Damien Hardwick thanks ex-wife Danielle and new partner Alex Crow as he quits Richmond Tigers
It is official. Through a veil of tears and a flurry of ‘I love yous’ Damien Hardwick has officially ended his highly successful tenure as coach of the Richmond Tigers footy club.
Hardwick will be remembered as a modern-day champion coach in the AFL, a three-time premiership winner and the architect of turning Richmond around from being the joke of the league to the benchmark.
In the end, though, he admits it all became a bit too much to handle.
With the Tigers languishing in 13th place on the AFL ladder and the decision to stand down next season already in place, Hardwick said it was time to pull the pin to give the club every chance of setting itself up for a bright future.
Flanked by club officials, he choked back tears and thanked all of the players, fans and stakeholders at the club.
He reserved a special mention for his family including ex-wife Danielle – and his new love, Alexandra Crow, with the latter sitting in the front row at the announcement.
‘To Danielle and the kids, I’m forever grateful for what you’ve given me, the support you’ve given me,’ he said.
‘And Alex, thanks for the new journey, and obviously your support over the last couple of months has been phenomenal.’
An emotional Damien Hardwick is pictured announcing that he is officially standing down as coach of the Richmond Tigers in the AFL
His partner Alexandra Crow (right, in green jacket) was beaming as he explained why he had to leave the Tigers – and thanked her for her ‘phenomenal’ support
The 50-year-old also praised his children and ex-wife Danielle (pictured together at the 2014 Brownlow Medal) after the pair split in 2020
Hardwick left Danielle in 2020 and was confirmed to be in a relationship with Crow in January 2021 when they were spotted together.
They purchased a $2.3million luxury home in the Melbourne suburb of Elwood in September that year.
Hardwick referenced the punishing effect of coaching in the AFL as he explained his reasons for leaving.
‘It’s a tough gig being an AFL senior coach but the support I have received from the majority of people has been absolutely outstanding and will forever go down as one of the great things I’ve ever been in,’ he said.
‘I have been fortunate enough to have been in a lot of footy clubs but by far the Richmond football club has been the love of my life.
‘I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
‘To the AFL, it is an outstanding industry that we’re in. The game itself is in great shape, it’s so even, it’s so challenging and I think that’s the way we want it to be.
‘It just all became a little bit too much. I sort of made the decision that I wasn’t going to be the coach of Richmond next year.’
Hardwick is flanked by Richmond president John O’Rourke (left) and CEO Brendon Gale (right) as he gives his reason for leaving the club he took from the basement to the AFL penthouse
Hardwick and Trent Cotchin of the Tigers pose with the premiership trophy in 2019, one of three trophies they would win in a golden era for the club
Hardwick revealed watching the Netflix documentary The Last Dance, which covers Michael Jordan’s time with the Chicago Bulls (pictured) was a ‘fatal error’
Hardwick has nurtured a champion team and a team of champions including all-time greats like Dustin Martin (pictured together after the 2019 grand final)
Michael Jordan almost had a part to play in keeping Hardwick at the Tigers, with the Netflix documentary series on the great Chicago Bulls side The Last Dance played a role in his decision to leave.
‘I made the fatal mistake of watching The Last Dance on Fox at some stage and thought what might have been.
‘But once I decided that part of the equation had started to slip away, I started to question myself.
‘As soon as I started asking the question more, I started to understand what the answer was going to be.
‘The best thing for myself was to step aside. If I couldn’t give 100 per cent there was no way I was going to coach this footy club.
‘It gives the club the greatest opportunity to find the next coach and I wish Andrew and the assistants all the very best.
‘But if I couldn’t give this playing group, this club, these people beside me the very best of Damien Hardwick I wasn’t prepared to see it out.
‘It was a tough decision, but one I was eternally grateful for.
‘From the bottom of my heart boys, I wish you all the very best, I’m going to miss you, as always I love you to death and all the people who supported me and have been part of my journey, I thank you, I applaud you and I wish you all the very best.
‘That’ll do me.’
Hardwick is the longest-serving coach in Richmond’s history and will go down as one of the club’s all-time greats alongside Tom Hafey, having led the Tigers to premierships in 2017, 2019 and 2020.
There will be speculation about Hardwick’s future and whether – or when – he could coach again at another club next year or beyond.
Richmond will also move quickly to assess the coaching marketplace, with assistant coach Andrew McQualter likely to take the reins on an interim basis.
Port Adelaide’s Ken Hinkley is out of contract at the end of this season, West Coast’s Adam Simpson is under mounting pressure after a horror run and Stuart Dew can hardly afford another year without September action at Gold Coast.
There is also a cloud hanging over North Melbourne, with Alastair Clarkson on indefinite leave from the club.
Hinkley, who rejected overtures from Essendon last year, was runner-up to Hardwick for the Richmond job in late 2009 before winning the Power role ahead of the 2013 season.
Hinkley and Port Adelaide have repeatedly stated they have put off contract talks until at least August, though that could now change.
The Power may be keen to lock in the 56-year-old after seven straight wins that have seen the club rocket into premiership contention.
There could be a coaching roundabout in 2024 with Ken Hinkley off contract at the Port Adelaide Power
Adam Simpson is off contract at the battling West Coast Eagles as well and they may decide to go in another direction
Alastair Clarkson is on indefinite leave from the North Melbourne Kangaroos and is no guarantee to return
McQualter is tipped to take charge for Richmond’s clash with Port Adelaide on Sunday at the MCG.
Former senior coaches David Teague and Ben Rutten are also on the Tigers’ panel of assistants and could take over if required.
Collingwood coach Craig McRae said he was ‘shocked’ by Hardwick’s decision to quit when the news broke on Monday night.
McRae worked as an assistant under Hardwick through the 2017-2020 glory years and said his former mentor had coached with ‘courage’ in a job that grinds people down.
‘You get tired. You’ve got to find energy sources,’ McRae told Fox Footy.
‘You’re constantly trying to find the right balance to find the right energy to give to your playing group.
‘You find the energy for your players and then you get home and you’re exhausted. Your wife and family want you to find energy too.’
Former Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley, who stepped down midway through the 2021 season, wondered whether Hardwick had lost the hunger to continue with Richmond sliding out of premiership contention.
The Tigers have won three and drawn one of 10 games this season, having failed to win a final since the 2020 premiership.
‘This might be a sign that he doesn’t feel like he has the energy to be able to put in, that he’s not quite as hungry,’ Buckley told Fox Footy.
‘It might only be one or two per cent off. Only he would know exactly what it is. He’s the only one who knows how he feels internally.’