AFL 2022: Premiership star Cyril Rioli’s presence at Hawks’ Darwin clash still up in the air

Hawthorn is a week away from an historic trip to Darwin but it is still unknown whether the feud with Norm Smith medallist Cyril Rioli has thawed enough to see him attend the game against the Suns.

Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett says his dialogue with aggrieved former player Cyril Rioli is “moving in the right direction”.

But it remains unknown whether the four-time flag-winner will reconnect with his former club. 

Rioli, 32, and his partner Shannyn detailed in early April multiple allegations of racist behaviour which occurred when Rioli was playing at Hawthorn.

The four-time premiership player said at the time he would not return to the club while Kennett was at the helm. 

Kennett said on Thursday that while he had “been in touch with Cyril a couple of times” in the past month, he did not know if Rioli would attend Hawthorn’s game against the Gold Coast in Darwin on May 28.

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“I can’t answer that positively,” Kennett said on Thursday at the launch of this weekend’s Emergency Services match against Richmond. 

“I have been in touch with Cyril a couple of times. We’re moving in the right direction.

“Whether he’ll come to that game or not, it’ll be up to him at the time. suffice to say, it will be a wonderful day, a wonderful game, Darwin is a wonderful city.”

When asked if Rioli had a formal invitation to the match, Kennett said “you’d be surprised how many people we’ve asked to the ground”. 

The Hawks president said it remained to be seen whether the relationship between Rioli and the club could be healed. 

“He has wished the club and me well on two occasions,” Kennett said. 

“Whether that leads to him coming in a couple of weeks, I don’t know.”

Hawthorn President Jeff Kennett speaks ahead of the AFL's Emergency Services Match. Picture: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images
Hawthorn President Jeff Kennett speaks ahead of the AFL's Emergency Services Match. Picture: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

Hawthorn’s nominations committee is still working towards a June 30 deadline to identify a candidate to succeed Kennett as president.

“No (there’s no update to the process), except that we’re sticking to the timetable which is June 30,” Kennett said. 

Kennett joined emergency services workers at the MCG ahead of this Saturday’s clash with the Tigers that will honour frontline workers. 

“It’s special, because we are a family club and we’re part of a community that is family-based,” he said. 

“We’re very proud to be associated with this game. It means a great deal. It’s one way that we and Richmond … are giving back.”

Originally published as AFL 2022: Premiership star Cyril Rioli’s presence at Hawks’ Darwin clash still up in the air