CHRIS Fagan has categorically denied allegations of wrongdoing against First Nations players during his time at Hawthorn Football Club, in a statement provided to AFL.com.au.
Fagan said he would cooperate fully with an AFL-ordered independent investigation into certain experiences of Indigenous players during their careers with the Hawks.
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"I was shocked and deeply distressed by the allegations reported in the media yesterday concerning my time at the Hawthorn Football Club," Fagan said in the statement to AFL.com.au.
"I deny, categorically, the allegations of wrongdoing by me in relation to First Nations players at the Hawthorn Football Club. I have had very positive relationships with First Nations players throughout my many years in football, and, indeed players from different racial and ethnic groups.
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"I had no opportunity to, and did not, participate in any way in the review commissioned by the Hawthorn Football Club. I was not interviewed. Nor was I invited to be interviewed. No one associated with the review ever put any allegation to me for a response.
"I intend to defend myself. It is my hope that people will judge me based upon the way I actually conduct myself and not by what is written in the media. I support and welcome the investigation announced by the AFL yesterday. I intend to participate fully in the investigation and look forward to being heard and being accorded due process and fairness.
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"In the meantime, as announced by the Brisbane Lions Football Club yesterday, the club and I have mutually agreed that I will take a leave of absence from the club.
"As the matter is now under investigation I will make no further comment at this stage."
A review commissioned by Hawthorn and a subsequent investigation by the ABC revealed harrowing allegations of treatment by the club of its Indigenous players and their partners.
Fagan, who has been coach of Brisbane since the 2017 season, was an assistant coach and football manager at Hawthorn in 2008-16, when he worked closely with Alastair Clarkson in securing four premierships.
Clarkson on Wednesday night also denied wrongdoing, and said he would delay his intended start date of November 1 as new North Melbourne coach while the AFL investigation was conducted.
AFL commissioner Andrew Newbold, Hawks president from 2012-15, said on Wednesday he would take a leave of absence from the Commission during the investigation.
All parties accused of the disturbing allegations will be heavily legally represented for the investigation.
AFL chief executive officer Gillon McLachlan on Wednesday said his organisation would establish a four-person panel, led by a King's Counsel, to investigate the allegations.
"The independent panel … will be appropriately skills based with two men, two women," McLachlan said.
"We know it is also critical that the panel approaches this work prioritising cultural safety for all those who have shared their experiences so half the panel will absolutely include experts who are from Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples.
"We need to run a proper investigation to get to the bottom of it - this is important - Out of respect for those making the allegations and out of respect for those being accused.
"We need to provide natural justice and allow that process to go on but we will seek to have that panel in place as quickly as possible and work with the Hawthorn Football Club, the consultant who prepared the report and the players and their partners involved to engage with them to expedite it – and not extend the trauma."