Sport AFL Hardwick left bewildered by toothless Tigers

Hardwick left bewildered by toothless Tigers

Damien Hardwick
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Richmond’s Damien Hardwick had the look of a coach who knows his team’s AFL season is now shot.

Hardwick is normally an unflappable character, but the public persona cracked in his media conference after Saturday’s devastating 17-point loss to Melbourne at the MCG.

As the Demons celebrated their gutsy 14.7 (91) to 9.20 (74) win, the result was a massive double blow to the Tigers.

Five days after the death of club icon Tom Hafey, the long-suffering Tigers badly wanted to mark an emotional week with a rousing win.

The upset loss also leaves last year’s elimination finalists deep in crisis with just two wins from eight games.

Hardwick became emotional as he discussed David Astbury, who faces a lengthy injury layoff.

The defender suffered a suspected dislocated knee and Hardwick said Astbury had tears in his eyes at three-quarter time.

Shortly after, Hardwick was discussing potential changes to the team when he paused unexpectedly and sighed.

“There’s not much I can say guys … disappointing,” Hardwick said and then left the room.

Earlier in the media conference, the Tigers coach savaged his players and made it clear there was much more to the loss than just woeful goalkicking.

Richmond drew to within four points midway through the last term before the Demons kicked away for a memorable win.

“Credit to them – they turned up to play and we didn’t,” Hardwick said.

“They were the best side all day.

“We kicked 20 points – some of those were easy shots – but they hunted the ball, they used the ball, they smashed us around (the) clearance.”

It was pointed out to Hardwick that a side cannot lose its ability in nine months, particularly given there has not been a big turnover in personnel.

“We were having the exact same conversation,” he said.

“Unfortunately at the moment, we’re not the same side.

“We have to make sure we take some steps and get our game back up and going.

“Unfortunately I’ve been saying this for six or seven weeks – I’m sick of talking about it.”

Hardwick said the emotion surrounding Hafey’s death was no excuse, pointing out it did not explain why they lost so many one-on-one contests.

He added their biggest problem is clear.

“We know what’s happening – at the bookends (forward and back), in essence, we’re losing the contested ball,” he said.

Melbourne co-captain Nathan Jones was best afield and Demons forward Cam Pedersen also impressed, while Dustin Martin stood out for Richmond.

Hardwick praised captain Trent Cotchin, who played on and kicked a last-quarter goal despite suffering an ankle injury early in the game.

“To his credit he fought it out, that’s the type of kid he is – we need a few more like him,” Hardwick said.