Richmond Tigers coach Damien Hardwick breaks silence on relationship split


“Myself and Danielle’s number one priority will, as it always has been, [be] our three beautiful kids. I’m very proud of the kids, the job myself and Danielle have done with regard to raising them.

“It’s been a difficult time for everyone. Out of respect for Danielle and my kids, my private life is something that I’m not very comfortable speaking about.”

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Hardwick accepted that some Richmond players have strong relationships with Danielle and that there was a need to talk about the issue as a group before everyone could move on.

“The reality was the first day back I had to speak to the players about it. That’s something we do at the club. It was important we did so to get on with the business of preparing for round one. We always speak about things that [are] distractions in our lives, and distraction that may bring about out demise as a great team.

“We’re now fully focused on preparing for round one. The players are understanding of my situation and where we’re at.

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“There’s a lot of staff and players that are incredibly close to Danielle and my family. The fact of the matter is, my entire family has been a massive part and will continue to be a massive part of the Richmond Football Club.

“This isn’t about taking sides, it’s just about making sure what’s best for everyone.”

But when repeatedly pushed for details, Hardwick politely looked to steer the conversation back towards on-field matters.

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Caroline Wilson says Damien Hardwick has tarnished his leadership at Tigerland


Most importantly the lines have been blurred where accepted workplace practices are concerned. Again the club line has been found wanting. Alexandra Crow might be an impressive marketing official in charge of elite club supporter groups but the power imbalance between her and Hardwick is stark.

Neither he nor Crow reported the relationship, which was only revealed when the rumours became so rife that CEO Brendon Gale asked the question of the coach.

President Peggy O’Neal and chief executive Gale have rightly pointed for some years to Richmond’s strong organisational culture and core values. Gale has often said he has been as proud of the manner in which players have carried themselves as of how they have played. That they now give the Hardwick-Crow scenario a tick because they work in different departments is frankly laughable given the coach’s influence across the entire club.

It is telling that the Tigers cannot guarantee Crow will remain at the club although they insist that choice will be hers alone. If it came to it, good luck selling the story of a woman yet again sacrificing her job ahead of a man.

But then the Hardwick controversy highlights the recurring hypocrisy across big organisations and specifically in this case football clubs when it comes to political correctness. You can’t help but wonder whether the coach might have been in more trouble if his name was Simon Goodwin or Leon Cameron. Or an assistant coach.

And there is no doubt sacking Hardwick would have proved a lot tougher than the alternative. Not only would that have created a costly legal thicket for the club but removing a premiership coach in his prime because he fell in love with a colleague would not wash with members, supporters and some sponsors eyeing off a three-peat.

Richmond insist it never considered sacking him, a decision backed by the six club CEOs contacted who say they would have done the same. Still the Hardwick story provoked a serious conversation several weeks ago between AFL boss Gillon McLachlan and Gale. McLachlan reluctantly forced two married league executives – one whom he counts among his closest friends – to resign back in 2017 due to workplace affairs.

And yet head office, perhaps uncomfortable regarding its own more recent history, will not take any form of position on Richmond’s issues, saying it is for the club to handle. Disappointingly, when comparing itself to the AFL, another Richmond line is that the AFL is the game’s regulator and therefore justified in the tougher stand it took.

This too seems flimsy when you consider the role of the senior coach as teacher, mentor and guide to so many impressionable young men. Particularly one who publicly adopted his wife as his moral compass and created “Mrs Hardwick” as a major part of his brand as well as her private role as a key part of the Tigers family.

Stronger feminists than this columnist were never comfortable with “Mrs Hardwick” never having a true voice or even her own name. No one asked Hardwick, never comfortable with the media, to evoke Danielle regularly in his media conferences and make her such a big part of the story – crediting her with such a major role in turning his career around, even joking about their sex life.

Even so, I loved it when, on the 2017 premiership dais, the winning coach became the first in the game’s history to thank his wife straight after the game.

Konrad Marshall’s chronicle of the journey to the 2019 flag speaks of how the coach held up a large rock inscribed with Danielle and family, revealing them as his key motivation. As recently as last June, after one of his many 2020 public missteps, it was “Mrs Hardwick” who told the coach he had behaved like a goose in criticising John Longmire’s tactics. You have to wonder how many people within the club – including players – felt duped when the truth came out.

Affairs of the heart like so many private issues are difficult to write about in the context of a large sporting organisation but no one can deny this situation has not rocked the Tigers and therefore is fair game. It is intriguing that the club has still not put Trent Cotchin in front of the media after wife Brooke’s pointed social media commentary over Christmas.

