Your guide to Hawthorn Hawks’ contentious board election

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Who’s up for the presidency?

Departing Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett.Credit:Getty Images

Jeff Kennett, the former Liberal premier of Victoria, announced his resignation as Hawks president earlier this year. There were hopes from the board for a seamless handover from Kennett to sitting board member Peter Nankivell, whom the board nominated for the role of president.

But those hopes were dashed when with premiership player and ex-board member Andrew Gowers decided to run for president. Gowers played 89 games for the Hawks and was an important member of their 1991 premiership team. The 53-year-old was the board’s director of football during the three-peat and has run a successful business.

Gowers is viewed by most Hawthorn people as favourite to win the ballot because a) he wore the jumper in a successful era and b) he has the support of Hawks for Change, a network of Hawthorn fans who have banded together with the aim of changing the way the board is run.


Those fans who pushed Gowers to stand against Nankivell did so in large part because of antipathy to Kennett.

Kennett’s unpopularity cannot be pinned to one incident, but was highlighted after club legend Cyril Rioli recently claimed in The Age that comments that he maintains were made by Kennett to his wife, Shannyn Ah-Sam Rioli, as well as the club’s precarious relationship with its Indigenous players and their culture, led to him quitting the game at just 28.

Nankivell, a well-connected lawyer who has been on the board since 2014, tried to create some distance between himself and the unpopular president during his campaign.

“Am I Jeff’s proxy? Those that know me would form the view that nothing could be further from the truth. In terms of Jeff’s style and the way that he punches through and the impacts he has, that’s not my style.”


Kennett then fired back at Langford, warning the champion player and leader he had been fed inaccurate information for political purposes, while also defending the behaviour of his board.

Gowers also said the board had “thrown the women to the wolves” in deciding to make Katie Hudson and Anne-Marie Pellizzer stand at the election while extending football director Richie Vandenberg’s tenure by one year. Pellizzer later said she was “curiously insulted” by those comments, and found it odd “that he considers that Katie and myself standing for re-election to portfolios that we’ve served very, very well and with good results, that he considers that being thrown to the wolves”.

Another candidate, James Merlino, has expressed concerns over a disconnect between the administration and the club’s players and members. “We are not the family club if you’ve got past players and their families who want nothing to do with the Hawthorn Football Club,” Merlino said.

Battle lines have also been drawn by a slew of on- and off-field Hawthorn greats: former captain Don Scott, Peter Hudson, Peter Knights, Jarryd Roughead, Jordan Lewis, Nathan Thompson, Joel Smith and Campbell Brown have all come out in support of Nankivell.

Businessman Ian Dicker and former premiership players Peter Schwab, Gary Ayres and Bruce Stevenson have backed Gowers.


Who is on the board? And who is challenging?

There are nine sitting board members, including the president. There are three available seats, and five candidates are vying for those positions.

The current board members are:

Jeff Kennett (departing)
Peter Nankivell (nominated for president by current board)
Katie Hudson (standing for re-election)
Anne-Marie Pellizzer (standing for re-election)
Tim Shearer
Luke Stambolis
Richie Vandenberg
Owen Wilson
Ian Silk

As well as Pellizzer and Hudson, the candidates for election to the board include:

James Merlino, the former deputy premier of Victoria
Ed Sill, Box Hill president
Maria Lui, foundation director

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