Pakula refutes Jeff Kennett’s Dingley claims

Sports Minister Martin Pakula has categorically denied claims made by Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett, who suggested the club had been denied government funding because of comments he made about Premier Daniel Andrews.

Kennett accused the state government of “playing politics” and denying him funding due to his criticism of the Andrews government’s handling of the COVID-19 situation.

“There are principles of good governance and principles of good government. There were 800 lives lost through administrative foul-ups and I have no qualms at all about saying someone has to highlight the failings of the government and the inner cabinet,” Kennett told the Herald Sun.

“It would be true to say I am disappointed … but the (state) government has decided for reasons of its own that they don’t want to give us the money.

“I accept this is because of my continued questioning of the government over their handling of the coronavirus (pandemic).

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

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

Pakula was quick to refute the claims made by the former Victorian Premier.

“Jeff says a lot of things. It’s not correct. In fact, I caught up with the Hawthorn CEO just last week,” he told SEN’s Whateley.

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

“Now I see today that there’s some suggesting that the Commonwealth might announce funding for Hawthorn. That certainly wasn’t the case by the time the budget had come down.

“The other point about the Dingley facility is, it’s a (new) facility. All of these others are existing facilities which the clubs are in now.

“The Dingley facility is in my electorate. I’m really keen to see progress there, particularly from the community point of view and it’ll be considered in the future budget, but I wouldn’t take all of (Jeff Kennett’s) claims on face value quite frankly.”

Hawthorn is hoping to build the $100 million training base in Dingley, beginning in 2021. The federal government is set to add $15 million to their cause.

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Kennett’s reign to continue at Hawthorn

Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett has been re-elected for another three-year term and he has flagged a more hands-on role for their AFL coach Alastair Clarkson.

Kennett announced in February that he would stand down at the end of 2020 but he changed his mind in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A former premier of Victoria, Kennett was Hawthorn president from 2005 to 2011 before his return in 2017 – with his re-election to keep him at the club until until at least the end of the 2023 season.

“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,” Kennett wrote to the club’s fans.

“No one individual is more important than another.”

Clarkson and Kennett’s relationship has been frosty at times and the spotlight will be squarely on them if Hawthorn struggle next year.

The veteran coach has two more years to run on his contract but the pressure is mounting after Hawthorn crashed to 15th this year with a 5-12 record.

Chief of football Graham Wright and Clarkson outlined their vision for 2021 and beyond to the club’s board.

“The briefing was considered and futuristic,” Kennett said.

“As I have said previously, we have been in this position before, they and we know what we have to do, and the process has already started.”

Kennett said the reduction in the soft cap meant Clarkson would be taking on some extra responsibilities.

“Sadly the number of coaches and football staff we and every club can employ has been greatly reduced. We have lost some very good people,” Kennett said.

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

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

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