Richmond players blindsided by Hardwick's departure

·2-min read
Diego Fedele/AAP PHOTOS

Blindsided co-captain Toby Nankervis didn't even have an inkling Damien Hardwick was contemplating leaving Richmond.

Rather than a slight, Nankervis considers Hardwick's shock departure a testament to his care for his players.

Three-time premiership mentor Hardwick's departure with immediate effect was announced on Tuesday, but the news broke on Monday.

"There's a group of us that found out yesterday and were just in absolute complete shock," Nankervis told reporters.

"Clearly it's been a whirlwind day or so."

When asked whether he had any inkling Hardwick was checking out, Nankervis replied: "nah, not at all."

"Credit to Dimma, we got the absolute best of Dimma right til today and that's a credit to the man and the coach.

"He gave everything and to say that I had no idea whatsoever is a credit to him."

Nankervis had played just 12 games in three seasons at Sydney before Hardwick traded for him at the end of 2016.

Fellow co-captain Dylan Grimes has played all 14 seasons of his AFL career under Hardwick and was similarly rattled.

"There was a part of me that hoped it was all a big joke and he was gonna be here and coaching out the rest of the year," he said.

"But the first emotion was shock and I think straight afterwards was just the celebration of the journey.

"He's been the only coach I've ever had since 2009.

"He's just been, it sounds cliche, but a father figure for so much of what we've built here in terms of culturally and on-field, and I think the part that he should be mostly proud of would be the stuff that he's built off-field."

Grimes wasn't aware how "challenged" his mentor had been.

"There's part of me that thinks I wish I'd known so maybe I could've helped or done something differently but at the same time Dimma was incredibly strong in his role," he said.

"If he ever had something going on, you just wouldn't know about it when he walked through the door.

"He coached to the best of his ability right up until today and I think that's something he can be incredibly proud of."

Hardwick reserved special mention for the four players involved in his entire 14-season journey: Grimes, Trent Cotchin, Jack Riewoldt and Dustin Martin.

"The stalwarts that were here from the start ... in Jack, Trent, Dylan and Dustin, you all mean the world to me," Hardwick said, before adding one final jibe.

"I rang the great Jack Riewoldt and I said: 'mate are you available to catch up?' Of course, Jack made it all about him," he said.

"I said: 'no mate, this isn't about you for once in your life.'"