North Melbourne president Sonja Hood insists the AFL club would have appointed Alastair Clarkson as coach even if they had prior knowledge of the racism allegations at Hawthorn.
But Hood has slammed the Hawks hierarchy of the time for not giving her a “courtesy” phone call about the allegations before an explosive ABC report made them public last September.
Clarkson, who took on the North Melbourne coaching role one month earlier, has now stepped away from his job indefinitely as he continues to deal with the fallout from the ongoing saga.
The 55-year-old denies any wrongdoing but is yet to be formally interviewed as part of the independent investigation set up by the AFL eight months ago.
“If I had had the opportunity to do the due diligence that we did after the allegations became public in order to understand what we were dealing with, yeah, I’d have done it (appointed Clarkson) again,” Hood told Triple M on Thursday.
“Alastair Clarkson’s a really good person and a really good coach.
“I’m not going to presuppose the outcome of this process.
“Everybody has the right to be heard and the right to have a process.
“But if we’re going to not give people an opportunity off the basis of untested allegations, what kind of system are we in?”
Hawthorn outsourced their own investigation into racism that allegedly occurred between 2008 and 2016, during Clarkson’s 17-year rein as Hawks coach.
Hood said the Hawks had not pre-warned her about the allegations from that investigation, which came to light in grand final week last year.
“I wouldn’t have minded if they’d done it the week it became public,” Hood said.
“The first time I heard from anyone at Hawthorn was after (journalist) Russell Jackson had published his piece on the ABC.”
Hood recalled a meeting between the AFL and club representatives that week where it was clear something significant was happening but those involved were pretending otherwise.
“We couldn’t work out what was going on. We thought someone must’ve got into trouble at the Brownlow the night before,” Hood said.
“Of course, that wasn’t what was going on. It was this story.
“I heard about it from the AFL. I never heard about it from Hawthorn until it was in the public domain.
“I’d like to think that if that was my club, I’d have done the opposing club president the courtesy of a call.”
Hood said she took a call from new Hawthorn president Andy Gowers – appointed as Jeff Kennett’s successor in December – on Thursday morning after Clarkson’s decision to take time off was announced.
“He’s one of the first people that rang me this morning,” Hood said.
“I’m very grateful for that call and for the conversations that we’ve had today.”
Getty Images/Quinn Rooney