (premiers) in a semi final, hinting at the sustained excellence.

Lows

‘Kennett Curse’

Following a shock 2008 grand final win against Geelong, Kennett publicly announced on the eve of their round one clash, 2009 that: “What they don’t have, I think, is the quality of some of our players; they don’t have the psychological drive we have. We’ve beaten Geelong when it matters.”

From then on, the Cats led by Mark Thompson and Chris Scott found the most remarkable ways to win their next 11 clashes, dating all the way to 2013.

In was then dubbed the “Kennett Curse” given the karma Hawthorn experienced shortly after the comments made by the president.

The stretch of games proved to be some of the greatest between the two clubs, with an average winning margin of 8.7 points.

Racism scandal

In 2022, club legend Cyril Rioli broke his silence on shock retirement in 2018 and claimed that Kennett made some untoward comments to his partner.

A report made by Fox Sports, it is “believed Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett commented on Shannyn’s designer ripped jeans at the airport, offering loose change to help sew them up — comments he claims was a joke,” per the article.

After many crisis meetings involving Alastair Clarkson, Shaun Burgoyne and Rioli’s manager Adam Ramanauskas, the freakish forward was compelled to announce his retirement and walk away from the club and the game.

The article suggested that because of the treatment he experienced – highlighted by Kennett’s comment – that he wouldn’t return to the club while he was still president.

Clarkson departure

In 2021, Kennett and the board struck a deal with Alastair Clarkson and Sam Mitchell which would see the latter take over as head coach in 2023.

The deal confirmed that Clarkson would stay on until the end of his contract (2022) and work alongside Mitchell.

However, this was not to be the case and fuelled the ever-going feud between Kennett and ‘Clarko’.

Lead journalist Damien Barrett said at the time that the toxic relationships Clarkson had with Kennett and CEO Justin Reeves “contributed heavily to the decision (departing early) this week.”

Former AFL players and media personalities took to Twitter to express their frustrations with Clarkson’s premature departure.

In-between

Refusing dual-captaincy

When deciding a successor to Richard Vandenberg, there was a deadlock between Sam Mitchell and Luke Hodge to take over as captain of Hawthorn.

In a bid to avoid co-captains, Kennett insisted there be a tie-breaker, saying multiple skippers was “madness, sheer madness”, according to the Herald Sun.

“They (Mitchell and Hodge) had come in (to a board meeting in Swan Street) and I said: ‘All right guys, what have you got?’ They said: ‘Well, the players have voted and we’re going to be joint captains’. I said: ‘No, you’re not … that’s not the Hawthorn way’,” Kennett said at the time.

“(I said) ‘Go away and come back and tell us what you want to do’. They talked about it and came back and said: ‘It’s Sam (who will be captain)’.

“I am a great believer that you can’t have two generals at the top of an army. Sport is competitive, administrations are competitive. You need to have someone to bear the responsibility of leadership and if you make a mistake, then so be it.

Brown-and-gold jacket

In 2006, Kennett added a fashion statement to his status as Hawthorn president: donning a brown-and-gold jacket to be worn at games.

The reversible jacket is to symbolise the club and his success in it, saying at the time: “If we lose, it will stay hidden,” Kennett said.

“Where we win a game I will have the player that is adjudged best on ground for that match sign the coat so that will become a record of our success for 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 . . .

“And at the end of my presidency I will give it to the club as a memento of our success or failure.”


Credit: sportingnews.com

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