Jack Riewoldt expects Damien Hardwick to coach again, saying it would be a shame if the Richmond great does not return to the AFL.
Hardwick, 50, has stunned the game by abruptly ending his time at the Tigers and will take an extended break.
There is predictably rampant speculation about whether he will be back in the AFL, and in what capacity.
“It would be a loss to the game if he didn’t coach again … I would be really disappointed if one of the great coaches of modern footy is not coaching,” Riewoldt told AFL360 on Tuesday night.
“He still has plenty in the tank.”
Riewoldt was one of Hardwick’s favourite players at Punt Rd and they worked together for 289 games – the second-highest total for a coach and player in VFL/AFL history.
They were key figures in the 2017, ’19 and ’20 premiership teams that returned Richmond to powerhouse status in the AFL after decades of failure.
But as Riewoldt said, it was not all molly-coddling – he noted Hardwick was always ready with a stern word if needed.
Riewoldt, 34, also said his coach stuck by him through the hard times in his outstanding playing career.
“At some of my lowest points, when I’ve been performing really poorly, he’s welcomed me into his house on a Tuesday/Wednesday night and said ‘right, let’s have three beers each and let’s just figure this out. What’s going on?'” he said.
Assistant coach Andrew McQualter will now take over for the rest of the season and the Tigers are upbeat about their future.
“There’s an exciting new chapter that starts now,” Riewoldt said.
Asked if the overriding emotion was sadness or pride, Riewoldt said there was a sense of celebration at what they had achieved under Hardwick.
There was also humour at Hardwick’s resignation media conference and some of it was at Riewoldt’s expense.
“This isn’t about you, for once in your life … he’ll be deeply embarrassed about that but it just sums up Jack to be fair,” Hardwick said with a broad grin.
The context was Hardwick contacting him after Riewoldt had struggled in Saturday night’s Dreamtime At The ‘G match, which Richmond lost to Essendon by one point and proved to be the coach’s last AFL match with the Tigers.
“I’ve been thrown under the bus there,” Riewoldt, 34, said that evening.
“Getting to the end of your career and obviously I had one rough game on the weekend and I’m getting a bit older.
“I get a text from him, he goes ‘hey mate, are you free to catch up today’ and I’ve just gone ‘oh no, I’m getting wound up here.’
“He called me and I said to him ‘maybe I was half-expecting this a little bit’ and then he goes ‘it’s not about you, mate, it’s about me’.”
Getty images/Michael Dodge