AFL journalist Caroline Wilson has suggested Richmond’s rough season can be traced back to reported unrest at the club following coach Damien Hardwick’s marriage breakdown.
The Tigers have won three of the past four flags but 2021 has been far from smooth sailing with the club sitting ninth after 16 rounds, having dropped out of the top eight following a shock loss to the Gold Coast Suns.
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Footy fans have been struggling to explain the defending premiers’ struggles but Wilson believes the fall has been bubbling away all season.
It was revealed in December Hardwick had separated from his longtime wife Danielle, with whom he shares three children.
By early January, the three-time premiership-winning coach’s new relationship with a member of Richmond’s commercial sales team, Alexandra Crow, was made public.
At the time, Wilson penned an article for The Age, writing “the power imbalance between Crow and Hardwick is stark” and reported the club only became aware of the relationship when the coach was questioned by CEO Brendon Gale.
Damien Hardwick’s personal issues are back in the spotlight. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images).Source:Getty Images
Wilson said at the time it was going to be difficult for the coach to retain authority over his players if any of them slip up, given the nature of his own personal circumstances.
Speaking on Footy Classified on Monday night, Wilson said the relationship may be “the elephant in the room” when looking at Richmond’s dire form.
“I wrote in January that he had tarnished his leadership at Richmond because of issues that had happened off-field,” she said. “We know that Damien and many at Richmond didn’t like this article but I stand by it.
“I certainly felt at the time that he had hurt the club and he had let the club down by the way he’d handled his off-field issues and the break-up of his marriage.
“I wrote at the time, would there be an issue on-field if disciplinary things took place and would his message be lost?
“I don’t know whether the off-field is affecting the on-field at the Richmond Football Club – only the players and the coach can know that. But what I do know is that great football clubs are strong and united and they hold together at every point.
“And I know that there are people at Richmond who have not enjoyed some of the things that have happened off-field as a result of Damien’s personal issues. I know it’s a tricky subject, but that’s the fact.”
Caroline Wilson has called out the "elephant in the room".Source:Twitter
Wilson said she didn’t know if the club was no longer as strong and united but that “staff members at the club have struggled with what’s taken place — we know that”.
“This is a team that has been unbelievable for four years and was threatening for finals for most of the years before that,” she continued.
“So I’m not surprised that players might have lost a bit of hunger and they’re getting older and injuries have cruelled them and maybe it’s just too hard to stay at the top for a fifth year in a row.
“As they rebuild now and leadership becomes a big issue at Richmond on and off the field, I just wonder if there’s any impact.”
Wilson also said the fallout from her story earlier in the year had seen Hardwick black-list radio station 3AW.
“I only become aware in recent weeks that he actually won’t come on 3AW at all, he’s banned the whole station, which seems extraordinary to me,” she said. “I’m only on one pre-game segment every weekend.
“I’m a football journalist – I’ve had my blues with Richmond in the past. I’ve had worse blues probably. It’s really interesting that he’s banned all of 3AW, I think that’s pretty strange.”
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