Premiership coach Hardwick quits AFL club Richmond
Richmond triple-premiership coach Damien Hardwick has made a shock decision to quit the AFL club with one-and-a-half years left on his contract, his status as a Tigers legend assured.
The exact reasons behind Hardwick's decision are unclear, although general burnout is understood to be a factor.
The 50-year-old, a veteran of 307 games at the helm, will address the issue at a press conference on Tuesday.
Hardwick will go down as one of Richmond's all-time greats, having led the club to premierships in 2017, 2019 and 2020 - the first of those triumphs ending a 37-year drought.
That success was crucial to the Tigers restoring their status as a competition heavyweight on and off the field.
But they look unlikely to play finals this season, with just three wins and a draw from the opening 10 rounds, and critics have called an end to the Tigers' golden era.
Hardwick gave no indication he was close to the end of his tenure when he spoke after the narrow loss to Essendon on Saturday night.
"We should be better than where we're positioned on the ladder," Hardwick said after the one-point defeat.
"I have to take some responsibility for that, but as a playing group we do have to also.
"We've got to get to work - the season's still alive."
It is unclear whether Hardwick will leave his post immediately or coach Richmond against Port Adelaide on Sunday.
Collingwood coach Craig McRae, who worked as an assistant to Hardwick at Richmond from the end of 2016 to 2020, said he was "shocked" upon hearing the news his former mentor had quit.
"Having worked with 'Dimma' (Hardwick), he's an incredible coach," McRae said.
"He's his own person and I'm sure the Richmond footy club will salute him well if it is the case."
Appearing on Fox Footy on Monday night, McRae and Adelaide counterpart Matthew Nicks agreed the pressure on senior AFL coaches was immense.
"It's a tough job. I'm not going to lie to you, it's relentless," McRae said.
"You've got to find the balance and he (Hardwick) has done it a long time."
A former hard-nosed defender who won premierships with Essendon (2000) and Port Adelaide (2004), Hardwick took over as coach of Richmond in 2010.
The Tigers won just six games in his first season at the helm and endured three consecutive elimination final defeats between 2013-15 before missing the finals in 2016.
There was huge pressure on Richmond and Hardwick at the end of that season but club powerbrokers resisted the urge to make a change and the decision paid huge dividends.
Hardwick steered the Tigers to a history-making premiership in 2017, the first of three in four seasons.
But they have played just one final since then; an elimination defeat to Brisbane last year.
Hardwick's career coaching record stands at 170-6-131.
He is Richmond's longest-serving coach and sits 22nd for the most AFL/VFL games coached in competition history.
Hardwick's bombshell decision will have a flow-on effect in the AFL coaching landscape.
Port Adelaide's Ken Hinkley is out of contract at the end of this season, West Coast's Adam Simpson is under mounting pressure after a horror run and Stuart Dew can hardly afford another year without September action at Gold Coast.
There is also doubt over Alastair Clarkson, who is taking indefinite leave from North Melbourne.