Eddie McGuire makes big Damien Hardwick coaching call amid Suns saga

Eddie McGuire says the Suns' pursuit of Damien Hardwick has gone to the next level.

Eddie McGuire and Damien Hardwick.
Eddie McGuire says he can 'lock it in' that Damien Hardwick will coach the Gold Coast Suns in 2024. Pictures: Channel 9/Footy Classified/Getty Images

Eddie McGuire is so confident that Damien Hardwick will be announced as the Gold Coast Suns' next coach he's borrowed a phrase from his popular quiz show - 'lock it in'. The Suns' pursuit of Hardwick has been no secret in the AFL world, however some doubts have persisted after the three-time premiership coach would take up the offer having only walked away from Richmond in May, declaring the rigours of coaching had become 'too much'.

Suns CEO Mark Evans travelled to Europe earlier this month, where Hardwick has been on holiday, to formally present the former Tigers coach with their offer for him to take over in 2024. Gold Coast controversially sacked former coach Stuart Dew in July, despite denying they had plans to do so.

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Hardwick has loomed as one of the most highly coveted coaches since the moment he decided to walk away from Richmond, with the Suns desperate to land an experienced mentor to guide the club to their first finals appearance since joining the AFL back in 2011. The 50-year-old walked away as the longest-tenured coach in Tigers history, surviving a wobbly first few seasons to ultimately return the club to a position as an AFL powerhouse.

Speaking on Channel 9's Footy Classified, McGuire said part of the Suns' pursuit of Hardwick involved requesting money from the AFL for promotional purposes - a request that was swiftly knocked back. Regardless, McGuire said it was part of a fiercely determined pursuit of the three-time premiership mentor.

“Lock it in, (Hardwick) will be the (Suns) coach,” McGuire said. “This is how far it’s got — the Gold Coast Suns made an entreaty to the AFL for marketing purposes. They received a flat no, but the bottom line is, the deal is just about done.”

McGuire's mail on the Suns' pursuit was backed up by co-host and veteran AFL reporter Damian Barrett, who said Hardwick had already begun thinking about who would take up other key positions in the football department. Brisbane Lions football manager Danny Daly, a highly respected figure who has also worked for Collingwood, North Melbourne, and Richmond, will be high on that list.

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Crucially, McGuire added that the offer Hardwick is reportedly mulling over will be one that doesn't carry a major impact on the Suns' soft-cap, enabling them to build a football staff that will enable their long-awaited finals push. The Suns still have an outside chance of sneaking into the 2023 finals, but would need to win all their remaining games as well as have other results fall to their benefit.

“He’s been doing a lot of thinking Damien Hardwick, a lot of that thought process has been around who will be his assistants — both in coaching and the football department,” Barrett said. “One person in significant Damien Hardwick thought right now is Danny Daly — a man he spent a lot of time with at Richmond when he started back in 2010.

Damien Hardwick speaks at a press conference announcing he was stepping down as Richmond coach.
Damien Hardwick left the AFL world stunned when he stepped down as coach of Richmond in May, just nine games into the season. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

“Daly is currently the right-hand man of Chris Fagan at Brisbane, he’s worked in both the coaching and assistant coaching ranks. He’s got a track record that people trust in. He’s someone Damien Hardwick would like to work with, if the Brisbane Lions allow that to happen.”

McGuire said the proposal presented to Hardwick was not going to 'shake the bank upside down' - a massively beneficial aspect of the pursuit.

“My understanding is his contract is very much within the realms of what they need to do to be able to have a strong football component,” McGuire said. “If you’re going after people like Danny Daly, you need that in the soft cap.”

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