Suns sharpen Hardwick, but coaching love never wavered

Murray Wenzel |

Damien Hardwick said he never had any doubt about his “second coming” as an AFL coach.
Damien Hardwick said he never had any doubt about his “second coming” as an AFL coach.

Damien Hardwick wanted a week off after his AFL coaching return.

Not because of the actual coaching, though.

The new Gold Coast coach spent his first pre-game press conference surrounded by bottles of full-cream milk in a not-so-subtle nod to new “coaches’ partner” Dairy Farmers.

Hardwick began and finished that exchange with a milk pun, then did the same after a 39-point defeat of his former club Richmond, who he had led to three flags before suddenly departing midway through last season. 

“I’ve done more TikToks and Twitter feeds … I said to the guys I’m looking forward to a week off, it’s not my scene,” he said of the week leading into the much-hyped grudge match.

Hardwick had left the Tigers because he realised he “couldn’t give 100 per cent” anymore.

Soon after he admitted that a coaching return was a desire, the Suns’ chairman and chief executive were on a plane to chat to him while holidaying in Italy.

They secured him on a six-year deal, and after some lukewarm pre-season performances there was “anxiousness, nervousness, excitement and inner turmoil” ahead of the Richmond match. 

Damien Hardwick
It hasn’t taken Damien Hardwick long to feel settled in his new role as Gold Coast Suns coach. (Darren England/AAP PHOTOS)

However, with the dust settled on the clash – it drew the fourth-biggest crowd in Suns history and was the biggest not featuring Collingwood – Hardwick said he never had any doubt about his AFL coaching “second coming”.

“When you’re out of the game for six months, it’s funny you forget what you’ve done for a period of time,” he said on Thursday.

“Fourteen years in the senior coaching job is a long time, but it’s amazing from my point of view there’s some areas I’m thinking, ‘Gee, I’m not that sharp in that aspect of my coaching at the moment’.

“I’ve enjoyed the aspect of coming to a new club, new challenge, new group of players, new coaching staff.

“I’m very, very fortunate to do what I do. I love it.

“I’ve always loved coaching. There’s a bullet out there with our name on it. The end’s going to come, so I’ve got a sense of gratitude as being very, very fortunate in what I do.”