EXCLUSIVE: Why friends suspect top coach Damien Hardwick and his mistress may have been together as far back as the Tigers' historic 2019 premiership victory
Richmond coach Damien Hardwick and his lover Alexandra Crow were suspected by friends of having an affair as far back as the Tigers' historic 2019 premiership win.
As revelations of the relationship threaten to derail the opening of the club's 2021 season, Daily Mail Australia has been told friends of Ms Crow's ex-partner Daniel Giese long suspected a third party.
'They started when I first heard she was going out with Daniel a few years ago, her heart wasn’t into it and kept Daniel hanging on a leash, so to speak,' a friend said.
The former partner of Ms Crow is among the top executives at Carlton Football Club.
He was living with Ms Crow at their $1.2 million Ascot Vale home when the relationship with three-time premiership coach started.
A friend of Giese's, who asked to remain anonymous, told Daily Mail Australia Ms Crow was notably absent from a wedding she had been invited to with Mr Giese in Bali during the Tigers' premiership-winning 2019 season.
'She came up with an excuse that she had no more leave which I found strange as they both knew about the wedding 15 months prior,' the friend said.
Mr Giese apparently appeared unsettled on the trip, causing concern among his mates that all was not well at home.
'All I know is that my intuition was never wrong about her and I knew I should have said something but I didn’t want to get involved,' the friend said.
Ms Crow missed the wedding in the same year she took to Twitter to gush over the Richmond coach.
'Hi @damienhardwick, first time caller long time listener. Just wondering when you will be getting a statue,' she wrote upon Hardwick equalling Tigers legend Jack Dyer's coaching record.
Mr Giese and Danielle Hardwick, who apparently learnt of her husband's affair during a trip to the team hub in Queensland last year, cut forlorn figures after news broke of the affair this week.
The Tigers coach has not been spotted in public with his new lover - a Richmond sales representative - since news of the scandal broke this week.
It is understood the pair remain in hiding at a rental property in trendy Elwood, on the shores of Port Phillip Bay.
Mr Giese was seen going out for a bike ride on Wednesday morning after fielding numerous inquiries from Melbourne's footy-mad media.
He declined to comment when approached by Daily Mail Australia.
The successful salesman, who is general manager of consumer business at Carlton, is revered among Blues fans for his open and honest interaction with them about their club memberships.
Mr Giese can be seen actively engaging with fans on footy forums where he toils to meet their lofty expectations of the club.
He was recruited to Carlton in 2018 after spending almost three years in a near identical role at Melbourne Storm.
It remains unclear if he worked alongside his ex-partner at Richmond, who continues to work with the club's commercial sales team.
Records show Mr Giese jointly purchased their home in May 2019, about two months before Ms Crow hit Twitter praising her future lover.
Hardwick's relationship with the young Richmond staffer allegedly developed while the pair were caged inside the Queensland hub.
The hub, introduced so the competition could continue during the pandemic, has been blamed for putting pressure on families.
Daily Mail Australia has been told the Richmond coach began the taboo relationship with Ms Crow - known widely as Alex - during the Tigers' time in the hub while still married.
Hardwick allegedly split with his wife last month with the endorsement of the Richmond hierarchy.
The Tigers remain committed to Hardwick despite intense speculation he was preparing to stand down or be walked out.
The club has confirmed it's aware of the relationship between the two.
While Hardwick has not been spotted publicly since before Christmas, he will be forced to face the scandal whether he likes it or not with the recommencement of training for the 2021 season scheduled to kick off this week.