The jungle drums have reached fever pitch after Richmond’s latest disappointment in an AFL season full of them, but embattled coach Damien Hardwick has dismissed the “external noise” surrounding the Tigers.
The savage reaction to Richmond’s 88-point mauling by Greater Western Sydney has increased the pressure on Hardwick’s position, with a group of influential members pushing for change at board level.
But a defiant Hardwick told reporters on Thursday he would not be swayed by outside commentary as he attempted to salvage some positives from the last four games of the season – starting with Friday night’s clash with Collingwood.
“It’s all external noise for us … we’re very focused on what we’re doing here,” Hardwick said.
“We’ve got a fantastic board, a fantastic football department and we’re working our way to getting us back to where we need to be.
“We have honest and up-front conversations here – we don’t get worried by external noise (because) it is just that. The people that matter are within these four walls.”
Hardwick thumbed his nose at the group agitating for change at board level.
“It’s not a distraction – it’s external noise,” he said of the mooted challenge.
“The board? Zero debt and 72,000 members – good luck.”
He did, however, concede his coaching panel would likely undergo a significant overhaul at season’s end.
With the Tigers languishing in 13th spot on the ladder and a 7-11 win-loss record, Hardwick called for perspective, adding the 70-point loss to first-placed Hawthorn two weeks ago and the thumping by the second-placed Giants were a fair reflection of the side’s respective ladder positions.
But while the Tigers have been fighting out of their weight category in the past two weeks, the 12th-placed Magpies present a fairer match-up.
“We play a side that is fairly similar to us this week in Collingwood,” he said.
“They had a good win last week against West Coast so it will be a much more-even competition. We’ve played some pretty good sides the last two weeks.
“They’re better than us – there’s no doubt about that. We’ve got some work to do, we understand that, but we play a side that is relatively evenly poised (with us).
“(But) they’re playing better than us at the moment so it will be a good challenge.”
In selection news, Hardwick has brought in Ben Griffiths and Andrew Moore at the expense of Reece Conca (hamstring) and Kane Lambert (omitted).
The Pies have also made two changes, recalling Mason Cox and Jarryd Blair, while Darcy Moore (hamstring) and Jordan De Goey (omitted) depart.