Former Richmond mentor Damien Hardwick is set to be announced as head coach of the Gold Coast Suns as early as next weekend according to new reports, with the Queensland club only waiting for Hardwick to return from his European holiday before making the announcement. The Suns reportedly sent CEO Mark Evans over to Italy in order to personally present a five-year contract to Hardwick.
The news comes as Jack Riewoldt and Trent Cotchin separately announced their retirement from the AFL, marking the end of an era for the Tigers. Hardwick has been a target for the Suns almost as soon as he opted to leave Richmond in May, particularly after sacking former coach Stuart Dew back in July.
News Corp AFL reporter Jon Ralph claimed on Monday night that a deal had been signed between coach and club, and it was now a matter of the Suns finding a good time to announce the signing. However some have criticised the move, with the likes of former Hawthorn star Ben Dixon questioning if a six-month break would be long enough for Hardwick to feel re-invigorated after citing burnout as one of the reasons for his decision to leave Richmond.
Nevertheless, Ralph told Fox Footy the Suns were determined for Hardwick to finally capitalise on the glimpses of potential shown by the Suns in recent seasons. After joining the AFL in 2011, the Suns are yet to take part in the finals.
“He’s signed and sealed by the Gold Coast – all it is is the means of delivery,” Ralph said “The five-year deal is done.
“The Suns want to reveal it when Hardwick is back in town. They want the sponsors, they want the Burleigh Pavilion backdrop, all the things you should do rather than delivering him on Zoom.
“He gets back from Europe next week, so it’s either late next week or early the week after – of course that would be the grand final bye and it would be the perfect time to do it.”
Questions remain over Damien Hardwick's future with Suns
Dixon had an eyebrow raised regarding Hardwick's sooner than expected return, asking Nathan Buckley whether he believed the three-time premiership coach would have the necessary motivation. Buckley believed he would, adding that it was likely Hardwick was keen to embrace a new challenge with the Suns.
“(He was) stale in that environment and you go to a new environment and you’re absolutely not stale because you’ve got a new challenge and something new to achieve,” Buckley replied. “He did it three times over at Richmond (win the flag) – once you’ve had it with that group and you’ve come off …
"He would have thought, ‘I’ve given everything here. I’ve got everything out of this group. I’ve got to let someone else do it’ and I reckon that’s exactly the decision he made. Now it’s his chance to come in with the new.”
Brisbane Lions great Jonathon Brown pointed out that the Suns potentially have access to a stream of highly talented young prospects via their academy, something he believed would be a tantalising prospect to Hardwick.
“All coaches want the factory line – the ongoing factory line of players and that’s what the Gold Coast Suns have got in their Academy,” Brown said. “Five boys were All Australian in Under 16s this year. Dimma would be looking closely at that.
“He’s no fool. He’d be looking closely to say – ‘I want ongoing talent coming through’.”
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