Will Richmond improve under Damien Hardiwck?

Date: August 2, 2016 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell

HardwickRichmond was a rabble on Sunday. Yes, it was playing the now second-placed GWS but that is hardly an excuse for the inept performance that it put up. An eight goal to nil opening quarter helped lead to a final score of 3.5.23 – the club’s lowest since 1958.

Sadly, for the members and supporters it was the nadir in a year that has given them little. Prior to the start of the season, there were many who had Richmond in their top eight – albeit in the bottom half of it.

For the Tigers, this season has been a major step backwards after three straight finals appearances.

The club placed fifth, eighth and fifth at the end of the past three home-and-away seasons, albeit being eliminated in the first week of the finals each time.

It was hoped that 2016 would produce the club’s first finals win since 2001. With four rounds remaining, the club finds itself in 13th position with just seven wins from 18 starts. The last month of the season will bring games against Collingwood, Western Bulldogs, St Kilda and Sydney. Safe to say the Tigers are going to fall way short of their 15 wins from last year.

So, what is the future?

Just prior to the season the club re-signed Damien Hardwick for a further two years, predicated no doubt on the fifth-place finish last year.

CEO Brendan Gale declared Hardwick’s position safe for 2017 in the wake of Sunday’s debacle. Yesterday, skipper Trent Cotchin threw his weight behind the coach too. But is keeping Hardwick the way forward?

Of the top-48 longest serving coaches in the competition’s history, Hardwick – who comes in at number 41 with 153 games under his belt – is the only one to have never won a final.

It is interesting to compare Hardwick’s reign with that of Brad Scott, who also started coaching in senior ranks in 2010.

In 2009, the Kangaroos finished 13th while the Tigers were 15th. North since then has also had three finals campaigns however they have produced a win-loss of 4-3 and two preliminary finals.

Both Hardwick and Scott have had seven drafts to build a playing group that could seriously challenge a grand final berth. Clearly, one man and one club, has done better than the other.

Cotchin said yesterday that, “The reality is we need to do better as a playing group. We’re doing everything we can”. That did it appear evident on Sunday at Manuka Oval.

It can be argued that Hardwick has maintained the faith in too many of his charges. Perhaps there needed to be a ruthlessness at the trade table in recent times. Come the post-season Hardwick and his list management team needs to do some serious work.

The club would be well served in not ruling out anyone as a potential trade if it can go some way to turning the on-field fortunes around. The Tigers need to trade its way to some productive draft picks.

It would be fascinating to be a fly in the wall of the Richmond boardroom. Surely, given the way the season has unfolded – and the fact that the club’s injury toll has not been excessive – there must be second thoughts about Hardwick’s two-year contract extension.

The club has four weeks left in season 2016. It cannot redeem itself. What it can do however is implode. Another one or two insipid performances like Sunday’s and surely the coach’s position has to come under scrutiny, contract or not.

Too many times this season Hardwick has spoken about a lack of endeavour and intensity from his team. It is up to the coach to drive that work ethic.

There is always the question of who will do a better job?

Recent history would indicate that there are always men worth taking a punt on.

Not that long ago, Adam Simpson and Luke Beveridge were identified by their current clubs as worth a go – they have both proven to be sound choices. Likewise, Brendan Bolton in his maiden year at the Blues has shown he is taking the club in the right direction.

Whilst Cotchin described Hardwick yesterday as a “fantastic person”, sentimentality cannot be the driving force behind maintaining the status quo.

Richmond has gone backwards this season at an alarming rate. The sad thing for the fans is that it has done so on the back of mediocre performances in recent years.

Damien Hardwick and his lieutenants have had seven years to try and get it right. Collectively, they have failed.

The club has to now seriously consider whether he is the right man to start the rebuilding process again. History would indicate it is highly questionable.

First published on The Roar – theroar.com.au – on 2 August 2016, soliciting 17 comments