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Jack Riewoldt’s “business as usual″⁣ claim belied the difficult conversations Hardwick has undertaken with his players and his shrinking group of coaches. And you can’t help but wonder whether the fall-out from marital breakdown and workplace affair will impact on the coach’s relationship with his players when connectivity has been such a major player at Punt Road.

Hardwick has revealed his vulnerabilities before but surely now he has relinquished the high moral ground upon which he once lived with his wife and family. It is difficult to predict how his authority will endure, particularly when demanding transparency from his players and coaches.

But then so much off-field went wrong for Richmond in 2020 and look how that turned out. Hardwick’s rapsheet alone saw several instances of bad sportsmanship, blaming the MCG ground staff for a poor team performance, an initial refusal to guide his team in adapting to COVID, cruelly belittling David Schwarz and bizarrely almost missing lining up with his team for the national anthem in the Tigers’ first final.

Perhaps his personal turmoil contributed to his sometimes strange behaviour, which culminated in one of the great grand final coaching performances. Perhaps the club and what it has achieved under Gale and O’Neal can prove itself bigger than the coach and his issues.

For those of us who have celebrated the fairytale at Tigerland, the good memories will endure but the story has changed. And as much as those major characters who played their part in the resurgence wish he hadn’t, it is the coach who has rewritten it.

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“Awkward” Hardwick situation threatens to “derail” Richmond


Kane Cornes believes Damien Hardwick’s new relationship with a Richmond staff member and subsequent marriage breakdown could derail the club.

Hardwick and wife Danielle recently split, with the three-time premiership coach now seeing a younger member of the club’s commercial sales team.

Cornes is of the belief that this latest off-field scenario may have a negative impact on the Tigers as they chase a three-peat and fourth premiership in five years.

“Some off-season controversies, a little bit sensitive to speak about marriage breakdowns,” he said on SEN SA Breakfast.

“There were three of them, certainly well documented in the press. Nathan Buckley, Simon Goodwin and Damien Hardwick, the most controversial of those.

“I get the feeling it’s going to divide the Richmond Footy Club, there is no doubt about that, because of the fact Damien’s relationship is with a staff member from the football club.

“Also, Brooke Cotchin, the wife of Trent, has been pretty publicly supportive of Damien Hardwick’s ex-wife Danielle.

“I’m not sure how Richmond will function this year. I think it’s going to be awkward and it does threaten to derail their season and end the dynasty which has been at Richmond.

“So I’ll watch that one play out.”

Malcolm Blight also recently commented on the situation, insisting that the playing group will not worry about what’s happening in their coach’s personal life.





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How will Richmond Tigers cope after the marriage breakdown of coach Damien Hardwick?


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Although Riewoldt’s description rang true for those at the club on Monday when they saw Hardwick – who despite occasional public outbursts of frustration generally adopts a “never explain, never complain” attitude – bounce in to work ready to go, the effect on the club remains to be seen.

The coach knows what is required of him to do his job well, having admitted after last year’s grand final that his reluctance to accept COVID-19 restrictions affected the team, saying “the reality is if I’m struggling, the players are certainly going to feed off that energy” .

He also understands why some players are shocked at what has happened and appreciates they will need time and raw conversations to adjust to the new light in which some – certainly not all – of his most loyal lieutenants now see him.

But his demeanour allowed most players to maintain a guise that suggested if the personal issues were to have any impact on the club they would be minimal.

They showed in 2020 that they could overcome all manner of distractions, including Hardwick’s internal struggles, defeating Geelong in a hard-fought grand final. Early wins this season will push the very public private matter well into the background because for all the posturing from clubs that’s what matters most.

That doesn’t mean senior people at the club are underestimating what lies ahead as there are very few road maps for how modern, often superficially virtuous, football clubs handle such matters despite the situation being a classic conjunction of events – a very public and long-standing personal relationship breakdown, and the interaction of a senior staff member with a more junior one, albeit in a separate section of the organisation.

Skipper Trent Cotchin and Damien Hardwick lift the 2020 premiership cup.Credit:Getty Images

Richmond may not have couched it in such terms, but the reality is that the senior coach in any club holds more cards than anybody bar the CEO and the president, both who have remained, to this point, silent on the matter publicly.

The club released a statement addressing that power dynamic, saying they were satisfied after examining their human resources policy that they were comfortable in workplace terms with the situation, as marketing executive Alexandra Crow did not report to the coach.

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Beth Gaze, a professor at Melbourne University’s Law School, says it appears from afar that the Tigers have handled the issue appropriately from that perspective.

