Richmond Tigers coach Damien Hardwick won't give up on their fading AFL season, but freely admits the struggling side have their work cut out for them to make the finals.
Hardwick was visibly frustrated as the Tigers fell victim to a determined Gold Coast Suns outfit at Marvel Stadium on Thursday night, going down 10.17 (77) to 10.7 (67).
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Commentators pointed out the Tigers coach's apparent displeasure at the performance, which sunk them to a 7-8 record after they won the premiership in a canter last season.
Channel 7's Jason Evans described Hardwick's fury after the Tigers gave up a late goal in the moments before half-time, taking off his mask in the coaches box out of frustration.
“Damien Hardwick shakes his head in disgust and frustration," he said.
One week after being held to their lowest score in 60 years by St Kilda, the Tigers were simply outmuscled by the Suns, who won the contested possession, clearance and tackle count convincingly.
David King said the Suns handed Richmond a 'smashing' and a 'deadset clubbing' on Fox Footy after the game, while in the post-match press conference, Hardwick admitted his team needed to mount a huge turnaround.
"I think so," the three-time premiership coach said when asked if the hunger was still there.
"Our group are very proud.
"We're the first to admit we're not playing anywhere the level of capacity we think we can and we've got to get better in a lot of facets in our game.
"In fairness, Gold Coast were outstanding. Their hunger in and around the contest was good.
"They looked a side, probably similar to us, they replicated a brand that certainly looked like us and played accordingly.
"Our boys are just lacking confidence at the moment, which is surprising. When they play their very best we're a great footy side.
"Unfortunately at the moment, our players are just struggling."
Suns stun Richmond for famous AFL upset
Facing a barrage of criticism during another disappointing season - the club's 11th in the AFL - the Suns stunned the dual reigning premiers on Thursday night for their fifth win of the season.
Gold Coast dominated the majority of the clash at Marvel Stadium, which was moved from the Suns' Metricon Stadium base due to COVID-19 restrictions, and the margin would have been comprehensive had they kicked straight.
The 10.17 (77) to 10.7 (67) result was the Suns' first win against Richmond since 2014, snapping a six-game losing run which included three beltings of more than 70 points.
"That was probably the most complete for this year so to execute that, and not to under or overreact to the last three weeks, which we know have been disappointing," Suns coach Stuart Dew said.
"I think the overwhelming thing is happy for the playing group - they're really connected - and for them to feel that is the best thing.
Richmond's third-straight defeat leaves them at 7-8 and with every chance of being outside the top eight at the end of the round.
Just as they were against St Kilda last week, their sloppy ball use made them look a shadow of their former glory and it would now take an extremely unlikely resurgence to complete a premiership three-peat.
"Confidence is a very, very funny thing within the AFL, you can quickly gain it and you can quickly lose it," Tigers coach Damien Hardwick said.
Meanwhile, former AFL star Kane Cornes was fiercely critical of Richmond fans after just 9000 showed up at Marvel Stadium for the game.
Cornes said it was a 'pathetic' turnout considering Hardwick's earlier complaints about playing at the ground.
“The crowd last night was 9,000. Don’t Richmond have 103,000 members? I get the situation that is in front of us and the uncertainty about where games are going to be played, but don’t tell me 9,000 crowd on Thursday night footy indoors is a good crowd. In fact, it’s pathetic,” he said.
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