Richmond coach Damien Hardwick has revealed he addressed the Tigers’ playing group about his marriage breakdown immediately on his return to the AFL club after an extended off-season break.
The three-time premiership coach has left his wife Danielle and is now in a relationship with a member of the club’s commercial sales team.
Danielle is close to a number of partners of Tigers players so speculation swirled about how Hardwick’s personal situation could impact the club’s tilt at a third-straight premiership.
“It’s important that the first time they (the players) saw me that I spoke about it openly and honestly,” Hardwick told SEN.
“Until I did that, we couldn’t really move forward.
“That was something we do at the club; it’s important we did so we could get on with the business of preparing for round one.
“We always speak about things that are distractions in our lives and distractions that may bring about the demise of great teams.
“That’s the reality of the competition, sides will continually deal with those distractions.
“My players are understanding of the situation and where we’re at.”
Hardwick often referred to Danielle in his press conferences, calling her “Mrs Hardwick”.
Tigers captain Trent Cotchin’s wife Brooke is extremely close to Danielle.
“What I’ve also got understand is that there’s a lot of staff and players that are incredibly close to Danielle and my family,” Hardwick said.
“My entire family’s been a massive part and will continue to be a massive part of the Richmond football club – and I’m glad they’re supporting her.
“It’s not about taking sides, it’s about making sure what’s best for everyone.”
Hardwick said the Tigers were standing by troubled young gun Sydney Stack, who spent Christmas in jail for allegedly breaching Western Australia’s coronavirus quarantine restrictions.
However, Richmond unsure when Stack will be able to return to the club.
“We’ll keep backing this young man in. He’s still young, he’s made some mistakes but he’s fundamentally a good person,” Hardwick said.
“Our role as a footy club is to bring the best out of him as a player and as a person.”
Hardwick said the Tigers had come back “just as hungry” for success after last year’s grand final win against Geelong secured them a third premiership in four seasons.