Damien Hardwick has declared the Gold Coast Suns have 80 per cent of the players they need to challenge for their maiden AFL flag, although the new coach has denied speculation he's trying to lure Dustin Martin. The three-time Richmond premiership coach was confirmed as the new Gold Coast mentor on Monday, signing a six-year deal.
It comes just three months after Hardwick abruptly left the Tigers in the middle of the AFL season, saying he had done all he could at the club and needed a break. It is also six weeks from when the Suns brutally sacked coach Stuart Dew.
The expansion club are yet to make the finals after 13 years in the AFL, but Hardwick was full of confidence at a press conference on Monday. "I'm very, very, very excited - I liken it to waking up on Christmas Day, walking into a brand new set of toys," he said.
"Eighty per cent of our first premiership side is sitting in this room right now ... this side and this club are very capable of saluting in the not-too-distant future."
However Hardwick hosed down speculation he would look to lure Martin to the Gold Coast from Richmond, noting that the superstar is still under contract at the Tigers. The rumours about Martin linking up with Hardwick again have intensified in the wake of fellow veterans Jack Riewoldt and Trent Cotchin announcing their retirements.
Hardwick will take over from interim Suns coach Steven King when their season ends next weekend. King and much of the existing Gold Coast football department will stay with the club, with Hardwick forecasting an attacking style similar to what has taken Collingwood to the top of the table in 2023.
"You have to tailor a game plan to what you have here, and a lot of the tools I'm looking for are in this building right now," he said. "We'll bring a style of game that will be relatively similar to what you see Collingwood, GWS and Richmond play. At this stage, I'm thinking I have all the people I need in the building and I don't really need to bring anyone else."
Damien Hardwick hasn't spoken to Stuart Dew
Hardwick and Dew were premiership teammates in Port Adelaide in 2004, and also worked together at Hawthorn. However Hardwick said he hadn't spoken to the sacked coach.
"It's very cut-throat, that's the reality of the situation," Hardwick said. "My time will come ... this is the nature of the business we're in. No apologies for that, you have to succeed."
Gold Coast chairman Bob East said the club was delighted to secure Hardwick's services. "We have been unequivocal in our desire to deliver success for our football club," East said in a statement.
"This appointment is clearly a significant step in that direction. When we began the process to determine our senior coach, it was quickly apparent Damien was the best candidate available. We have high expectations for our club and firmly believe Damien can deliver on these ... to achieve premiership success." Hardwick was at the MCG on Saturday as Richmond greats Trent Cotchin and Jack Riewoldt played their last games in a 29-point win over North Melbourne.
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