JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

Hardwick's evolution


Caroline Wilson

From the top: Hardwick playing at Essendon in 1995; his then coach Kevin Sheedy in 1996; Hardwick playing with Port in 2002; Mark Williams and Hardwick celebrate a semi-final win over Essendon in 2003; Hardwick coaching Richmond against St Kilda this year.  <i>Photos: Getty Images, Vince Caligiuri, Bryan Charlton and Sebastian Costanzo</i>

From the top: Hardwick playing at Essendon in 1995; his then coach Kevin Sheedy in 1996; Hardwick playing with Port in 2002; Mark Williams and Hardwick celebrate a semi-final win over Essendon in 2003; Hardwick coaching Richmond against St Kilda this year. Photos: Getty Images, Vince Caligiuri, Bryan Charlton and Sebastian Costanzo

DAMIEN Hardwick's playing journey to the AFL's 200 club came under the senior tutelage of just two men - Kevin Sheedy and Mark Williams. While Sheedy at Essendon would never have believed his ruthless defender would finish up coaching, Hardwick's transformation at Port Adelaide convinced Williams he was made for the job.

And today, for the first time, Hardwick will take on his two old mentors combined as their young Giants challenge Richmond at Skoda Stadium. The paths of the three men have crossed many times, but the sliding doors that have led them to this round 12 clash could have been so very different.

Despite their friendship and mutual admiration, Hardwick has twice rejected working under Williams as an assistant coach. Immediately after Port Adelaide's 2004 premiership, Hardwick retired at the age of 32 and knocked back an opportunity to remain at the Power, instead joining another Williams assistant, Alastair Clarkson, in his first season at Hawthorn.

''He was a major contributor to the way we won the premiership and the way we wanted the team to play,'' Williams told The Saturday Age. ''We recruited him from Essendon to play a specific role and he delivered in spades. We probably took him away from being a bit-player in the Bombers' flag [in 2000] to a major contributor in ours. He gave the players around him certainty, players like Josh Carr and Byron Pickett. There was no nonsense when he was around. No backward steps.

''At the end of 2004, I wanted Damien to stay and be an assistant coach, but I think his family wanted to go back to Melbourne. In fact, Damien came up with the tag: 'Happy wife, happy life.' Anyone who knows him knows who runs the show in that house, and you can put that in and everyone will laugh in agreement.''

Hardwick responded with a laugh: ''He [Williams] can talk! He's right, though. I'm certainly not the boss in my house.''

Williams and Hardwick came together again at the end of 2009. Port Adelaide's long-time coach had been recontracted but his relationship with the club was deteriorating and both coach and club believed Hardwick returning as part of a potential succession plan could invigorate both parties.

Hardwick flew to Adelaide to meet Williams, former Port chief executive Mark Haysman and football boss Peter Rohde, but was already heavily involved in the process for the Richmond position and took the senior job when it was offered.

''I've got no doubt our paths will cross again at some stage,'' said Hardwick of Williams. ''I've always loved teaching kids and that's probably the thing I learnt from 'Choco' [Williams]. I'll always maintain he was one of the best teachers I ever had.''

Hardwick's old teammate Matthew Lloyd has often commented that Hardwick was the last person of those he respected as a player who would turn to coaching. Lloyd joked on 3AW recently that Hardwick hated warm-ups and his idea of warming down after training was to turn on the seat warmer in his car on the drive home. Hardwick was also notorious in his disdain for meetings.

That observation was put to Kevin Sheedy this week and Sheedy - under whom Hardwick earned not only a premiership but All-Australian honours that year and a best-and-fairest two seasons earlier - responded with a high-five in agreement.

Agreeing that his attitude had changed by the time he moved to Port, Hardwick commented on Lloyd's observation. ''The meetings are quicker now and more to the point and more meaningful. I also think having kids changed me and I became a father quite young - at 24.

''I've been really privileged to be part of two very, very good sides, but when I came to Port Adelaide I couldn't believe how advanced they were in areas like IT, which I love. We probably went from Essendon which was, well, OK in that area, to Port which was cutting edge.''

Sheedy and Hardwick were both running late for Wednesday night's Hall of Fame induction ceremony and found themselves walking in together. The two men enjoyed catching up, although Sheedy spent much of the conversation attempting to extract details of Richmond's team for today's game.

It is a fascinating exercise to consider what may have happened if Hardwick had replaced Sheedy at Essendon at the end of 2007, as he so very nearly did. In fact the two men both made it to the final stage of the Melbourne senior coaching process that year - the job going to another Williams and Sheedy protege, Dean Bailey. And Sheedy famously put up his hand for the Richmond position two years later after Terry Wallace was removed.

