How to handle the AFL's most special players - a look at Damien Hardwick

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Norm Smith Medallist
May 17, 2017
AFL Club
In my mind, Damien Hardwick is one of the best, if not the best coach in the AFL at handling players with stand out skill sets.

He started out at the Hawks, working as forward line coach with blokes like Buddy and Cyril who were absolutely special from day 1. He would have had as much influence as anyone in the forward set up which helped Buddy become the last 100 goal kicker, and the evolution of Cyril as the first (and best) of the modern day pressure forwards. There's a story about when Cyril came to Hawthorn and Dicko wanted to get him working on something else, and Dimma (as forward coach at the time) turned around and said "Don't f***ing touch him."

Then he switched to Richmond, and effectively maximised the goal kicking output of Jack Riewoldt to begin with, then in 2017 developed the ultimate game plan to work around Dustin Martin and his obvious elite talents. In creating a game plan which offsets Dusty's obvious deficits as a defensive player, he's allowed the rest of the team to sure that area up meaning that Dusty can go forward and dominate there. You can tell in Dusty's game that nothing is off limits either, he can take the kicks he wants, go where he feels needed on the ground - Dimma seems to put all his faith in him.

Amazing to watch.

Are there any examples of other coaches handling these players well? Any examples of coaches who handle them poorly?


1980 ? 2017 ? 2019?
Aug 15, 2009
AFL Club
Other Teams
Chelsea F.C
Plough was a coach a lot of players clashed with apparently. So much so there was an incident where a bunch of Richmond players told him they didn't like his style and pushed for his removal. Brilliant tactician though.

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