Boardroom change at Hawthorn “can only be good” for the AFL club, Hawks great Gary Ayres said after backing the nomination of his former teammate Andy Gowers for a place on Jeff Kennett’s board.
Gowers, a 1991 premiership winner alongside Ayres, has been put forward as a candidate to run for a vacant position, with a second place at the table also available as incumbent director Tim Shearer runs for re-election.
Gowers is expected to be joined by the recently retired chief executive of Australian Super, Ian Silk, in challenging Kennett’s preferred candidates – Shearer and Simon Taylor, another ex-player.
Kennett currently has the majority backing of the nine-person board and has said he intends to see out his remaining tenure as club president, which runs until the end of 2023.
The nomination of Gowers, and Silk’s potential candidacy, provides advocates for change with hope that the club can begin to prepare for a transition once Kennett’s presidency comes to an end.
Ayres, a dual Norm Smith medallist and five-time premiership player, stopped short of saying Gowers’ move was an attempt to overthrow Kennett, but he said new blood in the boardroom would only benefit the club.
“Obviously there’s a little bit to play out as we know, but clearly if it is about a little bit of change, and we want that change to be better, then it can only be good for the footy club,” Ayres told SEN on Monday.
“He just offers another voice and he’d certainly be very happy to challenge if there’s any thinking that may need to be really dived into to get the best result.”
Gowers previously served on the Hawthorn board as football director for four years from late 2013.
Both he and Silk have the support of Hawks for Change, an independent group concerned with the direction the club is taking and whose aim is to make the club “one that genuinely represents the views and values of members and supporters”.
The group also states it aims to “build a community club, a democratic club and a successful club – on and off the footy field”.
There are concerns within the group over how the current board handled the exit of coach Alastair Clarkson and the handover to Sam Mitchell, as well as Kennett’s public criticism of Victoria’s Labor government and the club’s continued gambling revenue from pokies.
Kennett and Hawthorn were contacted but declined to comment.
Geoff Hawthorne, a spokesman for Hawks for Change, said: “We respect what Jeff Kennett has done for the Hawthorn Football Club, but after four years of his second presidency we are no longer close to finding his successor and could not be further from a premiership.
“At the same time, we need to rebuild our relationships with the AFL, the state government and many of our past players. It’s for this reason we support board renewal at Hawthorn.”
Former Victorian premier Kennett has suggested there are political undertones to the Hawks For Change remit, but those involved in the group have claimed they count Liberal Party members in their number.
At the time of writing, a Go Fund Me page set up by Hawks For Change – a move that has drawn criticism from Kennett – had raised close to $20,000.
The Hawks have in recent years been unable to sustain the kind of form on the pitch that saw them win consecutive premierships between 2013 and 2015, and they have failed to qualify for finals for the past three seasons.