“One of the concerns organisations have is that if someone has power over somebody else’s career that there may be some favouritism and that can, of course, really poison the workplace and can make relationships difficult,” Gaze said.

“The consequences of [such a relationship] should not rest on the woman or the more junior person and that is why organisations are in a sense saying if you are the senior person then it is your responsibility to make sure you have disclosed this and removed yourself from any control over their career.

“The rest of it is awkward but there is no way you can avoid those emotional consequences.”

Given there is no way of avoiding the emotional fallout, management led by CEO Brendon Gale and president Peggy O’Neal will need to be on their game.

Even though football clubs, generally speaking, get on with the job (Richmond are not the only club dealing this summer with marriage breakdowns or interoffice relationships that not everyone within the office are celebrating), this turn of events has saddened many.

What effect the marriage breakdown will have on those at the club close to the coach and his wife remains unclear; as we have seen, Danielle Hardwick and daughters were embraced by the captain’s wife, Brooke Cotchin, at Christmas.

Adding to the complexity is the fact the Tigers’ extensive network of tight personal bonds – common in AFL clubs but rare in most other workplaces – have been cited as one of the secrets to the Tigers’ recent success with the use of anecdotes and connected stories a key part of the coach’s modus operandi in recent years as he established a tight bond with his players.

The notion of being a “Richmond man” and concepts of mindfulness sat nicely beside Hardwick’s occasional public reference to Mrs Hardwick’s influence on his thinking, words that smoothed his rough edges and endeared him to the public whenever he apologised for overstepping the mark.

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Family and football even intertwined before the 2019 grand final in a moment captured in Konrad Marshall’s book Stronger and Bolder when Hardwick gave each player a rock to write the name of the person they would dedicate their performance to as he argued it would make them more determined to succeed. He then held up a large rock carrying words revealing his own motivation, Danielle and family.

Such public and private expressions from the coach add another layer of complexity to managing the situation.

Despite all that, officials from other clubs share the Tigers’ view that their performance won’t be affected much, with the players’ pride in their performance paramount and the leaders experienced enough to allow Hardwick’s role to be one of alignment.

Many have been through change with Hardwick before as the coach began his career as a command-and-control coach who would stop drills midway to tell players where they should be and the decision they should make.

At that point Hardwick was less about finding time to have a coffee with players and more about using the time to talk about their positioning and what the numbers said about performance. His dress sense was chided, his down-to-earth nature and loyalty to them celebrated, but the emotional rollercoaster he took many at the club on was exhausting.

It wasn’t until the nadir of 2016 that he overcame his controlling instinct to give his best decision-makers licence to play and gave fringe players roles that emphasised their strengths with their pace giving the Tigers numbers around the ball.

He, relaxed, opened himself up to learning and created a game plan that one assistant coach said boiled down to Richmond taking the ball forward under pressure.

They scored off turnover and players such as the skipper led the way in creating a group of low-possession, high-impact players.

The so-called “simple” game plan is now, after four years of refinement, described by one experienced assistant as like an orchestra that makes the difficult coordination of disparate parts seem effortless in their creation of a masterpiece.

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It is a turnaround that has Hardwick on the verge of equalling such coaching greats as Kevin Sheedy, Allan Jeans, Ron Barassi, Tom Hafey, David Parkin and the man he has shared so much with, Alastair Clarkson, with four flags.

Richmond are sticking with the coach, as they have before in trying times, hoping for business as usual.

After such a dramatic 2020 it might seem business as usual but time will tell what the real impact will be in season 2021 with the exhausted Gale telling 3AW pre-Christmas that they will have no option but to get on with it.

“We’ve just got to find a way to recharge and re-energise and renew and we will, because that’s the way our caper rolls,” Gale said.

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Hardwick addresses drama with players


Richmond vice-captain Jack Riewoldt is adamant the situation surrounding coach Damien Hardwick and his new relationship with a club staffer will not have any impact on the playing group.

The Tigers’ senior players returned for the start of pre-season training in hot conditions at Punt Road on Monday.

Before the session, Hardwick addressed with them his recent marriage breakdown with wife Danielle, with whom he has three children, and new relationship with a younger member of the club’s commercial sales team.

The 48-year-old Hardwick, a three-time premiership coach, opted to return at the same time as the senior players after initially flagging late last year that he would enjoy an extended off-season break.

“Damien’s a good enough character to separate his personal life and his professional life,” Riewoldt said.

