Richmond great Kevin Bartlett believes simmering tensions amongst influential Tigers members could give way to an explosive off-season as pressure continues to mount on the AFL club’s board.
Frustration at Richmond’s disappointing season has reached the point where a group of influential members met to discuss the possibility of challenging the incumbent board.
Bartlett has no interest in being actively involved himself, but he revealed he had met with Joe Russo, a prominent member and benefactor, to discuss his group’s plans.
“Russo told me he was frustrated at the way the club was tracking, (he) believes there should be changes at board level and he has support of other prominent Richmond people,” Bartlett said on Wednesday.
“They believe they can bring fresh ideas and new enthusiasm to a board that’s had long-serving members.
“Russo’s group would like a bloodless coup but it seems to me that the agitating group is willing to go to an extraordinary general meeting.
“The fuse is there waiting to be lit and I expect an explosive post-season at Tigerland.”
Bartlett’s revelations continue the significant fallout from the Tigers’ 88-point drubbing at the hands of Greater Western Sydney on Saturday.
Bartlett was at pains not to take sides in the looming boardroom stoush, but he called for the current board to make their plans to restore the club as an on-field powerhouse public.
Coach Damien Hardwick, who signed a two-year contract extension earlier this year, has increasingly borne the brunt of criticism over his side’s disappointing season.
But star forward Jack Riewoldt said outside reaction to the team’s current plight – which have included calls for players to be traded and Hardwick to be sacked – was “borderline hysterical”.
“Every team’s supporters and members want them to be winning, but all I can say to them is that we’re not playing fantasy football here,” Riewoldt told Fox Footy.
“You don’t trade people in or get rid of people, week in, week out. You can’t get rid of a good person and then hopefully have him back in two weeks.
“We’re a big club and we understand that we have a lot of members and at the moment we’ve probably got a lot of disgruntled members with the way we’re going.
“The players know that and they know we’re not playing well enough at the moment.”