Challenge to Richmond’s AFL boardroom

Challenge to Richmond’s AFL boardroom

A rebel group calling for the Richmond board to stand aside has pledged to retain coach Damien Hardwick, chief executive Brendon Gale and football boss Dan Richardson in their current posts if they seize control of the AFL club.

The group, headed by cardiologist Martin Hiscock and including former premiership players Bruce Monteath and Bryan Wood, has identified ex-Tigers star Neil Balme as a preferred CEO of football.

But Hiscock admits he is yet to make contact with Balme, who would be in demand by a number of clubs should he move on as Collingwood’s director of football.

The group want an overhaul of Richmond’s playing style.

Hiscock tried without success to contact any of Gale, Tigers president Peggy O’Neal or members of the AFL executive before launching the Focus on Footy ticket on Monday at the iconic Leo Berry’s boxing gym in the heart of Richmond.

Later on Monday, O’Neal said she was prepared to meet with members of Hiscock’s ticket but ruled out the prospect of the current board standing down, raising the likelihood of an extraordinary general meeting next month where members could vote for or against a spill.

O’Neal said extensive changes would be made to Richmond’s football operations following a review into the dismal 2016 campaign.

“This will require some hard decisions – neither myself, the board or our CEO Brendon Gale will shy away from making those tough calls.

“Change is required and change will be made but instability and change equals chaos and I refuse to let that happen to my club.”

After reaching the finals between 2013 and 15, Richmond endured a desperately disappointing 2016 campaign, winning eight games and losing 14 – the last a 113-point capitulation to Sydney.

Hiscock said the club was in crisis.

“Never has a year promised so much and delivered so little,” he said.

“And it was less about the losses themselves than the manner in which they occurred, culminating in an average losing margin of seven goals.

“While the board has seen fit to fire numerous staff members it remains self-satisfied and continues to endorse its own performance.

“Success or failure starts at the top and the time has surely come now for this board to be truly accountable.”

If elected, Hiscock said the group would honour the remaining two years on Hardwick’s contract.

He also pledged not to trade any of the Tigers’ five established stars – captain Trent Cotchin, Alex Rance, Brett Deledio, Dustin Martin and Jack Riewoldt.

Hiscock said the new CEO of football – be that Balme or someone else – would work closely with Richardson “to improve all facets of the football department including recruiting, player development and welfare and fitness and strength and conditioning”.

The seven-person ticket also includes 1980 premiership captain Monteath, triple flag-winner Wood, former club doctor David Marsh, Margaret Kearney, Philip Allison and Ingrid Williams.

Two remaining vacancies would be filled by serving Richmond directors, preferably those among the more recent appointees.

Hiscock lauded the current administration’s efforts to eliminate club debt and attract a record 72,000 members, while claiming they had come up woefully short in on-field matters.

The Focus on Footy group was not connected with another group of disgruntled Tigers supporters who met last month at the Malvern Hotel to also consider a board challenge.

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