Just days after the heartbreaking loss to Essendon in the "Dreamtime" match, Coach Damien Hardwick announced he was stepping down. Hardwick is contracted through 2024 and has coached the Tigers for 13 seasons. The reason for his resignation was initially unclear, but some with inside knowledge believed he was just burnt out. The team has struggled this season with just three wins through Round 10. In a preseason interview with the AFL website, Hardwick said he would step away if he felt he wasn't fully motivated, "I think that's the challenge. I always ask myself the question ... as soon as you lose that drive to improve or that motivation level drops, that's when you really have to walk away. But I'm very fortunate. I love what I do, I love the club I work for, I love the people I work for, I love the playing group. I always say to the players that for people who work 9-5, the best night of the week is Friday night. My job ... is to make sure every day you walk in here feels like a Friday night. I'm going to have good days and bad days, but if I have that philosophy then I think we're going to be OK."
The news broke on the Monday after the round concluded, ahead of a Tuesday press conference at Richmond headquarters. The players had a scheduled day off on Monday but everyone was summoned to the club on Tuesday morning where Hardwick made his announcement. The speculation was not far off the mark as Hardwick explained in his announcement that he was not sure he was still the right man for the job. He also said that 2023 would most likely be his final year as coach.
He said, “As a coach you’re always questioning yourself, it’s a lonely job. It’s a great, job ... I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity ... but it is challenging at various stages. It becomes more apparent when you’ve had more success that the losses become harder ... I had a fair indication at the start of the year that I would like this to be my last year and then when the season probably didn’t turn out as much as I would have liked, I started to ask myself the question ...am I the right man for the job? ... if you keep asking yourself the question, you know the answer. I had some conversations with some really key people around me just to make sure that I was in the right frame of mind to make that decision. It became apparent about two weeks ago that the time was about right ... I’d rather leave too early than too late. The club means so much to me and I want to make sure that I leave the game loving the game, not resenting the game ... I walk away thinking how much the journey was and how great the journey was. I walk away incredibly happy about what we’ve achieved but more importantly the people I’ve met.”
He added that he needed a break to "decompress" and also said a new voice was needed to spark the team. He used an analogy of "cooking the sausage 1000 ways and could not find 1001". He did not rule out a return to coaching in the future.
Collingwood coach Craig McRae, who worked as an assistant 2016 - 2020, expressed shock when he heard the news and said, "Having worked with 'Dimma' (Hardwick), he's an incredible coach. He's his own person and I'm sure the Richmond footy club will salute him well if it is the case." Adelaide coach Matthew Nicks acknowledged the pressure on coaches was immense, "It's a tough job ... it's relentless. You've got to find the balance and he (Hardwick) has done it a long time."
Hardwick will be remembered as an icon of Richmond. After a mixed start and three consecutive elimination finals defeats, he was the key subject in a wide-ranging review at the end of 2016. The Tigers decided to stick with him and it paid dividends with three premierships in four years. Hardwick, 50, is Richmond's longest serving coach with 307 games to his name with a 170-131-6 win loss record. He led the Tigers to three premierships. Hardwick played 153 games for Essendon 1993-2001 and 54 games for Port Adelaide 2002-2004 and enjoyed premiership success at both clubs.
Assistant coach Andrew McQualter takes over immediately as interim coach. McQualter has been associated with the Tigers’ VFL and AFL teams for almost a decade and has most recently been in charge of Hardwick’s midfield. He played 89 games for St Kilda 2005-2011 and five games for Gold Coast in 2012.
Source: afl.com.au, sen.com.au
Article last changed on Saturday, June 10, 2023 - 11:58 AM EDT