Hardwick, Tigers grew from 2016 AFL dramas

Damien Hardwick says Richmond's 2016 disaster has laid the foundation for club's recent success.
Damien Hardwick says Richmond's 2016 disaster has laid the foundation for club's recent success.

Damien Hardwick is happy to talk about Richmond's 2016 AFL season from hell - just so long as they never go back there.

The lessons they learned three years ago have proven critical, especially around mindset and psychology, and Hardwick is certain they never would have been so successful without those dramas.

Hardwick and Geelong coach Chris Scott struck a fascinating contrast this week ahead of Friday night's qualifying final.

Scott was testy at his Tuesday media conference and fired a shot across the Tigers' bow, saying they are not as good as a year ago.

Two days later, Hardwick cut a joking and relaxed figure at his pre-game presser.

Hardwick was asked about the comments from Don Pyke a week ago, when the departing Adelaide coach spoke of the game's intense pressures.

The Tigers coach learned the hard way about needing to lighten the mood at Punt Rd.

Hardwick was no certainty to keep his job when they dropped out of the top eight in 2016.

He also had, by his own admission, become a stress head.

"I've learned my lesson - 2016. Case in point," he said.

"I like to think our boys walk in with a smile, walk out with a smile most days.

"You watch them outside there today, they'll be playing cricket, they'll be doing something that will give me the s****.

"But the reality is, it's how they operate. It's a game."

He was asked if 2016 was the best thing that happened to coach and club.

"In hindsight - I don't want to go back," he said.

"I look back now and without 2016 we wouldn't be sitting anywhere near where we are today.

"We wouldn't have won that flag ... we wouldn't be sitting here playing in our third prelim.

"You often learn most in your darkest times and no doubt that happened to me and this football club.

His comments are also topical in the wake of Danny Frawley's tragic death and the renewed focus on mental health.

Hardwick said Frawley was one of a few people in his life who would make him laugh just by looking at them.

The others are Richmond great Matthew Richardon and Hardwick's children.

This begged the obvious question - he hasn't mentioned Mrs Hardwick in a media conference for a while.

That quickly shut down Thursday's gathering.

"I'm in the bad books at the moment," he said of his wife Danielle.

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Australian Associated Press