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Danielle Hardwick has opened up for the first time about her split with Richmond Tigers coach Damien Hardwick.
The three-time premiership coach left his wife last year and is now in a relationship with Alexandra Crow - a member of the club's commercial sales team.
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The sad marriage breakdown made headlines around the AFL world all year, but Danielle has maintained her silence until now.
Speaking to ABC radio in Melbourne on Saturday, Danielle said she is trying to move on with her life.
“I am Ms Hardwick now, I am not Mrs Hardwick anymore,” she said.
“I am doing my best to remain dignified, so how I am feeling is still a lot of mixed emotions for sure.
“There has been a serious grief process for myself and my gorgeous adult children and the grief is real.
“I guess when you plan a life with your best friend, your partner who you’ve spent your whole adult life with … there’s a definite loss when that’s not there anymore. So I’m on my way to being, well, OK, for sure.
“There’s certainly been every raw emotion that comes with this situation, but we all have a choice about how we will respond to these and I wanted to respond with dignity and respect my children.”
Damien and Danielle were married for 25 years and have three children together.
Danielle said she was “100 per cent still grieving the loss of what we had as a family and as a companion”.
“In your darkest times when you’re incurring trauma, you really find out what you’re about.
Danielle said she believed the way her ex-husband used to refer to her as "Mrs Hardwick" in press conferences "was a reflection of Damien and I being the ultimate team.
“It felt a bit of a negative connotation for me over the last part but ultimately it’s my identity and it has been my whole adult life, so I tried to turn what felt like a negative into a positive.
“I am Ms Hardwick now, I am not Mrs Hardwick anymore and it is a family name so we are going to continue to embrace it.”
Damien Hardwick opens up about marriage breakdown
Earlier this year, Hardwick said he had addressed the Tigers' playing group about his marriage breakdown immediately on his return to the club after an extended off-season break.
Danielle is close to a number of partners of Tigers players, so speculation swirled about how Hardwick's personal situation could impact the club's tilt at a third-straight premiership.
"It's important that the first time they (the players) saw me that I spoke about it openly and honestly," Hardwick told SEN.
"Until I did that, we couldn't really move forward. That was something we do at the club; it's important we did so we could get on with the business of preparing for round one.
Damien Hardwick and his new partner have been keeping a low profile since the Richmond coach separated from his wife, but the pair has been spotted in public.https://t.co/4PsAh580cv
— Herald Sun (@theheraldsun) February 28, 2021
"We always speak about things that are distractions in our lives and distractions that may bring about the demise of great teams.
"That's the reality of the competition, sides will continually deal with those distractions. My players are understanding of the situation and where we're at."
Brooke Cotchin, wife of Richmond captain Trent, is said to be extremely close to Danielle.
"What I've also got understand is that there's a lot of staff and players that are incredibly close to Danielle and my family," Hardwick said.
"My entire family's 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.
"It's not about taking sides, it's about making sure what's best for everyone."
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