Second AFL coach splits with wife
Two might not make a trend but back-to-back breakups by leading coaches Nathan Buckley and Damien Hardwick has marked a troubling end to a challenging season for all involved in the AFL.
Less than a fortnight after Collingwood coach Buckley and his wife Tania announced the end of their 18-year union, the Herald Sun has revealed Richmond's Hardwick has separated from his wife, Danielle.
They have three children, Ben, Isabelle and Imogen.
Often referred to by the Tigers coach as "Mrs Hardwick" in press conferences, Danielle had been by her husband's side through an incredibly successful career in football that's included flags as a player with Essendon and Port Adelaide and now three more as coach of Richmond.
The Herald Sun reports Danielle spent a short amount of time in Queensland while the Tigers were based in a hub this season because of COVID's impact in Victoria, but the reasons for their separation are unknown.
After leading the Tigers to a grand final win against Geelong, Hardwick had flagged the personal toll the season had taken on him.
"I'm going to take a bit of a longer break this year over summer," Hardwick told 3AW.
"It's been a pretty full on 3-4 years and we've done a hell of a lot of work and had a lot of success along the way but sometimes you need to step back."
It comes after Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson expressed his concern over the growing list of coaching casualties following Rhyce Shaw's exit from the Kangaroos because of personal issues.
HOW DANIELLE BECAME 'MRS HARDWICK'
Hardwick and Danielle got together in the 1990s while he was playing at Essendon.
Despite never having visited the city, she moved with him and their children to Adelaide ahead of the 2002 season when he was squeezed out by the Bombers' salary cap pressures.
After his retirement in 2004 they talked about buying a few hectares in the Adelaide Hills but he was drawn to coaching and after an apprenticeship at Hawthorn was given the top job at Richmond in late 2009.
It took several years for the Tigers to taste finals success and while never seeking the limelight, Danielle was described as her husband's rock as he held on to his job just long enough to build Richmond into a powerhouse.
She also took a keen interest in the club and its players.
When Hardwick was struggling with the decision on whether to pick Marlion Pickett for his debut in the 2019 grand final, Danielle put her two cents in.
"I must admit, she was pushing Marlion harder than anyone,'' Hardwick said after the Tigers defeated the Giants.
"She goes, 'You've just got to play him he's too good'. She was in the VFL coaches box watching me and she kept smiling at me looking at him as he was playing.
"She's been a terrific supporter of mine and behind every man is a great woman and I'm very fortunate."
When former player Jake King was struggling to control his aggression on the field in 2010, he had to answer to "Mrs Hardwick".
"Every time I misbehave, I have to deal with her. She will let me know during the week. There's not much you can say back to her," King said in 2010.
"She comes over and says what she has to say and you cop it and walk away."
Her husband wasn't spared either. After Hardwick made out-of-character comments about Sydney's tactical approach in a game this year, he was told in no uncertain terms to apologise to Swans coach John Longmire.
"(Mrs Hardwick) wasn't overly happy with the press conference. She gave me a dressing down after it. That was a good result,'' he said at the time.
There were also lighter moments.
In 2013, after a defeat against Collingwood, Hardwick said about under performing: "It happens all the time; sometimes I like to make love to my wife (but) don't perform to the highest standard."
He also referenced "Mrs Hardwick" after trading barbs with former Port teammate Kane Cornes in the media.
"It might not seem this way but I do have a lot of love for Kane, we obviously played in a premiership together and it's like Mrs Hardwick, we have our little blues every now and then but we certainly make up. I prefer making up with Mrs Hardwick more so than Kane Cornes, but we move on pretty quickly," he said.
Originally published as Second AFL coach splits with wife