It is a matter of public record that Hardwick's computer malfunction helped cost him the Essendon job Sheedy had held for 27 years. But it is also true that he was nervous, did not sufficiently engage his interviewers and did not satisfy the Bombers' board with some of his answers.

Hardwick was also up against it from the start, pitched against Bendigo Bombers coach Matthew Knights, who had won the admiration of then chief executive Peter Jackson.

Hardwick's admirers at Hawthorn - by the end of 2007 he had worked under Clarkson for three years - were surprised by his treatment at Essendon and stunned that a board would not send him away and instruct him to begin again after his technology had failed him. But Hardwick would say now that he was perhaps not quite ready for senior coaching.

Either way, it is an intriguing question whether James Hird would be coaching the club now had Hardwick and not Knights won the job. Both Sheedy and Hardwick made it through the first stage of the Melbourne coaching interviews that year. Sheedy was burnt out, tired and had little knowledge of the Demons' side and seemed unprepared. Hardwick was raw and perhaps too Hawthorn-centric in his coaching assessment. And yet some who took part in the Demons' search for Neale Daniher's replacement felt he should have been more strongly considered for the job as a young, developing coach who could have gone all the way with a young, developing team.

While not as educated where Melbourne the club, its culture and therefore the team was concerned, Hardwick was university educated and came across as intelligent - more sincere and less of a salesman. In terms of his knowledge of the team he wanted to coach, this was a failing Hardwick would more than rectify in interviews with Richmond two years later.

Richmond respected Sheedy enough to speak to him about the coaching position in 2009 - he held a meeting with football chief Craig Cameron - but as far as the Tigers and Sheedy coaching them was concerned, that ship had already sailed. Sheedy withdrew his application, reading the play.

Despite Williams' thoughts about the pull of family back to Melbourne, Hardwick says it was also about wanting to climb on board with his great friend Clarkson at Hawthorn.

Williams lost so many staff after the 2004 premiership that he barely had time to smell the roses of his club's first AFL flag and Hardwick, too, regrets that the demands of his life now afford him little opportunity to reunite with both his 2000 and 2004 premiership sides.

But Williams still takes great pride in the fact that four of his Port Adelaide men - Hardwick, Brendon Lade, Blair Hartley and Matt Hornsby, are working off the field to revive Richmond.

Hardwick mused that Sheedy and Williams were similar in many ways. He singled out Sheedy for his consistency in ''always making you feel special and always knowing about your family and understanding your background.

''He was always trying to get the best out of me.

''They are two great examples of the human side of football and the wonderful people you can meet.''

