Richmond vice-captain Jack Riewoldt is adamant the situation surrounding coach Damien Hardwick and his new relationship with a club staffer will not have any impact on the playing group.
The Tigers' senior players returned for the start of pre-season training in hot conditions at Punt Road on Monday.
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Before the session, Hardwick addressed with them his recent marriage breakdown with wife Danielle, with whom he has three children, and new relationship with a younger member of the club's commercial sales team.
The 48-year-old Hardwick, a three-time premiership coach, opted to return at the same time as the senior players after initially flagging late last year that he would enjoy an extended off-season break.
Speaking to 7News prior to the training session, Hardwick said he was confident he had the backing of the Tigers heading into the 2021 season.
“Look, I would think do (have their support),” Hardwick said.
Don't be surprised if the Damien Hardwick situation has a small impact on the Richmond playing group, according to Nick Dal Santo. pic.twitter.com/mme9Y3ftvt
— Garry and Tim (@SENBreakfast) January 8, 2021
“At the end of the day we’ve been together a long time and that’s what Richmond club do, they support their people.
Tigers vice-captain Riewoldt said he backed his coach to get the best out of his side when the season started.
"Damien's a good enough character to separate his personal life and his professional life," Riewoldt said.
"The last four years have shown that he's been arguably the best coach in the land and he'll continue to support us and we'll continue to support him over the next period of time.
"It's hard to say early on, but we're back into it and he seemed really strong, so we're excited to get out and train."
Richmond captain admits surprise over Hardwick situation
Riewoldt admitted Hardwick's relationship situation, which became public knowledge this month, had taken the players by surprise as they prepared to embark on another premiership defence.
"You never predict something like this but these things happen in peoples' lives and we just move on," Riewoldt said.
"It's obviously sad that Dimma and Danielle's marriage has come to an end because Dimma's obviously been a big part of our football club and the Hardwick family's been a massive support network for us.
"They'll continue to be a support network for us, as we will for them."
Hardwick presided over Monday's training session as premiership stars Dustin Martin, Trent Cotchin and Tom Lynch were all among the senior group that returned to training.
The Tigers were allowed to train as a full group after recent coronavirus protocols, which restricted AFL clubs to training in smaller groups last week, were relaxed.
Sydney Stack was a notable absentee after being granted bail and released from a West Australian jail last week for the first time since mid-December.
The 20-year-old was arrested on December 19 for allegedly breaching the conditions of his coronavirus exemption into the state and spent Christmas behind bars.
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