President Jeff Kennett has penned the following letter to Hawthorn members...

Happy New year Happy Hawkers.

Let’s hope it is a better year than last for us all, less disruption, more certainty, and of course a better year for our team. I have no doubt the latter will be the case.

Before going further, I wish to inform you that earlier today we lost the captain of our first premiership, Graham Arthur.

Graham passed away surrounded by his large family after a short illness. He was 84 years of age.

Graham was recruited to the club in 1955. He was a schoolboy at Marist Brothers College and had been playing for Sandhurst in the Bendigo League. He was signed on for a fee of 250 pounds.

Graham joined John Kennedy who was playing his 6th season with Hawthorn and was captain.

Graham was such a good footballer and he became the second player, after John Kennedy to win the club’s Best and Fairest in his first year at the club.

Graham was appointed captain in 1960 and remained so until 1964. Of course, under his captaincy and John Kennedy’s coaching along with an extraordinary team of players and administrators we won our first Premiership in 1961 and then the ball started to roll for Hawthorn.

Graham went on to play 232 games for the club kicking 201 goals. He was both a player and the coach of the team in 1964/5. He played his last game for us in 1968.

But Graham was much more than a player and a captain at Hawthorn. He has been actively involved in the club all his life. Unlike so many players who get the opportunity to play in our colours and then disappear, Graham’s blood was brown and gold. It was he who coined the phrase.

Graham put together his Happy Hawkers group which many of you reading this will have attended, as I did over the years.

Graham Arthur embraced Hawthorn from an early age, but he returned that embrace decade after decade. He lived the saying “if you embrace Hawthorn, Hawthorn will embrace you”. Graham embraced Hawthorn for over 60 years!

We will all miss him terribly. Along with John Kennedy they were very much the value setters for the club. Both humble men, great achievers, great contributors. We have lost them both within a year of each other.

To Graham’s wife Mary and his very large family we extend our condolences, we are forever in your debt for sharing Graham with us for over 60 years.

I went out to the Club yesterday morning and saw half the team at their first day of training. Everyone looked fit and relaxed, as I would expect at this time of year.

In fact, I have often worried that clubs and the code start training for the season too early, and that the players while enthusiastic to start the first round, may already be somewhat exhausted. Should the AFL mandate the club training only start from the beginning of the second or third week of January each year? I don’t know, but when the welfare of our players is attracting so much attention, the stress we place on many is a very real issue that should not be ignored.

The players can independently be responsible for their own fitness up until the start of official training. If they do not, then they will risk the penalty of not being selected for the first few games.

So, as we start the new year, we do so with some uncertainty still regarding how the game will be played this year. However, we remain hopeful that we will back playing in front of our brown and gold faithful and back in Tasmania again too.

Suffice to say the cost of delivering the competition in 2021 might well be more expensive than last year. For both the AFL and each club. We will all be starting this year with greatly reduced staff numbers. Our Soft Cap having been reduced by over 30% will result in a very different Football Department.

So, the quicker we can return to “normal times” again, whatever that means, the better.

As you know your Board is fully committed to ensuring the club delivers a trading surplus every year, however small the surplus. We will continue to work to that objective.

Since my last letter and post the AGM you will be aware that both Lucinda Nolan and Richard Garvey have left our Board. We thank them both very much for their years of service. Richard is going to continue to assist in the work of our Foundation to build the Kennedy Community Centre and for other long-term needs.

Owen Wilson and Luke Stambolis have joined the Board and bring valuable skills to our deliberations and we thank them for being prepared to serve.

Finally, to those of our membership who have renewed their membership, our sincere thanks. To those who are yet to do so, please do so soon, it will assist us greatly to know what the year is going to look like financially. To any member facing hardship, you know we respect your support, we are the family Club, and we have systems in place to see you through challenging times. Please do not hesitate to ask for such assistance. Such requests remain confidential and we at Hawthorn always think long term. And we want you as part of our family long term.

So, in one sense a letter of sadness. But a letter of hope. Graham Arthur would have wanted us to put the club and its future well before recognition of his 60 plus years of service. But that said, I saw him lead the team to victory in 1961, I have seen him embraced in Hawthorn colours and activities for decades. We embrace his loyalty and his commitment now. We shall never forget.

Stay well. Back in touch soon.