AFL premiership coach Damien Hardwick opens up on his new relationship with a younger club staffer after shock marriage split - and how Richmond players took the news
AFL supercoach Damien Hardwick has opened up for the first time about his shock marriage split and how his Richmond Tigers players reacted the bombshell news.
The three-time premiership coach rocked the sporting world in December with the news that he had separated from wife and the mother of his three children Danielle, whom he often referred to in the media as 'Mrs Hardwick'.
He's understood to be in a new relationship with Tigers sales representative Alexandra Crow, which is believed to have started during the club's quarantine bubble in Queensland during the 2020 season.
Hardwick was forced to publicly discuss his marriage split for the first time when he was grilled about the matter on Melbourne breakfast radio on Monday.
He was reluctant to go into too much personal detail but admitted the separation hadn't been easy for those involved.
'These things happen in all walks of life and they're not easy on anyone, but all we ask is for the respect for both myself and Danielle so we can move forward,' Hardwick told SEN radio on Monday.
'I'm very much of the opinion that people's private lives should be just that, private.
'I know sections of the media won't treat it that way, but that's how I'm treating it first and foremost.
'Danielle and I's priority is our three beautiful kids… to finish the topic off really, it's been a difficult time for everyone and out of respect it's something I'm not comfortable speaking about.'
Hardwick addressed the matter with Tigers players on the first day of pre-season training so it wouldn't become a distraction or affect his relationship with the team in lead up to the first round in March.
He admitted it was an ‘open and honest’ discussion as the Tigers strive for their third AFL premiership in a row, and fourth in five seasons.
'The reality was the first day back I had to speak to the players about it. That's something we do at the club and it's important we did so to get on with the business of preparing for round one,' Hardwick said.
'We just finished a terrific pre-season camp, we always speak about things that are distractions in our lives and distractions and the demise of great teams, that's the reality of competition.
'Sides will always continually deal with those distractions, but it's the side that deals with them the best that comes out on top and we're now fully focused on preparing for round one.'
His estranged wife Danielle is well-liked within the close-knit club and spent Christmas with the young family of Tigers captain Trent Cotchin in the wake of the separation.
'My players are understanding of my situation and where we're at, but what I've also got to understand is there's a lot of staff and players that are incredibly close to Danielle and my family,' Hardwick added.
'The fact of the matter is my entire family has been a massive part and will continue to be a massive part of the Richmond Football Club and I'm glad they're supporting her (Danielle).
'This isn't about taking sides, it's just about making sure what's best for everyone.'
'It was important that the first time they saw me, I spoke about it openly and honestly. That was the reality of the situation and until I did that we couldn't really move forward.'
He gave an emphatic 'no' when asked of the matter was addressed with his players while holed up in their Queensland hub in lead up to their grand final win in October.
Hardwick bluntly shut down further questions about his personal life five minutes into the interview and steered the conversation towards less private matters.
'This is something this personal, I think I've dealt with enough questions. I'm here to talk about the footy so let's get moving,' he said.
'The media has a job to do and that's part and parcel of what we've got to do and I understand that but you've got to understand my personal life is just that.
'I'm a football coach first and foremost and that's what I'm here to speak about.'
Daily Mail Australia revealed last month that Hardwick was reportedly seen 'arm-in-arm' with Ms Crowe long before they spent time together in the Richmond Tigers' Covid-safe team hub.
The Tigers coach was previously understood to have started dating the club's sales representative Alexandra Crow while in the team's biosecure team bubble during the 2020 season.
Daily Mail Australia was told by friends that Ms Crow's ex-partner 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.
Hardwick is one of several current AFL coaches to have split with their wives since December.
Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley and his wife Tania announced they split earlier in 2020 after 18 years of marriage.
Hardwick confirmed his separated a week later before Melbourne Demons coach Simon Goodwin recently revealed he had separated from his high school sweetheart Maggie after 15 years of marriage.
It's addition to a string of other high profile AFL splits including Geelong Cats star Gary Rohan and wife Amie, former North Melbourne star Majak Daw and partner Emily McKay, along with Cats champion Jimmy Bartel and his glamourous former wife Nadia.
Hardwick has famously previously referred to his wife in media interviews as 'Mrs Hardwick'.
He revealed how he was convinced by his wife to select Marlion Pickett to make his AFL debut in the 2019 grand final.
Pickett became an integral part of the Tigers line-up with 19 games this season, including a second victorious grand final.
'I must admit, she was pushing Marlion harder than anyone,' Hardwick told Channel Nine's AFL Footy Show the day after Pickett's memorable debut in 2019.
'She goes, 'You've just got to play him he's too good'.
'She's been a terrific supporter of mine and behind every man is a great woman and I'm very fortunate.'
In 2018, Hardwick confessed in a pre-match interview with Triple M he had a few sleepless nights following his side loss in Perth.
'It comes from the Mrs Hardwick no win no love,' he quipped.
'I'm a bit flat, boys!'
Earlier this season Hardwick confessed in a press conference he was told off by his wife in the wake of his 'out of line' complaints about Sydney's defensive tactics.
'It was a shocker on my behalf,' Hardwick said.
'It was out of line. I was probably frustrated and let the situation get the better of me.
'I called up Horse (Swans coach John Longmire) and apologised. It was out of line on my behalf, so we had a good conversation and we moved on pretty quickly. I'll just worry about what I can control and continue to do that.
'(Mrs Hardwick) wasn't overly happy with the press conference. She gave me a dressing down after it.