Related Coverage

HuffPost Australia

AFL 2015

Round 1
Thu, 02 AprTimes shown AEDT
CAR 78vs RIC 105 Report Stats
Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
MEL 115vs GCF 89 Stats
SYD 72vs ESS 60 Stats
BRI 74vs COL 86 Stats
WBU 97vs WCE 87 Stats
Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEST
STK 78vs GWS 87 Stats
ADE 140vs NTH 63 Stats
FRE 75vs PTA 68 Stats
Mon, 06 AprTimes shown AEST
HAW 123vs GEE 61 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
WCE 131vs CAR 62 Stats
Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
RIC 66vs WBU 85 Report Stats
GWS 101vs MEL 56 Stats
COL 63vs ADE 90 Report Stats
GCF 76vs STK 104 Stats
PTA 44vs SYD 92 Stats
Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
GEE 60vs FRE 104 Stats
ESS 78vs HAW 76 Stats
NTH 133vs BRI 51 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
COL 140vs STK 66 Stats
Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
CAR 84vs ESS 105 Stats
ADE 80vs MEL 55 Stats
SYD 111vs GWS 90 Report Stats
NTH 105vs PTA 113 Stats
BRI 58vs RIC 137 Stats
Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
HAW 127vs WBU 57 Stats
GEE 105vs GCF 96 Stats
WCE 81vs FRE 111 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
RIC 51vs MEL 83 Stats
Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
STK 81vs CAR 121 Report Report Stats
ESS 49vs COL 69 Report Stats
GWS 119vs GCF 53 Stats
PTA 99vs HAW 91 Stats
FRE 74vs SYD 60 Stats
Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
BRI 65vs WCE 118 Stats
GEE 67vs NTH 83 Stats
WBU 125vs ADE 68 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR 45vs COL 120 Stats
Sat, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
RIC 76vs GEE 85 Stats
SYD 73vs WBU 77 Stats
GCF 118vs BRI 54 Stats
NTH 70vs HAW 130 Stats
WCE 120vs GWS 33 Stats
Sun, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
MEL 50vs FRE 118 Stats
STK 80vs ESS 82 Stats
ADE 91vs PTA 115 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
COL 59vs GEE 100 Stats
Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
NTH 109vs RIC 74 Stats
WBU 87vs STK 94 Stats
GWS 108vs HAW 98 Stats
GCF 78vs ADE 119 Stats
MEL 50vs SYD 88 Stats
FRE 80vs ESS 52 Stats
Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR 75vs BRI 84 Report Stats
PTA 68vs WCE 78 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS 82vs NTH 93 Stats
Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
ADE 119vs STK 73 Stats
HAW 155vs MEL 50 Stats
CAR 57vs GWS 135 Stats
SYD 120vs GEE 77 Stats
WCE 135vs GCF 43 Stats
Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
WBU 88vs FRE 101 Stats
RIC 105vs COL 100 Report Stats
BRI 102vs PTA 65 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
GEE 140vs CAR 63 Report Stats
Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
STK 78vs WCE 131 Report Stats
GWS 108vs ADE 84 Report Stats
GCF 63vs COL 132 Report Stats
HAW 69vs SYD 73 Report Stats
FRE 115vs NTH 42 Report Stats
Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS 136vs BRI 78 Report Stats
MEL 103vs WBU 64 Report Stats
PTA 43vs RIC 76 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
SYD 122vs CAR 62 Report Stats
Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
HAW 93vs GCF 40 Report Stats
MEL 54vs PTA 115 Report Stats
WBU 113vs GWS 68 Report Stats
RIC 72vs ESS 59 Report Stats
ADE 57vs FRE 68 Report Stats
Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
BRI 86vs STK 108 Report Stats
COL 112vs NTH 95 Report Stats
WCE 120vs GEE 64 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 10
Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
FRE 70vs RIC 97 Report Stats
Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR 90vs ADE 99 Report Stats
GCF 41vs SYD 93 Report Stats
ESS 53vs GEE 122 Report Stats
PTA 100vs WBU 62 Report Stats
Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
GWS 97vs BRI 67 Report Stats
NTH 85vs WCE 75 Report Stats
STK 69vs HAW 132 Report Stats
Mon, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
MEL 85vs COL 110 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 11
Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
PTA 69vs GEE 92 Report Stats
Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
GCF 46vs FRE 53 Report Stats
WCE 96vs ESS 46 Report Stats
NTH 75vs SYD 91 Report Report Stats
Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
COL 119vs GWS 77 Report Stats
STK 85vs MEL 83 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 12
Thu, 18 JunTimes shown AEST
ADE 85vs HAW 114 Report Stats
Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
RIC 70vs WCE 90 Report Stats
Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR 110vs PTA 106 Report Stats
GWS 61vs NTH 117 Report Stats
WBU 146vs BRI 74 Report Stats
Sun, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
GEE 89vs MEL 113 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 13
Thu, 25 JunTimes shown AEST
FRE 80vs COL 73 Report Stats
Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
SYD 77vs RIC 95 Report Stats
Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
HAW 114vs ESS 76 Report Stats
BRI 69vs ADE 82 Report Stats
STK 56vs WBU 62 Report Stats
Sun, 28 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR 103vs GCF 69 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 14
