Sport AFL Richmond coach Damien Hardwick signs new three-year-deal
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Richmond coach Damien Hardwick signs new three-year-deal

Damien Hardwick and Trent Cotchin lift the premiership cup
Richmond had a Cinderella story in 2017, but this year who really wants it to win? Photo: AAP
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Premiership mentor Damien Hardwick is set to become Richmond’s longest-serving AFL coach after signing a three-year contract extension.

Hardwick has coached the Tigers in 182 AFL games and will pass club legends Tom Hafey (248 games) and Jack Dyer (222) with the new deal.

The 45-year-old, appointed in late 2009 after Terry Wallace’s sacking, is tied to the club until the end of the 2021 season.

The mastermind of last year’s upset grand final win over Adelaide was mobbed by his players on Tuesday when chief executive Brendon Gale told them the news at Punt Road.

“Four finals series in five years, culminating in a drought-breaking premiership, was massive for the club,” Gale said in his address.

“Huge credit to him, huge credit to the coaching department, the football department, huge credit for the extent to which he’s invested and committed to you guys and huge credit to the way you’ve committed to him as well.

“It’s obvious in the way you played (last year) so, on that basis, no surprise – we’re going to extend his contract for three years out to 2021.”

The move caps a stunning comeback for Hardwick who had been under intense pressure to keep his job when the Tigers slumped to 13th at the end of the 2016 season.

He underwent a period of reflection and soul-searching after that ill-fated campaign and adopted a fresh approach before the 2017 season that culminated in the club’s first premiership since 1980.

“Damien just stripped it right back,” Gale told SEN radio.

“He’s at his best when he’s fully present, he’s there for his players and working on building that most-basic connection.

“If you’ve got that right, then you can work on the game plans and the tactics.

“I think for him to do that in his seventh year … I think he deserves enormous credit.”

-AAP