Trent Cotchin has spoken for the first time on the rift between himself and long-time mentor and Richmond coach Damien Hardwick. The coach's marriage split rocked the club and after he formed a new relationship with former Tigers employee Alexandra Crow there was a divide between the coaching staff and playing group.
In December 2020, reports emerged that Cotchin separated from his wife Danielle after a turbulent season where the team was made to relocate to a quarantine hub in Queensland as a result of Covid-19. Days later it was reported that the club was in turmoil due to Hardwick moving on with Crow.
Cotchin's autobiography 'From the Heart', says Hardwick's romance with Crow caused a rift between the coach and parts of the football club. The Tigers great, who guided the club to three successive premierships under Hardwick, told of how the new romance drove a wedge between coach and players due to his insistence on family first.
“We had built this culture on a platform of family, connection and love – and Dimma and Danielle’s relationship had played a big part in all this – so it was only natural to be worried about the potential fallout," he wrote. “Was it a distraction for the group? In my view, at times it was. Did it impact my relationship with Dimma? I would say yes, at that point, 100 per cent.”
Danielle was well-liked among the playing group and had been by Hardwick's side as he won the AFL premiership as a player and a coach and the couple had been together for 30 years. Cotchin said Hardwick and his former wife were like his "second family".
Cotchin admits marriage breakdown derailed Tigers season
Cotchin says the off-field drama played a part in the Tigers poor 2021 campaign, where the club failed to make the finals after winning the flag the previous year. “We didn’t lose the plot in 2021 but if I reflect properly, there just wasn’t the same insane connection between the playing group that had been our suit of armour from 2017 to 2020," he wrote.
“I still loved Dimma and still respected him as a coach … but I am not sure my relationship with him ever got back to the level it had been before,” he said. “For whatever reason, there always seemed to be a bit of a barrier between us. Maybe it wasn’t just the captain and the coach; maybe it was emblematic of the group’s connection that season.
Cotchin also spoke on the all-time spray Hardwick gave the Tigers in his final game as the club's coach, after suffering a one-point loss in Round 10 to Essendon this year, that saw them drop to 14th on the ladder. He said Hardwick called the performance "putrid" and labelled the Essendon side a "bunch of spuds".
The following Monday Hardwick informed Cotchin that he would be stepping down as coach, publicly announcing his decision on Tuesday. Months later, Hardwick was announced as the new head coach of the Gold Coast Suns for next season, signing a bumper six-year contract.
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