Thu, 02 JulTimes shown AEST
SYD 94vs PTA 84 Report Stats
Fri, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
COL 91vs HAW 101 Report Stats
Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC 78vs GWS 69 Report Stats
GCF 125vs NTH 70 Report Stats
WBU 64vs CAR 53 Report Stats
MEL 60vs WCE 114 Report Stats
Sun, 05 JulTimes shown AEST
ESS 52vs STK 162 Stats
ADE vs GEE 15:20Adelaide Oval
FRE 84vs BRI 48 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 15
Thu, 09 JulTimes shown AEST
PTA 66vs COL 63 Report Stats
Fri, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC 71vs CAR 41 Report Stats
Sat, 11 JulTimes shown AEST
ESS 69vs MEL 60 Report Stats
WBU 95vs GCF 73 Report Stats
NTH 120vs GEE 79 Report Stats
WCE 147vs ADE 91 Report Stats
Sun, 12 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS 84vs STK 49 Report Stats
HAW 115vs FRE 43 Report Stats
BRI 49vs SYD 70 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 16
Fri, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
NTH 93vs ESS 68 Report Stats
Sat, 18 JulTimes shown AEST
GEE 72vs WBU 64 Report Stats
GCF 79vs GWS 94 Report Stats
COL 56vs WCE 87 Report Stats
SYD 57vs HAW 146 Report Stats
FRE 95vs CAR 53 Report Stats
Sun, 19 JulTimes shown AEST
MEL 60vs BRI 36 Report Stats
PTA 113vs ADE 116 Report Stats
STK 73vs RIC 89 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 17
Fri, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
CAR 35vs HAW 173 Report Stats
Sat, 25 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS 42vs GEE 69 Stats
ADE 125vs GCF 80 Stats
RIC 78vs FRE 82 Stats
ESS 116vs PTA 129 Stats
BRI 38vs NTH 110 Report Stats
Sun, 26 JulTimes shown AEST
WBU 104vs COL 86 Report Stats
MEL 46vs STK 83 Report Stats
WCE 103vs SYD 51 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 18
Fri, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
HAW 53vs RIC 71 Report Stats
Sat, 01 AugTimes shown AEST
GEE 113vs BRI 57 Stats
COL 54vs MEL 91 Report Stats
SYD 117vs ADE 65 Report Stats
CAR 54vs NTH 118 Report Stats
GCF 83vs WCE 83 Report Stats
Sun, 02 AugTimes shown AEST
PTA 112vs STK 49 Report Stats
ESS 40vs WBU 127 Report Stats
FRE 84vs GWS 63 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 19
Fri, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
ADE 88vs RIC 52 Report Stats
Sat, 08 AugTimes shown AEST
COL 105vs CAR 87 Report Stats
WBU 128vs PTA 64 Report Stats
BRI 100vs GCF 114 Report Stats
GEE 95vs SYD 63 Report Stats
WCE 74vs HAW 88 Report Stats
Sun, 09 AugTimes shown AEST
MEL 92vs NTH 127 Report Stats
GWS 93vs ESS 61 Report Stats
STK 59vs FRE 96 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 20
Fri, 14 AugTimes shown AEST
SYD 87vs COL 76 Report Stats
Sat, 15 AugTimes shown AEST
ESS 59vs ADE 171 Report Stats
NTH 120vs STK 83 Report Stats
PTA 111vs GWS 90 Report Stats
GEE 85vs HAW 121 Report Stats
BRI 131vs CAR 67 Report Stats
Sun, 16 AugTimes shown AEST
RIC 138vs GCF 55 Report Stats
WBU 153vs MEL 55 Report Stats
FRE 80vs WCE 104 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 21
Fri, 21 AugTimes shown AEST
HAW 86vs PTA 108 Report Stats
Sat, 22 AugTimes shown AEST
COL 56vs RIC 147 Report Stats
GWS 44vs SYD 133 Report Stats
GCF 97vs ESS 95 Report Stats
STK 97vs GEE 97 Report Stats
ADE 131vs BRI 44 Report Stats
Sun, 23 AugTimes shown AEST
NTH 94vs FRE 83 Report Stats
CAR 78vs MEL 55 Report Stats
WCE 162vs WBU 85 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 22
Fri, 28 AugTimes shown AEST
GEE 62vs COL 110 Report Stats
Sat, 29 AugTimes shown AEST
GWS 132vs CAR 51 Report Stats
HAW 134vs BRI 62 Report Stats
NTH 73vs WBU 96 Report Stats
ESS 47vs RIC 74 Report Stats
GCF 51vs PTA 88 Report Stats
Sun, 30 AugTimes shown AEST
ADE 126vs WCE 69 Report Stats
STK 38vs SYD 135 Report Stats
FRE 108vs MEL 54 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 23
Fri, 04 SepTimes shown AEST
RIC 108vs NTH 67 Report Stats
Sat, 05 SepTimes shown AEST
GEE 119vs ADE 80 Report Stats
BRI 130vs WBU 122 Report Stats
PTA 122vs FRE 53 Report Stats
HAW 113vs CAR 56 Report Stats
SYD 127vs GCF 64 Report Stats
WCE 125vs STK 30 Report Stats
Sun, 06 SepTimes shown AEST
MEL 103vs GWS 77 Report Stats
COL 92vs ESS 95 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 24
Fri, 11 SepTimes shown AEST
WCE 96vs HAW 64 Report Stats
Sat, 12 SepTimes shown AEST
FRE 69vs SYD 60 Report Stats
WBU 102vs ADE 109 Report Stats
Sun, 13 SepTimes shown AEST
RIC 88vs NTH 105 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 25
Fri, 18 SepTimes shown AEST
HAW 135vs ADE 61 Report Stats
Sat, 19 SepTimes shown AEST
SYD 51vs NTH 77 Report Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 26
Fri, 25 SepTimes shown AEST
FRE 67vs HAW 94 Report Stats
Sat, 26 SepTimes shown AEST
WCE 80vs NTH 55 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 27
Sat, 03 OctTimes shown AEST
HAW 107vs WCE 61 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
AFL 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D % Pts
Fremantle 22 17 5 0 118.73 68
West Coast Eagles 22 16 5 1 148.22 66
Hawthorn 22 16 6 0 158.40 64
Sydney Swans 22 16 6 0 127.12 64
Richmond 22 15 7 0 123.09 60
Western Bulldogs 22 14 8 0 115.12 56
Adelaide Crows 21 13 8 0 115.71 54
North Melbourne 22 13 9 0 106.45 52
View all

Follow Us on Facebook

Featured advertisers