“The last four years have shown that he’s been arguably the best coach in the land and he’ll continue to support us and we’ll continue to support him over the next period of time.

“It’s hard to say early on, but we’re back into it and he seemed really strong, so we’re excited to get out and train.”

Riewoldt admitted Hardwick’s relationship situation, which became public knowledge this month, had taken the players by surprise as they prepared to embark on another premiership defence.

“You never predict something like this but these things happen in peoples’ lives and we just move on,” Riewoldt said.

“It’s obviously sad that Dimma and Danielle’s marriage has come to an end because Dimma’s obviously been a big part of our football club and the Hardwick family’s been a massive support network for us.

“They’ll continue to be a support network for us, as we will for them.”

Hardwick presided over Monday’s training session as premiership stars Dustin Martin, Trent Cotchin and Tom Lynch were all among the senior group that returned to training.

The Tigers were allowed to train as a full group after recent coronavirus protocols, which restricted AFL clubs to training in smaller groups last week, were relaxed.

Sydney Stack was a notable absentee after being granted bail and released from a West Australian jail last week for the first time since mid-December.

The 20-year-old was arrested on December 19 for allegedly breaching the conditions of his coronavirus exemption into the state and spent Christmas behind bars.



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AFL 2021: Damien Hardwick split with wife, Richmond Tigers, addresses players, Simon Goodwin split with wife, Melbourne


Richmond coach Damien Hardwick has addressed his players about his new relationship with a club staffer while a rival boss has become the third in recent months to split with his wife.

After previously flagging he would take a break until February, Hardwick returned to Punt Road on Monday as the senior players began their pre-season training regimen.

Hardwick split with his partner Danielle last year and the club has confirmed he has since begun a relationship with a member of Richmond’s administration staff.

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AFL news: Third coach splits with wife after Richmond Damien Hardwick and Collingwood Nathan Buckley separations


As it prepares to navigate another season that will likely be impacted by COVID, the AFL will continue to be wary of the impact placing its Victorian clubs in bubbles appears to have had on its coaching fraternity and their families.

There are countless reasons why marriages survive or fail and none but those involved know how critical being separated from each other for long periods of 2020 had on the relationships of Nathan Buckley, Damien Hardwick and a third AFL coach news.com.au has chosen not to name.

But as news of the painful separations continue to emerge, the numbers are getting hard to ignore.

RELATED: Inside Nathan and Tania Buckley’s rocky marriage

RELATED: Explosive posts from Mrs Hardwick and Brooke Cotchin

If you throw in North Melbourne’s Rhyce Shaw, who was forced to leave a coveted senior coaching position at the end of the season to deal with personal issues of his own, four of the 10 coaches of Victorian clubs had their lives left in a state of upheaval last year.

It was the coaches and players of the Melbourne clubs, forced out of Victoria as it suffered the worst of the pandemic, that were placed under the greatest strain. All of the interstate clubs were stretched too but their periods of separation from their families were interspersed with regular periods at home.

The 2020 quartet join a disturbing list of senior AFL coaches to have suffered personal issues while trying to deal with the incredible pressure that comes with being a senior coach.

It’s a trend that saw long-time Hawthorn mentor Alastair Clarkson speak out after Shaw stepped down at the Kangaroos.

“I’m a bit concerned for our profession,” Clarkson told Fox Footy’s AFL 360. “Especially my 17 peers in the roles that we’ve got.

“We’ve always looked after everyone else in the club and put everyone else in the club before ourselves. It might be time for us to take stock ourselves of just what our workflow is and our schedule because it’s now getting to a point where we’re seeing some real casualties out of our industry.”

There’s no doubt the AFL prevented significant personal hardship by forging on with its season and ensuring as many in the industry as possible continued to earn a wage.

It also did everything within its power to make the revised season as comfortable as possible for all involved by inviting families that were able were to come to the isolation hubs in Queensland.

You could argue no one was forced to be involved either. But there is unspoken pressure in football and many working environments to continue to front up despite – as Collingwood player Travis Varcoe revealed last week – many hating the experience.

It’s all worth considering if COVID comes knocking again this season.



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AFL news: Damien Hardwick wife Danielle Instagram post, Trent Cotchin wife Brooke photo, Alexandra Crow


Any hope the Richmond Football Club had of Damien Hardwick’s separation from his wife and beginning of a new relationship with a Tigers employee being played out privately is becoming thinner by the day.

Any similar hope Tigers fans held that this was a personal matter that had no bearing on the coach’s relationships with his players or team harmony also appears fraught.

