Damien Hardwick has taken aim at keyboard warriors over nasty rumours about Alex Rance and his wife.
Rance, a devout Jehovah's Witness, announced his shock retirement from AFL in December to focus on his family and his religion.
Shortly after the announcement it emerged that Rance had split with wife Georgia after seven years, which sparked some awful rumours online.
Hardwick was asked about the furore on Friday and didn’t hold back.
“That’s what people do, they sit there and hide behind keyboards and it’s weak and it’s incredibly disappointing from my point of view,” the Richmond coach said.
“There’s no truth to it, there’s nothing to it. This man is a man who’s been devoted to his family and his faith for a long period of time and there’s nothing more sinister than that.”
There were minimal social media posts from Richmond players paying tribute to Rance in the immediate aftermath of his retirement, but Hardwick said that was more about his players being more engaged in person, rather than choosing not to post on social media.
"I know we probably copped a little bit of flak with regard to that but it's not how our club operates. We tend to leave the phones at home and the phones where they are," he said.
"The more and more we hug, we love - all that sort of stuff is very much a part of us.
"(Rance) knows exactly how we feel about him, how important he is to the fabric of our organisation. So he'll be heavily missed, not only as a football player, but as a person."
Door ajar if Rance wants to return
Hardwick also said he would love to see Rance backflip on his retirement but concedes the ball is in the former defender's court.
On Thursday, defender Bachar Houli said he prayed Rance would return to the Tigers but emphasised his desire for his former teammate to be happy - sentiments echoed by Hardwick.
"At this stage he's retired in our plans but plans can change," Hardwick said on Friday.
"My more important thing is to make sure Alex is happy in his journey in life and Alex has always been an incredible player for us but his family and his faith have been at the forefront of his mind and the reality is, whatever makes Alex happy, makes us happy.
"He's been a significant contributor of our football club, always will be a Richmond man.
"Is the door ajar? Well probably it is but the ball's in Alex's court from that point of view. But look, we're moving on from a planning point of view that he won't be available - but as I said, things may change."
Hardwick said while he would have liked to get more years out of Rance, he wasn't completely blindsided by the five-time All-Australian's decision.
"We have had some conversations over the last 2-3 years with regard to this and we probably thought it may come to this at some stage and it has," he said.