Hawks coach Sam Mitchell reaches out to his old team-mate Cyril Rioli ahead of top-end clash after the Indigenous star slammed the club for his ‘racist treatment’
- Mitchell tried to contact Rioli ahead of Hawks’ game in Darwin on Saturday
- Pair won four flags at Hawthorn but Rioli cut all ties with club over racism claims
- Team have been trying to bring him back into the fold for months
Hawthorn coach Sam Mitchell has reached out to his former premiership teammate Cyril Rioli again, with the Hawks set to face Gold Coast in Rioli’s hometown of Darwin on Saturday night.
Mitchell and Rioli claimed four AFL premierships together as players and the current coach reached out to his former teammate in December to try and bring him back into the fold – though it is clear Rioli is still aggrieved about certain things that happened during his time at the club.
The Hawks are playing the Gold Coast in Darwin on Saturday night, and Mitchell revealed he again attempted to get in touch with Rioli to try and smooth things over both professionally and personally.
Sam Mitchell (left) and Cyril Rioli (right) are in communication ahead of the Hawks’ game in Darwin this weekend
‘There’s two aspects (to it) — me, the coach of Hawthorn, trying to reconnect with Cyril,’ he said on Wednesday.
‘But there’s also probably the Sam Mitchell and Cyril Rioli the premiership teammates that just want to catch up as mates and say hello. I probably am more focused on that one, to be honest. What he is thinking and feeling with the club on a big picture, that’s up to him.
‘It’s probably not one for the public forum, it’d just be one where I’d try and see if I could get hold of him while we’re there,’ said Mitchell.
Rioli and Mitchell won four premierships together for the Hawks before Rioli sensationally walked out on the club in 2018
The Suns vs Hawks game is part of Sir Doug Nicholls round, so patching up the relationship with Rioli – one of the great Indigenous players the game has ever produced – has taken on greater meaning.
The round recognises the impact and contribution of Nicholls and all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island players past and present to the game – and while Rioli has been invited to attend the match at TIO Stadium, it is not known yet whether he will accept.
Rioli now lives in Darwin, and has been invited to attend Hawthorn’s game against the Suns this Saturday night – but it’s unknown whether he’ll accept
In April, reporter Caroline Wilson, speaking on Channel 9’s Footy Classified, revealed the content of messages between Rioli and Mitchell.
‘I am a proud Hawthorn player and I won’t be robbed of that. I’ve never said that I wasn’t. Not only is that evident in the life I spent with the Hawks, but that’s also evident in how we’ve never engaged the media on this. I have always been proud of that club and my contributions in making the club what it is,’ Rioli’s message from December last year said.
‘I’m just so disappointed in the lack of support and the gaslighting that happened at the end of my career. I’ve given my life to Hawthorn and have helped build that organisation.
‘I agree that there is a need for change. It’s not lost on me or the nation that the AFL needs to change in a significant way. While I do want that – we need to sort this out in a real way. I need my club to be there in a real way,’ Rioli told Mitchell.
Former Hawks great Sam Mitchell is in his first year as head coach of Hawthorn
Rioli walked away from both the Hawks and the AFL in general in 2018 aged just 28, shocking the footy world.
He recently revealed that alleged comments made by club president Jeff Kennett to his wife Shannyn in 2018 were the ‘final straw’ in his decision to walk away.
It was one of a string of alleged racial incidents that occurred at the club, including a senior player allegedly asking an Indigenous player if their wife was ‘also a b***g’ and a lack of action taken when Hawks fans began to boo Indigenous Sydney Swans player Adam Goodes.