Last night Danielle Hardwick, whose husband has begun a controversial relationship with the Richmond commercial sales team’s Alexandra Crow, ended her silence since the end of her marriage was made public.

In a damning Instagram post, the mother-of-three appeared to send a clear message to those involved in the situation.

It read: “F**k every single person that took advantage of your kindness and mistook it for weakness.”

Many of the Tiger faithful have reacted to the Herald Sun’s revelation of Hardwick’s new romance by arguing his separation from Danielle could have been amicable and there is no hurt created by him beginning another relationship so soon.

Danielle’s post appears to suggest otherwise.

But that wasn’t the only social media action that would have sent tremors through the AFL’s premier football club.

The wife of club captain Trent Cotchin, Brooke, also had a message to convey to the footy public, posting a photograph of Danielle holding her child captioned: “Strength, courage, dignity.”

The tight bond between the Cotchins and Danielle Hardwick was highlighted when they spent Christmas morning together last year.

Brooke referred to Danielle and her children as their “second family” in a heartfelt Instagram post.

“What a special Christmas Morning. Our hearts are full. Love you Cotchins,” Danielle replied.

Brooke has clearly sided with Danielle.

Where Trent stands and what impact his coach’s private life will have on their working relationship is unclear.

The Herald Sun reported the news has “rocked staff within the club and could affect the playing group”.

But Richmond is adamant Hardwick’s job is secure despite intense speculation in recent days he was preparing to stand down and that his relationship with Ms Crow has been signed off on.

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AFL news: Damien Hardwick wife Danielle Instagram post, Trent Cotchin wife Brooke photo, Alexandra Crow | Richmond Football Club


Any hope the Richmond Football Club had of Damien Hardwick’s separation from his wife and beginning of a new relationship with a Tigers employee being played out privately is becoming thinner by the day.

Any similar hope Tigers fans held that this was a personal matter that had no bearing on the coach’s relationships with his players or team harmony also appears fraught.

Last night Danielle Hardwick, whose husband has begun a controversial relationship with the Richmond commercial sales team’s Alexandra Crow, ended her silence since the end of her marriage was made public.

In a damning Instagram post, the mother-of-three appeared to send a clear message to those involved in the situation.

Round 1

It read: “F**k every single person that took advantage of your kindness and mistook it for weakness.”



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Richmond, Damien Hardwick, girlfriend, Alexandra Crow, who is she, club employee, sales, wife, players, future


The Richmond employee in a new relationship with Tigers head coach Damien Hardwick has been unveiled as Alexandra Crow.

The footy world was abuzz with talk of the romance on Monday – just a few weeks after it was revealed the 48-year-old mentor had split with his long-time wife Danielle.

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Crow, reportedly in her 30s and a member of the Tigers’ commercial sales team, appeared to prepare for her new-found fame by deleting all of her social media pages, including Twitter and Instagram.

The Age reported she had been in a relationship with a staffer from another Melbourne-based AFL club before linking with Hardwick. Her ex has been helped through the break-up by his club.

Richmond is adamant Hardwick’s job is secure despite intense speculation in recent days he was preparing to stand down.

The club has confirmed its aware of the relationship between the two and The Age reported Hardwick had it approved by the club’s human resources so he could continue as coach.

The Herald Sun received a statement from the club on Monday after rumours were running wild in the footy community about the long-time coach.

“The club is aware that coach Damien Hardwick is currently in a relationship with a member of the club’s administration staff,” the statement read. “The club has no concerns with this under club policy. Beyond this, it is a private matter and we ask that privacy be respected.”

But the Herald Sun reported it has “rocked staff within the club and could affect the playing group”.

It comes after it was revealed Hardwick separated from his wife Danielle, with who shares three children.

Danielle was incredibly well-liked at Richmond and was referred to as the “second family” of Tigers captain Trent Cotchin and his wife Brooke in an Instagram post at Christmas.

She replied to the picture by writing: “What a special Christmas Morning. Our hearts are full. Love you Cotchins.”

Hardwick, one of the most successful coaches of the modern era, has guided the Tigers to three premierships in the past four years, including last year’s triumph against the Cats.

After leading the Tigers to a grand final win against Geelong, the 48-year-old had flagged the personal toll the season had taken on him.

“I’m going to take a bit of a longer break this year over summer,” Hardwick told 3AW.

“It’s been a pretty full on 3-4 years and we’ve done a hell of a lot of work and had a lot of success along the way but sometimes you need to step back.”

The Tigers are scheduled to return to training on Monday. After initially suggesting he may not return until February, the Herald Sun reports Hardwick could be back next week.

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