Hardwick admits to nerves before Richmond clash

Murray Wenzel |

Gold Coast coach Damien Hardwick wants to make Carrara stadium a fortress for opposing teams.
Gold Coast coach Damien Hardwick wants to make Carrara stadium a fortress for opposing teams.

Damien Hardwick knows his Gold Coast side is a long way from “clicking” but it shouldn’t stop them from setting the scene against his visiting former AFL club.

The Suns’ Carrara stadium will host Saturday’s Opening Round clash against Richmond, where Hardwick won three flags in four years as coach before suddenly leaving his post midway through last season.

He was quickly wooed back to the game by the Gold Coast hierarchy, who want to break a finals drought that’s entering a 14th season since the club’s inception.

“We’ve got to fulfil our end of the bargain (to fans) and win some bloody games,” Hardwick said on Thursday in anticipation of a sell-out.

“We want to make it a venue where opposition sides are scared before they even come in here, (for it to be) a hairy task at best.

“So it’s about setting the scene.

“We’re not going to be at our very best early, but you don’t want to be playing your best footy now.

“We want to be playing a standard that will get the win, but we understand our best footy is well and truly still in front of us.”

The Suns were beaten by Brisbane and the Giants in pre-season clashes but have won the last three games against the Tigers, who will be without star duo Dustin Martin and Tom Lynch, and captain Toby Nankervis.

“We’re looking for 80 per cent of what we’re about and we haven’t been close to that at this stage,” Hardwick said of their pre-season form.

“Some things in our games we’ve done really, really well and some areas in our game we need to get better at.

“It is a long journey.”

Hardwick thinks the 2023 campaigns of preliminary finalists GWS and premiers Collingwood – both started slowly only to surge home – are a good benchmark for his team.

Their first-year coaches Adam Kingsley and Craig McRae both previously served under Hardwick at Richmond.

“It took a bit of time for it to click, but when they did get it, they got on a bit of a roll,” the Suns coach said.

“We’re in a similar boat; we hopefully get there a little earlier.

“Our competitiveness in and around the contest and our pressure are probably the two things.

“The fundamentals of the game haven’t changed. 

“If you win the ball and get it going forward your way it’ll be a good result, and then you pressure the ball behind it, it’s going to be a better result.”