AFL journalist Caroline Wilson has taken aim at Richmond coach Damien Hardwick’s apology after his outburst at a local footy game two weekends ago.
Hardwick was watching the Tigers VFL side dominate Williamstown in a 10.14 (74) to 2.7 (19) thrashing but took umbrage at an on-field incident between the Seagulls’ Darby Henderson and Richmond’s AFL-listed player Rhyan Mansell.
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Hardwick allegedly called Williamstown players “weak f***ing pricks” during the contest at Punt Road Oval but was cleared of any wrongdoing.
Hardwick fronted up and apologized for the incident.
“I understand in my position I’ve got to be better than that,” Hardwick said last Thursday, speaking for the first time about the incident.
“I’ve got to be probably judged to a higher standard, and I understand that. What I will ask is that (people remember) I am human.
“I’m going to make mistakes and there’s no doubt that I overstepped the mark.”
Hardwick added: “I probably didn’t need to lean over the fence and yell but that’s me.
“What makes me good makes me bad.”
He also said he had not been sanctioned by Richmond or the AFL but had received a scalding from his mum Pam.
“It’s funny how you’re still scared of your mother at the age of 49,” he joked.
But the apology got Wilson’s nose out of joint and she took aim on Footy Classified on Monday night.
“Damien Hardwick is not the first AFL coach to behave badly at the footy and then make a half-hearted apology,” she said.
“But that doesn’t excuse the Richmond coach’s disappointing effort five days ago.
“Damien’s abusive tirade issued at Williamstowns’s Darby Henderson did have a touch of Alastair Clarkson about it. And like Clarko and Mick Malthouse and Luke Beveridge also demonstrated a similar unwillingness to take full responsibility.
“’What makes me good makes me bad’, he said, ‘I need to be better’. And again to soften the blow he invoked the spirit of a woman in the family, mother Pam seems to be the new Mrs Hardwick.”
Wilson was referring to Hardwick’s penchant for mentioning his ex-wife “Mrs Hardwick” in press conferences, before the pair split up.
She added: “But Damien, as a national sporting leader, a renowned and championed statesman of the game, we do hold you to a higher standard and you do need to be better.
“No one expects perfection, but on this occasion an unmitigated apology would have been a lot better.”
The comments sparked some discussion on the panel, as Port Adelaide 300-gamer Kane Cornes defended Hardwick.
“It’s a harsh one. I think you’re being a bit hard on him. What more did you need from his apology for him there? Cornes asked.
Wilson: “’I absolutely did the wrong thing, nobody should abuse players and swear at players at the football. As a premiership coach I, of all people, shouldn’t do that’.”
Corners: “Didn’t he say that? He said ‘I need to be held to a higher account than the other people’.”
Wilson: “’But my mum got mad at me and I’m still scared of my mum’? Who is he? Scott Morrison? Seriously, that was not good enough.”
Corners: “I think you are being a bit harsh. I think that is not a serious offence.”
Wilson: “He is a champion coach, just off the back of a brilliant performance, people need to properly apologise. He has been told he had to apologise, he should have either refused or not apologised.”
Corners: “I took that as a heartfelt apology.”
Another narrative has emerged over the future of the three-time premiership coach. Hardwick has been at the helm of Richmond since 2010 and questions have been asked about whether 13 years is enough.
Essendon great Matthew Lloyd asked if Wilson would “move on from him” if she had the choice.
“I separate Damien Hardwick the coach and some of the other stuff,” Wilson said.
“I think like Alastair (Clarkson), and he also, as we know, he is also a champion coach, he did some terrible things in bad behavior off the field, junior footy game with a Port Adelaide supporter, punching a wall, swearing at journalists and Luke Beveridge as well.
“It’s not good enough. Apologies make the world go round and set examples to young people about how they should behave.”