Richmond coach Damien Hardwick and his new partner Alexandra Crow enjoyed an afternoon walk together with their dog in Melbourne over the weekend as they were captured stepping out together for the first time.
The couple have faced intense public interest in their relationship, which blossomed when the three-time premiership-winning coach separated from his longtime wife Danielle, with whom he shares three children.
But they looked carefree as they sipped juice while walking their dog, Hank, in Elwood on Sunday afternoon.
RELATED: Who is Alexandra Crow?
There’s less than three weeks before Richmond opens another premiership defence against Carlton at the MCG and Hardwick has been forced to confront questions about the impact his personal life could have on the performance of his footy team.
Often referred to by the Tigers coach as “Mrs Hardwick” in press conferences, Danielle had been by her husband’s side through an incredibly successful career in football that’s included flags as a player with Essendon and Port Adelaide and now three more as coach of the Tigers.
Richmond CEO Brendon Gale said the separation was “intensely personal and private and sensitive” but had been dealt with behind closed doors.
“I think we’re all very saddened to see the end of a 30 year-relationship – I think that’s the natural response. But these things happen, as sad as they are,” Gale told 3AW.
“But at the end of the day, we decided on a course of action that we felt was in the best interest of the club. Damien’s been a very, very good coach for our football club and has continued to be so. He has a relationship with a person who happens to be an employee at a club – and that happens. We’ve got other people in relationships, we’ve got people, in fact, that are married. We have policies in place and guidelines which help manage that – and at the end of the day, we were satisfied everything was in place, the course of action followed.
“Damien is a very good football coach and will continue to be so at Richmond for many years to come.”
Gale held no fears it would impact the playing group. “I’ll be honest, I worry for the family and I worry that’s a sad thing to see. But in terms of the football club, I don’t worry because our club, our football department and our coaches and our team have got a proven ability to focus on the things that are within their control, the things that really matter,” he said.
“They’re battle-hardened and they’ve got a flint-edged focus on performance. They’re really well prepared, they’re well coached, they’re hungry, they’re a very driven group – and I expect them to take that attitude into the 2021 season.”
But veteran football scribe Caroline Wilson believes the situation could cause headaches for the veteran coach.
Wilson said Hardwick used his wife in public to create a “personal brand” and believes he runs the risk of losing the moral high ground when it comes to admonishing players for missteps.
“In a workplace sense, this is a senior and junior colleague who embark upon an affair, probably cover it up — certainly cover it up,” Wilson told the ABC’s Offsiders program in January.
“At the very least, it was not reported to human resources or anyone senior at the club until the rumours became so strong that the question was asked by the CEO of the coach.
“I’m sorry, but we did see two AFL executives lose their jobs (in 2017) over a similar (incident). Don’t tell me it’s different, because it’s not. Don’t tell me they are in different departments because the coach has an all-encompassing influence over the whole club.
“Quite simply on an active football sense this is a man who created a personal brand out of his partner, Mrs Hardwick. She became his moral compass, and I just reckon a lot of people at the club feel duped, the public feel duped, the supporters feel duped.
“And if Trent Cotchin is suspended for three weeks in May or another player hides something and it comes out later, I think it’s going to be difficult for Damien Hardwick to tell these boys that they’ve let down the team.”
Offsiders host Kelli Underwood agreed with Wilson’s take on the matter, adding: “I just can’t understand when he put his head on the pillow at night how he possibly would have thought that this could play out for him. It’s got to have an effect internally.”
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