Third AFL coach reportedly splits with wife after tumultuous year

Sam Goodwin
·Sports Editor
·4-min read
Damien Hardwick and Nathan Buckley, pictured here before separating from their wives.
Damien Hardwick and Nathan Buckley both recently split from their wives. Image: Getty/Instagram

A third AFL coach has reportedly split with his wife following the marriage breakdowns of Nathan Buckley and Damien Hardwick.

Collingwood coach Buckley and Richmond counterpart Hardwick both separated from their wives in 2020, with multiple reports that a third coach has also split with his wife.

Buckley and wife Tania announced their separation in November, while Hardwick’s new relationship with a club staff member emerged in December.

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Reports emerged over the weekend that another coach’s marriage has now ended, with the tumultuous and trying year that was 2020 now back in the spotlight.

“Growing pressure, expectation and time demands on a senior coach have never been greater than last season when Victorian clubs were forced into hubs for up to four months to keep the season alive,” wrote Reece Homfray of the Herald Sun on Sunday.

“Away from family and friends and living in a bubble they were without the usual support networks they would have in place but compounding the situation is they too were unable to provide the same support back home.”

The pressure and stress placed on AFL coaches is also being looked at, with former Adelaide Crows coach Don Pyke expressing his concerns after stepping down in 2019.

“What Don was talking to, is it different now to say what it was five years ago? I think what he was explaining, for him part of the decision (to quit) was, he clearly did own where he was with the players and the group and part of the functional responsibilities, but also part of the reason for the decision he made was because of the pressure and stress not just on him but on his family,” AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan said of Pyke’s comments.

“That’s what was heard. That is consistent with ... the mental health, and there is a lot in all that, it’s the biggest issue with our players.

“What you are hearing from Don, and others, is it’s just not the players, it’s the coaches and others. There is a lot of pressure ... yeah, you get paid well and that’s the job and I think that’s fair, but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.”

Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson expressed similar sentiments when Rhyce Shaw quit as North Melbourne coach last year.

“I’m a bit concerned for our profession,” Clarkson told AFL 360 at the time.

“Especially my 17 peers in the roles that we’ve got.

“We’ve always looked after everyone else in the club and put everyone else in the club before ourselves.

“It might be time for us to take stock ourselves of just what our workflow is and our schedule because it’s now getting to a point where we’re seeing some real casualties out of our industry.”

Damien Hardwick, pictured here after the 2020 AFL Grand Final between Richmond and Geelong.
Damien Hardwick speaks after the 2020 AFL Grand Final between Richmond and Geelong. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/AFL Photos/via Getty Images)

Hardwick not in breach over new relationship

Last week Richmond announced Hardwick’s relationship with a member of the club’s administration staff had been approved.

The 48-year-old confirmed in December he had split with wife Danielle, with whom he has three children.

There has been speculation in recent days a new relationship between Hardwick and a female member of the Tigers’ commercial sales team could put pressure on the long-time coach's position, which he has held since 2010.

But Richmond released a statement declaring the new relationship is not in breach of club policy.

“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.”

Hardwick, who led Richmond to a third flag in four years during a turbulent 2020 campaign, is on an extended off-season break away from the club.

with AAP

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