Hodge addresses Rioli article, comments on failed leadership group claim

Former Hawthorn captain Luke Hodge has spoken in the wake of an article in The Age which outlined Cyril Rioli’s abrupt departure from the club in 2018.

Rioli and wife Shannyn spoke with Caroline Wilson about a number of occurrences over the years prior to the “final straw” incident involving president Jeff Kennett which led to the small forward’s retirement.

Hodge admitted he felt “flat” and “upset” after reading the article.

“I was the same as every other person who read the article,” Hodge said on SEN’s Whateley.

“The emotions that come were sad, you’re flat, you’re upset for Shannyn and Cyril and what they’ve been going through.

“Everyone knows the kind of person that Cyril is, so 100 per cent you feel for him.

“There were parts (of the article) that I was aware of, there were parts that I’ve never heard before.

“The incident with the ripped jeans, I was at the Lions when that occurred, but over time you sort of heard through chats with a few of the boys about what had happened and how the Riolis took that.

“In the article there were a lot of conversations that were held behind closed doors so a lot of people didn’t hear that.”

One interesting aspect of what Wilson wrote stemmed from an incident in 2013 during a post-season footy trip and an apparent lack of action from the club’s leadership group at the time.

“I was most shocked at the 2013 story about what was taken to the leadership group and what was said back to the players,” Hodge added.

“That was very concerning because I sit there as captain at the time and hadn’t heard of that story.”

The former skipper believes some of the information around that perhaps was not as accurate as first thought.

Did Rioli come to the leadership group with a complaint about a racist remark that was made on an end-of-season trip in 2013 only to be told “you’re there to play footy”?

“No,” Hodge replied.

“I rank ‘Caro’ to discuss that. She was really good over a 20-25 minute conversation. The whole thing was I wanted to find out more about it because how that read, it came across terribly.

“I wanted to find out of it was true, who did he go and talk to because the leadership group process we had on a Monday – there’s the six players, there’s (Chris) Fagan, there’s (Alastair) Clarkson, you go through areas of the game where you were good, where you need to improve, the teams and how they went.

“Then you went through any issues around the club. So if something of that seriousness had been brought to the leadership group, you would have spoken about it.

“I can tell you right now that wouldn’t have been the message that was sent back. So that’s why I spoke to Caro to try and get some ins and outs of where she heard it.

“She said some of the information passed on to her was or wasn’t 100 per cent correct at the time. She did adjust her story at the time, but what you read first sticks in your mind.”

Hodge spoke further of the incident in question, which to his knowledge was quickly put to bed, but at the end of the day is more concerned about the matters directly correlating to Rioli and his wife Shannyn.

“I’ve spoken to a lot of the players both in the leadership group and outside and found out that there was an incident at the end of the year,” said Hodge.

“A comment was made and a player heard it and was very hurt by the comment. What I found out was that a senior player there got the two players together to discuss what was said and what happened, there was an apology made, an apology was accepted and they went on with the rest of their trip.

“I asked the senior player should that come back to us (the leadership group)? He clearly said in his mind it was resolved with the three players involved in the discussion. There was the apology, which was accepted, and they moved on.

“I spoke to all three about that. What we know is it’s not about what was said, it’s more about how it’s taken. I spoke to the Indigenous player who heard that and was hurt by those comments and he reiterated the same thing. He said it was a heartfelt apology and because he knew the person, he knew when the apology was made that he meant it. He said it was resolved then and we’ve been mates since.

“You don’t want to diminish what the article was about, but the article there was (about) Cyril and Shannyn. At times, even tough Cyril had so many great times at the Hawthorn Football Club, there was times where he didn’t feel supported.

“As a senior player and a teammate, every person on your list you should support and help where you can.

“Did we ask pointed enough questions to see how Cyril or the other Indigenous players were feeling? Maybe we didn’t ask those pointed questions and it doesn’t sit comfortable with you.”

Despite the fallout, Hodge is eager to one day celebrate the club’s success with 2015 Norm Smith Medallist Rioli and hopes it can serve as an important learning tool for all involved.

“I just hope that we all get the opportunity to sit back with Cyril, have a beer and chat about what we were able to achieve,” he concluded.

“That’s going to take time and we all respect Cyril and Shannyn’s wishes to sit back, wait and don’t push it.

“We’ll find out how we could have handled things better and hopefully in the future you don’t go through those mistakes again.”





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