K rock Football

Coach proud of Tigers’ culture

Richmond coach Damien Hardwick. (Sports Media Image/Marcel Berens)

RICHMOND coach Damien Hardwick never doubted his club’s culture during a rocky campaign that has left them one win away from a third AFL premiership in four seasons.

The Tigers, who meet Geelong in Saturday night’s grand final at the Gabba, endured one of the biggest scandals of the 2020 season when young players Sydney Stack and Callum Coleman-Jones were banished from Queensland in disgrace last month for breaking return-to-play protocols.

Further hurdles included the Mabior Chol groping affair, staging controversies involving Dylan Grimes and Nick Vlastuin, who were both cleared, and heat on Tom Lynch for a series of incidents that brought about match review officer scrutiny.

But the Tigers have held up on-field and find themselves narrow favourites to beat Geelong in the two sides’ first grand final meeting in more than half a century.

Both teams are almost at full-strength despite the tough season schedule and are likely to go in unchanged after winning their last two matches on the rebound from qualifying final defeats.

“The one thing we pride ourselves on is our culture and how we cope as an organisation,” Hardwick said.

“The reality is up here there was always going to be bumps along the way.

“The one thing you can always say is your organisation is really defined by those bumps.

“It’s easy when the road is smooth and you can just sit there above the water, but you learn a lot about yourself and a lot about your people when times are tough.

“We went to work, we were disappointed, we accepted responsibility, but we learnt from it along the way.”

Both Richmond and Geelong have spent well over 100 days based in interstate hubs to complete the season in the face of unprecedented challenges brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Cats left Victoria for Sydney in July before a three-week stint in Perth on the way to Queensland, where they have been based on the Gold Coast.

Several Geelong and Richmond players with families are sharing accommodation at Royal Pines, while the bulk of their travelling parties are based in separate hubs a few kilometres away.

“It was very, very difficult to predict when we jumped on a plane for Sydney over 100 days ago that we were still going to be away from home in time for the grand final,” Cats coach Chris Scott said.

“I’ve been really proud of the way that our club has handled the whole situation.

“The teams and the players and the people that have just put one step in front of the other, have tended to be the ones that have sort of kept everything in perspective the best.”

Richmond was due to travel to Brisbane on Friday night as they treat the grand final as an away match, while Geelong will make the one-hour journey on game day.

(C) AAP 2020