Don Scott slams Jeff Kennett over Hawthorn Hawks Tasmania relocation remarks

He was most critical of Kennett in the sense that the former Victorian premier had lit a fuse with his remarks, arguing that other club directors could not have known he was going to say what he said, and that most Hawthorn members would never stand for a move.

“Hawthorn is a Melbourne team, and that’s what it’s all based on. We don’t live in the past but members were vocal once before. There’s a lot more members there now. The reaction would be very loud if they were going to do something like that,” Scott said on Sunday.

“I think it’s a total lack of respect for the board. The players used to brush it off by saying, ‘Oh, that’s Jeff.’ In other words, if you read into it a bit more, fairly derogatory. But I think it’s fairly insulting to the board, and whether the board has got to say, ‘Hey listen, you consult us before opening your mouth.’ He’s got to couch it in better terms.

Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett.Credit:Pat Scala

“They wouldn’t have been [happy] with him making that statement or interview. Those board directors would be asked and would then say, ‘I don’t know.’”

Scott, 73, acknowledged that Kennett’s remarks came as he tiptoed the tightrope of three-cornered negotiations between Tasmania, Hawthorn and the AFL.

“It’s a nothing statement because he’s got to appease the Tasmanian Government because they’ve obviously got the sponsorship down there, they’re building a $50-100 million complex in Dingley and also the AFL. It really doesn’t say much at all, when you really sit down and analyse it,” Scott said.

“Maybe the choice of words could have been better. Because it would get a lot of people, especially Hawthorn people, off-side.”

Don Scott famously led the anti-merger charge in 1996.

Don Scott famously led the anti-merger charge in 1996.Credit:Jack Atley

Having previously stated that he would not extend his stint beyond the end of 2020, Kennett last year backflipped by standing for re-election. Having stood unopposed, he now stands to be president until the end of 2023.


Scott unsuccessfully challenged the Ian Dicker-led Hawthorn board in 2004, and said that someone needed to stand up to Kennett.

“There are people out there who are capable and better qualified than him to lead the club,” Scott said.

Scott was equivocal when asked whether he would consider standing for the board.

“It’d have to be set up right. It’d have to be set up very differently. I’m a very polarising figure,” he said.

“We keep all options open,” Kennett said on Friday about the prospect of Hawthorn moving to Tasmania.

“You don’t rule anything in or out. Why would you rule any option out at the start?”

Scott has had longstanding and public issues with Kennett. In 2019, Scott refused to turn up in person to Hawthorn’s annual general meeting at which the dual premiership captain was going to be elevated to legend status at the club.

Kangaroos chief executive Ben Amarfio has ruled out a permanent North move to Tasmania. Both Hawthorn and North currently play four men’s home and away games in the state per year, with the Hawks playing out of Launceston and the Roos’ secondary base in Hobart.

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Hawthorn Hawks to move to Tasmania? Jeff Kennett says it’s an option.

He said Hawthorn also needed to know within the first six months of the year what the league and the state’s position on the issue was going forward because they needed to make alternative plans if they were not to play in Tasmania.

However, he said their preferred position was to extend their agreement and their discussions with the bureaucracy in Tasmania had been positive on that issue.

Kennett also said he understood that his position might surprise some Hawthorn fans, particularly with the club still contemplating moving to Dingley, but the board was charged with making decisions in the best interests of the club and they would be silly to rule any position out before negotiations began.

The Hawks president said he believed that in the current circumstances, with COVID-19 potentially threatening club revenues through crowds, it would be unlikely the AFL would commit to a 19th team. This left a relocation or a merger between existing clubs who would then relocate as potential options.

Kennett said the Hawks – who have played home games in Launceston since 2007 – respected the push for a team in Tasmania and were prepared to help those wanting to establish an AFL team in the state set up the club because he said it was important the foundations were solid so that the club was not only financially viable but competitive.

The group pushing for a stand-alone team in Tasmania presented a business case for a 19th team to the AFL last year, which stated that a team should enter the AFL by 2025. The coronavirus pandemic began soon afterwards, which stalled serious discussions on the matter.

North Melbourne have been clear that they do not want to play any more than the four games in Hobart and will not contemplate relocation.

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Victorian Sport Minister Martin Pakula denies Hawthorn Hawks missed funding due to Jeff Kennett criticism

Pakula pointed out the federal government had not announced the Dingley funding in its recent budget as evidence that more funding could come from the state for the Hawks.

“The fact is you’ve got a number of those projects that we funded; St Kilda, Carlton a couple of years ago, Essendon, Richmond – all have Commonwealth funding that we were going in with.

“I see today the Commonwealth will announce funding, that certainly wasn’t the case by the time the budget came down.

“It’s a green-field facility, all of these others are existing facilities which clubs are in now.

“Dingley is in my electorate. I am really keen to see progress there, particularly from a community point of view and it will be considered in the future budget.”

Kennett told the Herald Sun that the state government had not funded Dingley because of how outspoken he was about the failures of hotel quarantine.

“I understand politics, and at times politics can be very vindictive and personal, so I am not complaining. We get on with the job,” Kennett said.

“They are playing politics against me, but in real terms they are playing politics against the community of the southeast.”

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Kennett to rule Hawks until at least 75

Kennett will also continue to oversee the club’s planned relocation from Waverley to Dingley and steer the Hawks’ push for an AFLW team.

Kennett informed Hawthorn members of his decision in a letter on Tuesday.

“Can I report that at the close of nominations for your board, as there were no more candidates than vacancies, Luke Stambolis and Owen Wilson were elected unopposed and that will be confirmed at our AGM,” Kennett wrote.

“Peter Nankivell was re-elected [vice-president], as was I as your president for the next three years.

“Can I personally thank the membership for their support of my continuing leadership of the club.

“I know not everything I say and do pleases everyone, but we are a collegiate board that has and will continue to deliver in the club’s best interest. No one individual is more important than another.”

Kennett also said that the reduction in football department spending would mean even more responsibility for Clarkson, a four-time premiership coach and great of the club.

“This does mean that Alastair will have a much greater hands on coaching role,” Kennett said.

“Alastair is not only up for the task, but [is] looking forward to doing so.”

Kennett told SEN in 2016 that he believed six years had been enough for him.

“At Hawthorn we didn’t have a term limit on a president and I made a decision with the board then whether we would go for two terms of three years each which would be six years or nine years. And I argued for six years on the belief that if you couldn’t achieve what you wanted by putting in – and I really mean putting in – in six years, then you were probably never going to,” Kennett said at the time.

“I don’t regret that. I think it was the right decision for the club and the right decision for me. Every club and every individual will be slightly different.”

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