‘Don’t think there’s a more stressful job’: AFL world reacts to Hardwick’s shock call

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Damien Hardwick is leaving the most stressful job in professional sport but with his legacy only enhanced, according to AFL heavyweights, as reaction to the Tigers’ coach’s shock departure continued on Tuesday.

Hawthorn legend Luke Hodge made comparisons to Alastair Clarkson’s departure from Hawthorn, while former Richmond coach Tony Jewell highlighted the pressure on coaches.

Damien Hardwick, Richmond’s longest-serving coach, is set to announce his shock resignation on Tuesday.Credit: Sebastian Costanzo

Hardwick, 50, informed Tigers CEO Brendon Gale of his decision on Monday and has started calling players to tell them, according to a club source. The Tigers will hold a press conference on Tuesday morning where Hardwick is expected to announce his resignation

Hardwick is Richmond’s longest-serving coach, having overseen 307 games. He has 36 games remaining on his contract. He will be remembered as the coach who turned the Tigers from a club that was a perennial underachiever, and often ridiculed for its failures, into a modern colossus of the competition.

Former Hawthorn captain Hodge made comparisons between the challenge Hardwick faces to rebuild the Tigers to Clarkson’s efforts to rebuild Hawthorn in 2017.

“We’ve heard that Alastair Clarkson said he probably stayed a year or two too long [at Hawthorn], and [Hardwick’s] probably looking at this going ‘am I up for the next five years trying to rebuild or do I hand it over?’”

Hardwick is a close friend of Clarkson.

“Both had three flags … Alastair Clarkson in 2016 had brought in players from sustained success and continue with what they’d done in [Tom] Mitchell and [Jaeger] O’Meara, and [Hardwick] and Richmond had done the same with [Tim] Taranto and [Jacob] Hopper this year.

“Then the first year in, it’s injuries and things don’t go to plan. Hawthorn missed the finals in 2017, they had injuries to [Grant] Birchall, [Ben] Stratton, and [James] Frawley. Then you look at [Tom] Lynch has been out, [Toby] Nankervis … they’ve had a lot of injuries Richmond themselves.”

Hodge said coaching a club as big as Tigers, where expectations are high, would be fatiguing.

“I don’t think there’s a more stressful job in professional sport,” Hodge said.

Former Richmond player and 1980 premiership coach Tony Jewell echoed the gruelling nature of the profession, adding that he admired Hardwick for making the decision.

“It’s one of the worst professions known to man, being a coach,” he joked while speaking on 3AW.

“He’s been through a lot with these players, and a few of them … their careers are starting to come to an end, and you’ve got to make hard decisions on them.

“The last premiership was in that COVID era, when they were in Queensland for months. That took at toll on him too, I think. He had marriage problems,” he said.

When asked whether Hardwick should have taken leave before resigning to avoid “seller’s regret”, Jewell said: “That may be the case … there’s a meeting this morning. They may do that. ”

In a tweet, former Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett said he was sad to see Hardwick leave.

“He has been remarkably successful for Richmond, and the AFL. He will be missed. By calling time on himself when he felt necessary, with his reputation intact and saluted by all in the industry, his legacy only enhanced. Thank you.”


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