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Tigers prove Hardwick has the necessary support at Punt Road

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14th May, 2023

For some teams in the competition, they can quickly find themselves in a dark place. No coach has been under more pressure in the past few weeks than Richmond’s Damien Hardwick due to their poor start to the season.

Prior to Friday night’s meeting with Geelong, two wins, one draw, and five losses had the Tigers languishing in 15th position on the ladder and desperately searching for answers.

Fair to say, people were divided before 2023 commenced regarding the expectations around the club and what they are capable of achieving. The slow start has swayed many of those opinions to the ‘dynasty is over’ category.

The pressure has got so intense recently to the point where it’s forced a heated version of Hardwick to explode in his press conferences, defending his players and taking swipes at the media, in particular Kane Cornes and his controversial views. It’s obvious that the three-time premiership coach is under the pump.

Damien Hardwick

Damien Hardwick (Photo by Graham Denholm/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

“It’s their narratives. That’s the reality, it’s easy to sit there and say those comments when they’re sitting behind a desk – come and say it to my face,” Hardwick said after responding to claims he had lost the players.

With a response filled with anger and frustration just as that, the hope from Hardwick’s view was to translate that fire into his players implying ‘If I defend you then I expect you to defend me’.

On the field, that theory most certainly came to life in arguably Richmond’s best performance of the season as they overcame the Cats by 24 points who have started to show signs of their best.


Straight from the opening bounce, fans were treated to a taste of the old Richmond they know and love, showing great intensity and fast transitional play from defence to attack through their handballs off half-back.

Pressure is a key component associated with Hardwick’s players throughout the majority of his legacy, as it was evident that the group were hunting in packs and battling together not so much around the stoppages, but it turned the contest into a scrappy affair for the parts of it. They didn’t give the Cats a chance to breathe.

Trent Cotchin celebrates a goal.

Trent Cotchin celebrates a goal. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

You can easily point to Geelong’s kicking inefficiency with the number of goalscoring opportunities gone to waste. At the same time, that was a credit to Hardwick’s men who successfully stifled the Cats in their forward 50.

Whether you think that the Tigers are ageing or not, one thing is for certain – Richmond still has the talent at their disposal to dictate a game on their terms.

Taranto has faced criticism for his ineffective impact since his arrival at Tigerland, but it was obvious those comments from the media gave him an extra edge in proving a point that he belongs, notching up 28 disposals. Balta put up a Ratugolea-like performance and was instrumental at the back, while the likes of Cotchin, McIntosh, Grimes, and Short proved that they’re still important pieces to the project.

Even Dusty has shown glimpses of getting back to his best despite not hitting the scoreboard as frequently, albeit kicking four goals on Friday night.


Ultimately there were positive signs all over the ground. Still, the biggest positive that Hardwick can take from the win was the response and effort that his players demonstrated after experiencing some of the most difficult moments.

“I think I certainly have got a lot of belief (in the players) and I think the playing group are starting to feel that little heartbeat come back,” Hardwick said in the post-match interview.

The question now is whether this is a one-off reaction or will it provide a stepping stone to salvage their season.

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