Fantasia exits Dogs for Hawks

Having lost its own football manager to the AFL on the eve of the season, Hawthorn has responded by poaching the Western Bulldogs’ football boss two rounds into the new year.

Hawthorn on Thursday announced it had found a replacement for Mark Evans, who departed to head football operations for the AFL, by hiring the Dogs’ football manager, James Fantasia.

The move leaves the Dogs in search of a replacement two rounds into the year.

Bulldogs chief executive Simon Garlick said that while it was not ideal to be losing a key football person with the season under way, the club was better positioned now than at any time in the past to deal with the disruption.

The Bulldogs hired former Geelong captain and NFL punter Ben Graham to the role of strategic football operations manager – answering to Fantasia – in the off-season, and had also recently appointed a high-performance manager in Graham Lowe. The Dogs had also only 18 months ago appointed Jason McCartney as the club’s first list manager.

All three of Graham, Lowe and McCartney’s positions were newly created roles at the club, so Garlick reasoned they were better resourced now to cope with the departure of Fantasia. He also said that given the club had made those recent appointments, it was in a position to re-evaluate the type of role and person required in its football department.

Fantasia’s duties will be shared by Graham, Lowe and McCartney until an appointment is made. Fantasia headed the Bulldogs’ football department for six years after working in recruiting at Adelaide.

Not unhelpfully as the Hawks seek to re-sign Lance Franklin, Fantasia has a close relationship with Franklin’s manager Liam Pickering.

Coincidentally, at the recent AFL conference on equalisation, smaller clubs such as the Bulldogs raised the issue of wealthier clubs being able to poach staff.

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