Former St Kilda midfielder Nick Dal Santo has warned off-field drama surrounding Damien Hardwick’s personal life could have a “ripple effect” within the Richmond Football Club.
On Monday, Richmond confirmed Hardwick was in a relationship with a member of its administration staff just weeks after it was revealed he had separated from his wife, Danielle.
“The club is aware that coach Damien Hardwick is currently in a relationship with a member of the club’s administration staff,” the statement read. “The club has no concerns with this under club policy. Beyond this, it is a private matter and we ask that privacy be respected.”
But the Herald Sun reported the ordeal has “rocked staff within the club and could affect the playing group”.
The Age reported that Richmond confirmed that Hardwick had to have the relationship approved by the club’s human resources to continue as coach of the club.
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Speaking to 1116 SEN Melbourne on Tuesday morning, Dal Santo believed the bombshell news could impact the playing group more than anticipated.
“I would not be surprised if this one had a little ripple effect,” Dal Santo said. “It’s someone who you admire and that you respect, and something has changed.
“Clearly this will have some sort of conversation, or you’d assume will need to have some sort of conversation. That’s not unusual in footy clubs, particularly when it’s your full-time job. You see these guys all day, every day.
“This is a challenge, there’s no doubt about that.”
Although he suggested the off-field drama could pose some problems within the club, Dal Santo applauded Richmond’s resilience when faced with adversity throughout the 2020 premiership.
“This club’s had challenges last year off the bat,” Dal Santo said. “They go to the hub, and they were the most spoken about club, and they had issues internally, and people weren’t happy with their accommodation.
“There was issues, there were guys going out getting in scuffles … yet they go on and got the job done at the end of the day.
“We used to say to ourselves, ‘No matter what happens, when it’s your time to perform … you need to perform and do your job for that two particular hours’. That’s how we used to treat it, and that’s what the Tigers would be speaking about, that it is business as usual.
“Players (also) have things that happen off-field, yet your job is to perform on the weekend, and that is normally solely on what you’re judged on.
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“The really good clubs — and the Tigers are one of the great clubs — always seem to find a way to put it to a particular position, deal with it when you have to, and ultimately go out and play excellent football.
“Just because you play football, you’re not immune to what everyone else in the world is going through.
“You drink, there’s gambling, there’s relationship issues. This is going on all the time.
“But you just deal with it, and it’s about who can manage it the best.”
Hardwick, one of the most successful coaches of the modern era, has guided the Tigers to three premierships in the past four years, including last year’s triumph against the Geelong Cats.
Richmond are scheduled to return to training on Monday, and will kick-off the 2021 season with a Melbourne derby against Carlton at the MCG on Thursday, March 18.