Luke Hodge says he could not have played on at Hawthorn because doing so would have risked hindering the development of the club’s young talent.
After a turbulent week at the Hawks in which chief executive Tracey Gaudry was removed, director Bruce Stevenson resigned, and Jeff Kennett returned as president in place of Richard Garvey, coach Alastair Clarkson gave an impassioned speech at the club’s best and fairest count on Saturday night, drawing on the recent examples of the Western Bulldogs and Richmond to show hard times can quickly turn to success in the AFL.
Hodge, and fellow club champions Sam Mitchell and Josh Gibson – an absentee at the event after injuring his adductor muscle horseriding – were meanwhile the subjects of tributes after leaving the Hawks in the last 12 months.
Hodge however isn’t done yet following his stunning decision to come out of a short-lived retirement and play for the Brisbane Lions next year. He explained why he had decided to continue in 2018, but why it couldn’t have happened with the Hawks.
“I’ve loved playing with a lot of the young guys [this year],” Hodge said.
“All of a sudden I felt internally footy wasn’t quite done.
“A lot of people have said, ‘why didn’t you stay on Hawthorn?’ The reason I couldn’t stay Hawthorn…[is because] you’ve got to put Hawthorn before yourself.
Clarkson said the club should not be surprised about its recent tumult. “This is football after all,” Clarkson said.
“It happens in footy clubs, including ours, it happens in business, it happens in government…it happens in families. This is life and we’ve got to deal with it. We all face tough times.
“It was only three years ago that the Western Bulldogs seemed to be in political turmoil, and then two years later they win the grand final. It was only 12 months ago, even less than that, that Richmond were wondering whether or not they continue with Dimma [Damien Hardwick] as coach … 12 months later they win the premiership.
“We’ve been through some of this as a footy club, it just seems like we’ve been immune to it all because we’ve had a period of success.”
Kennett wasn’t present due to a prior engagement in Queensland, but Garvey insisted the former Victorian premier, who previously served two three-year terms as Hawks president, was the right man for the job. “While the events of the past several days have come as a shock to many of you. I stand here with the greatest of confidence in the direction the Hawthorn football club is heading,” Garvey said.
“We have strong, influential leaders in place, who are all passionate and proud Hawthorn people.
“There is no more influential leader, no more passionate Hawthorn man than Jeff Kennett.”
Garvey – who will stay on as a Hawks director – thanked the Hawthorn family for support during his time as president, and paid tribute to Stevenson for “outstanding service to our club”, also wishing Gaudry “all the best.”