Jeff Kennett (L), Peter Nankivell (Photos - Getty, Hawthorn FC)

Hawthorn board members Don Scott and Geoff Harris have issued a statement in the wake of "flawed, failed and grossly inaccurate" comments from board hopefuls James Merlino and Andy Gowers.

Gowers was confirmed as a contender to replace outgoing president Jeff Kennett, whose position was initially seen as destined to fall the way of vice president Peter Nankivell after being recognised as Kennett's recommended replacement by the board.

A search from Hawthorn's Nominations Committee was unsuccessful in their pursuit of identifying Kennett's successor, with the board eventually turning to Nankivell, who was the chair of the committee.

The situation has since sparked outrage from passionate club campaign Hawks 4 Change, who released a statement in the wake of Nankivell's nomination for the presidency.

The statement condemned the board's decision to "reneg on commitments made to members", calling the decision "flawed, failed and wrong."

Board members Scott and Harris have now responded to the statement from Hawks 4 Change, detailing their reasoning for Nankivell's nomination.

In a statement released on Monday afternoon, the letter revealed the club was satisfied to "endorse a loyal, committed, experienced person" in a decision that was "the very best of good governance."

Full statement from Don Scott and Geoff Harris: 

We write as members of the Hawthorn Football Club Nominations Committee in response to some public comments by Hawks for Change representatives Andy Gowers and James Merlino, who are in pursuit of election to the Hawthorn Board. These comments were flawed, failed and grossly inaccurate.  

It is important that we set the record straight as we both feel as though we are also being criticised. 

In particular, we have concern about the suggestion that the process that saw the Board unanimously support Vice President Peter Nankivell as Jeff Kennett's successor was not good practice. In fact, it was the very best of good governance. 

When the Board established a Nominations Committee to identify Jeff's successor at the end of the year, we were both asked to be on that Committee as independent members along with Andy Gowers. 

Joining us from the current Board was Peter Nankivell, an eight-year serving member of the Board and Vice President for the last five years, who, as a senior lawyer, had experience in convening and chairing Nominations Committees in both commercial and not-for-profit settings over the years. HFC Board Members Katie Hudson and Anne-Marie Pellizzer, were also part of the six-person group. 

Peter was the appropriate person to chair the Nominations Committee due to his experience as well as the fact he was not a candidate for the presidency. When his nine-year term concluded at the end of next year, 2023, Peter intended to step down gracefully as a director. 

After considerable work by the Committee, considering candidates externally and internally, we found we could not recommend a preferred candidate to the Board. 

The Nominations Committee then reported to the full Board that its search had been unsuccessful, and with that the Committee had completed its assignment. 

Realising that we had no recommendation but recognising that Peter Nankivell was the most experienced Board member at Hawthorn after Jeff, some of us on the Nominations Committee asked Peter to re-consider his decision to finish at the end of his term in a years' time, and consider taking on the President's role for a three-year period. The ambition of this request was to maintain the momentum and stability at the club as it continues to roll out its bold plans. 

Our views were accepted unanimously by those HFC Board members not on the Nominations Committee. 

Peter asked for time to consider the request and discuss it with his family. 

He subsequently returned and informed the Board that he would accept the responsibility but only for three years. 

Given that Peter Nankivell was prepared to commit to the club for another two years, the Board was able to endorse a loyal, committed, experienced person to continue the plans the club has been developing.  

This includes:  

  • supporting our new coach Sam Mitchell and the football department in its future plans;  
  • keeping the largest project in HFC's history, the Kennedy Community Centre freehold development on track; and  
  • initiating a Future Fund with sustainable HFC investments from the record multimillion dollar sale of our two gaming venues.  

These projects, along with the club's entry into the AFLW competition and future development of our involvement in women's football at the Kennedy Community Centre at Dingley, are all being managed with the very best governance by the Board and the administration. 

Without doubt, the process and conclusion of nominating Peter Nankivell as Jeff Kennett's successor was considered to all involved to be the very best of good governance. 

Andy Gowers and James Merlino are factually incorrect in their public commentary on this matter. We need to keep the club strong with experienced people on the Board to continue the major initiatives outlined above with as minimal disruption as possible.  

Kind regards,

Don Scott and Geoff Harris