Competition has rarely been so fierce in the AFL but camaraderie between coaches has never been so strong.
Richmond have copped the brunt of early-season scrutiny following a 1-5 start, with the pressure on coach Damien Hardwick building after every loss.
Hardwick, who described the past week as “a bit of a hurricane” outside the club, thanked counterparts Alastair Clarkson and Nathan Buckley for their support.
Clarkson has been Hardwick’s long-time mentor and friend; their discussions are nothing new.
But Buckley’s call was a sign of the times according to both men.
“The one thing I think the Coaches Association has grown is – look we want to kill each other on the weekend but I think as a group of men we’ve started to understand,” Hardwick said.
“We’re all in these situations at some stage so we lean on each other a lot more than we used to.
“We’ve become closer in that regard.”
Buckley agreed, suggesting the AFL Coaches Association (AFLCA) has developed a lot since he was first appointed Mick Malthouse’s successor in 2011.
“The comment I did make to him is that a couple of years ago, I wouldn’t have really had a great deal of empathy for opposition coaches,” Buckley said.
“It was just like ‘they’re the things you’re going to go through – ups and downs, highs and lows’.
“(But now the 18 coaches) are as tight as I’ve felt in my five years … it just felt like it was the right time to just say g’day and check how things are going.”
However, Buckley’s attempt to contact Hardwick wasn’t all smooth sailing.
AFLCA chief Mark Brayshaw mistakenly provided the Collingwood mentor with the number of Hardwick’s wife.
“Why Mark Brayshaw has got my wife’s number, I’m not too sure,” Hardwick laughed.
Hardwick noted his friendship with Clarkson would be put on hold for a couple of hours on Friday night, when their two sides face off at the MCG.
“Every week I rock into his house and he’s got his four premiership medals on the bloody mantelpiece. It kills me every time,” he said.