Without even trying, Hawthorn coach Sam Mitchell appears in his short stint at the helm to have passed on his renowned ability to read the play to Hawks president Jeff Kennett, who has announced his willingness to end his tenure as club president before his term expires at the end of 2023.
That it’s a decision made in the club’s best interests is true, but it’s also the most sensible decision Kennett could make given the organised forces marshalling to remove him and the sound logic of their arguments for change.
If he tried to stay and fight rather than agree to an ordered handover to a successor recommended by a nominations’ committee consisting of board and non-board members, then the “Hawks for Change” group could spill his position by using the 2900 signatures they had gathered.
They would prefer to use their momentum to introduce a nominations’ committee that will increase the prospects of broader representation of supporters on the board than engage in a struggle, albeit one they would have won, with a man who, despite his critics, has given time, energy and profile to the Hawks in two presidential stints.
Kennett might need to be reminded occasionally that the time he has bought for a seemly handover is finite, with the back half of next year the most palatable time for him to depart, after the nominations’ committee, likely led by Andrew Gowers, makes their recommendation on June 30 as to who should succeed him.
With Gowers unlikely to contest a board seat – one he would have won – Kennett has the chance to keep Tim Shearer on the board while former Australian Super boss Ian Silk, Kennett’s potential successor, and a man supported by those wanting change including several premiership players, gains the other seat up for grabs.
Kennett was only meant to serve one term when he returned to the club, so he was stretching the friendship of many when he decided to extend his tenure to the end of 2023 citing COVID-19 as the reason it was necessary.
Always confrontational, he took on the AFL and then turned his attention to the Andrews government’s policies during the pandemic, voicing his views regularly on social media. That is his right but when he is president of a club attempting to secure government funding for a new base in Dingley it could be described as less than prudent.
The decision-making around the future of Alastair Clarkson turned into a fiasco, with the club becoming a laughing stock as they tried to push a four-time premiership coach into a corner with the relationship between the two key pillars of the club problematic.