Richmond coach Damien Hardwick used his post-game press conference following the Tigers' win over West Coast to take his former teammate Kane Cornes to task over his comments regarding the team. The pair were premiership teammates for Port Adelaide back in 2004, but their relationship could be somewhat frosty nowadays after Hardwick bristled at Cornes' comments about the Tigers this season.
The Tigers proved too good for the injury-hit West Coast, finally breaking through for their second win of the AFL season. However comments made by Cornes about off-season recruits Tim Taranto and Jacob Hopper continued to stick in Hardwick's craw following the 46-point victory.
During the week Cornes had suggested that the former GWS Giants pair, who the Tigers had a high price for in future draft selections, 'wouldn’t be in the top 150 players in the game right now'. He'd also had a crack at what he said was Taranto's lack of influence on games, despite his ability to accumulate plenty of touches.
Hardwick had also hit back at broader 'media narratives' surrounding Richmond during the week, challenging those criticising the club to say to 'to my face'. Those comments prompted further criticism from Cornes in the lead-up to Saturday's clash with the Eagles.
Taranto starred in the win over the Eagles, racking up 30 disposals and five tackles to go with two goals in a welcome return to the winners' list for Richmond. Hardwick was quick to defend he and Hopper after the game, saying it was still very early in their tenure at Richmond and that the club would be in a much worse position without them, adding that he didn't believe Cornes was genuine in his criticism of the pair.
“I know Kane really well and you guys know how the media work,” Hardwick said. “He doesn’t generally believe that comment, but what he does is he says it to get clicks. That’s how the media works. Surprise.
“He (Taranto) is an outstanding player. Those two boys that we brought in, Hopper and Taranto, we wouldn’t be anywhere near where we need to be – or more importantly we wouldn’t be anywhere near where we want to be – without those two boys. They’ve been wonderful for our footy club.
“They’re starting to learn what it is to be a Richmond person and starting to play like Richmond men, which is really important. So I thought those two boys were very, very good today and will continue to be for a long period of time.”
Damien Hardwick bristles over Kane Cornes criticism
Hardwick wasn't done honing in on Cornes, pointing out that he had also been critical of the Tigers' acquisition of Dion Prestia ahead of the 2017 AFL season. Prestia played his 200th AFL game on Saturday night, with Hardwick again pointing out that the former Gold Coast Sun had been an integral part of Richmond's recent premiership success.
“Kane said he wasn’t worth pick six” Hardwick said. “He’s come out a three – time premiership player. Get better wig, come on”
The result breathed some life back into Richmond's (2-1-5) season ahead of a crunch clash with Geelong in round nine. "I was getting a bit frustrated with the commentary around Taranto and Hopper," Richmond defender Nathan Broad told AAP.
"We try not to look into it but I really do feel for those guys.
"They've come in and they're probably our two best players at the moment. They're giving everything, they're buying into everything and their performances are A-grade.
"The flak they're copping is pretty disappointing, to be honest. But they're doing a great job and hopefully we can keep getting wins because without them we might not have won a game."
Fellow star Shai Bolton (31 disposals, seven clearances) also finished with three goals and Taranto booted two, while Dustin Martin (27 touches) added one on a day when spearhead Jack Riewoldt was kept scoreless by Eagles defender Tom Barrass.
Sign up to our newsletter and score the biggest sport stories of the week.