Damien Hardwick makes first move after stepping down as longest-serving coach in Tigers history


Damien Hardwick will jet off to the USA to recharge his batteries after coaching his 307th and last game at Richmond just over a week ago.

After stepping down as the longest-serving Tigers coach in history, Hardwick is set to touch down in Los Angeles for a well-earned break, away from the Melbourne footy fishbowl, according to SEN’s Sam Edmund.

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Hardwick cited burnout as the primary reason for his resignation, which came as a shock to everyone in the AFL world, given he still had 18 months left to run on his contract.

“Damien Hardwick leaves for an overseas escape today,” Edmund said.

“The former Richmond coach is off to Los Angeles – and possibly beyond – as he embarks on a period of rejuvenation following his sudden resignation at Punt Road.

“A well-earned break before whatever comes next.”

The triple premiership coach officially announced his decision to step down on Tuesday last week, with assistant Andrew McQualter appointed interim as the search begins for the club’s next full-time mentor.

Hardwick said he recently decided not to coach Richmond next year and, after making the “fatal” mistake of watching The Last Dance documentary about Michael Jordan, moved to make an immediate departure.

Damien Hardwick’s press conference was a ‘celebration’, according to CEO Brendon Gale. Credit: AAP

“If I couldn’t give this club the very best Damien Hardwick I wasn’t prepared to see it out,” he said.

“The job of AFL coach is very, very tough. Don’t get me wrong I love it to death. But I just need a break.”

Hardwick considered leaving after the win over Geelong two weeks ago but wanted to be involved in the Dreamtime at the ‘G clash on Saturday.

The desire to leave on his own terms, even if not on the high of a premiership or a win, also played a role.

“I’ve seen first hand what it can do when relationships sour with regard to coaching careers ending and I just didn’t want that to be the case,” Hardwick said.

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Hardwick thanked the board, including former president Peggy O’Neal, and noted they could’ve “tipped him out” at any stage in 2016.

“It’s been an incredible ride and one that’s coming to an end,” he said.

“I couldn’t have wished a better place to have my journey as an AFL coach and the support I’ve received from not only Richmond but the fans (has been great).

“Telling the players was one of the more tougher conversations I’ve had to do.

“The way this club supported me, gave me every resource possible, gave me the best people possible, it’s a testament to what I think we’ve created.”

The decision came as a shock to the board, current president John O’Rourke said, while it was praised as selfless by chief executive Brendon Gale.

“It’s a measure of Damien that he’s always put the club first. It’s a measure of the club and our shared leadership,” Gale added.

“This is sad, I love this man. We will celebrate him but it’s onwards and upwards. We look forward to writing the next chapter of the Richmond Football Club.”

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