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Richmond's board demands answers on club's poor form

Damien Hardwick is safe at Punt Road.

Damien Hardwick is safe at Punt Road. Photo: Getty Images

EXCLUSIVE


The president of besieged Richmond says radical overhaul at the club would be pointless and, while sorely disappointed by a “temporary setback” on-field, has backed coach Damien Hardwick unequivocally.

Eight months into her trailblazing appointment, Peggy O’Neal described a “routine” board meeting this week when the Tigers hierarchy posed several burning questions to the club’s general manager of football. The board requested at Tuesday’s sitting that the football boss, Dan Richardson, report back in June.

O’Neal told Fairfax Media:
* she was entirely confident in the capabilities of Richmond’s football department to examine in “minute detail” the reasons behind the club's 2-6 start.
* the team’s recent inability to cover experienced players like Brett Deledio, Ivan Maric and Alex Rance “may have been a reality check about the depth of our list”.
* on-field performances had “gone backwards”, but she echoed the sentiment of Tigers CEO, Brendon Gale, that “internally we’re probably harder on each other than any external evaluation of our performance”.

In November, O’Neal said a return to finals in 2014 would be a pass mark for the side. She also set the additional challenge of winning a final. At round ten, however, Richmond has slumped to 16th but the president said it would be counter-intuitive to order rash moves.

“I’m as disappointed as any fan. But I think fans can take confidence in knowing that everything that can be done, is being done to assess the reasons for this,” O’Neal said.

“The football performance has gone backwards from where we were last year, but it doesn’t mean that the entire direction of the club is wrong. We believe this is a temporary setback.

“If you just keep changing directions you’re always just starting all over,” she said.

After the club’s general manager of football, Dan Richardson, debriefed on the team’s recent run of losses at a scheduled meeting of the board on Tuesday, O’Neal said: “Nobody is pointing fingers or casting blame. We’re very united in that we have a lot of bright, solid people around the board table and around the club. And we have confidence that we can see our way through, that we will help each other, and that we bring the best decision-making process we can to deal with issues as they arise.

“So if we ask Dan questions, sometimes we don’t expect an answer immediately. We want people to go away and collect their thoughts, collect the information and then come back.”

O’Neal would not specify the football-related issues the board was most interested in. She was only willing to make the general statement that: “As a board we just want some assurance that management is looking at issues that we think are important. And we were assured, by what Dan says, that they are.”

While some club boards receive a presentation from their senior coach at every meeting, typically at Richmond the coach presents only three times per year: pre-season, mid-year and post-season. Presently, it makes Richardson the consistent conduit between the football department and the club’s ultimate decision-making committee.

“That’s the pattern. It has been our pattern for years,” O’Neal, in her ninth year on the Tigers’ board, said. “Other clubs may do it differently, but we think the head of football is the appropriate person to come in.”

O’Neal said a review of Richmond’s football department was unnecessary since Hardwick’s contract was extended last December after an examination that the president termed “very current”.

Hardwick’s previous deal was to expire at the end this year but, after returning the Tigers to finals last year for the first time since 2001, Hardwick was offered a deal binding him to Richmond until the end of 2016.

“We had no doubt, based on the performance review, and the review from the head of football and the CEO, that he was the right person for the job,” O’Neal said.

Asked if the board remained convinced Hardwick was the coach to direct Richmond to its 11th premiership, O’Neal said: “We did and we do. And we stand by that definitely.I understand the interest, but no one has ever said anything other than that Damien is the coach for us.”

After losing to Melbourne last weekend, following the honouring of deceased club icon Tom Hafey, O’Neal would not forecast on what a loss to the 17th placed Giants would mean this week.

“The sooner we win the better everybody feels, and the more we lose the worse everybody feels,” she said.
 

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