Riewoldt feared his future was subject of Hardwick chat
Jack Riewoldt was worried his future, not Damien Hardwick's, was going to be discussed when the Richmond coach texted him.
One of the highlights of Hardwick's emotional media conference on Tuesday morning was his joking dig at Riewoldt.
"This isn't about you, for once in your life ... he'll be deeply embarrassed about that but it just sums up Jack to be fair," Hardwick said with a broad grin.
The context was Hardwick contacting him after Riewoldt had struggled in Saturday night's Dreamtime At The 'G match, which Richmond lost to Essendon by one point and proved to be the coach's last AFL match with the Tigers.
"I've been thrown under the bus there," Riewoldt, 34, said on AFL360.
"Getting to the end of your career and obviously I had one rough game on the weekend and I'm getting a bit older.
"I get a text from him, he goes 'hey mate, are you free to catch up today' and I've just gone 'oh no, I'm getting wound up here.'
"He called me and I said to him 'maybe I was half-expecting this a little bit' and then he goes 'it's not about you, mate, it's about me'."
Hardwick and Riewoldt always enjoyed a special bond and the key forward was clearly a favourite of the coach.
Riewoldt, Trent Cotchin, Dustin Martin and Dylan Grimes are the only four surviving players at Richmond from when Hardwick took over as coach in 2010.
Hardwick's 289 games coaching Riewoldt is second on the all-time AFL list, only behind the 307 for iconic Collingwood coach Jock McHale and Gordon Coventry.
"Obviously a big day at Tigerland," Riewoldt said.
"This man has changed the lives of not only the people inside the footy club, but changed the lives of the Richmond faithful, who have been starved of success."
Hardwick had tears in his eyes at his resignation media conference and those tears apparently flowed earlier on Tuesday morning when he confirmed the decision to the Richmond players.
"It's very emotional because there's that sadness of the person who has been tasked with the job of inspiring you, leading you, driving you to the ultimate success ... is not going to be at that football club when we walk in the door tomorrow," Riewoldt said.
"There's probably a pit in your stomach."
Riewoldt, a three-time Richmond premiership player under Hardwick, said the coach had always stuck by him.
"At some of my lowest points, when I've been performing really poorly, he's welcomed me into his house on a Tuesday/Wednesday night and said 'right, let's have three beers each and let's just figure this out. What's going on?'" he said.
A key moment came in the 2017 pre-season when Hardwick oversaw the "hero highlight hardship" program that would come to define the team.
"We developed this intangible bond that gave us strength on the field. You couldn't quantify it," Riewoldt said
"It's lasted for a long time ... we found what our secret key was to unlocking success."
Riewoldt expects Hardwick will coach again.
"It would be a loss to the game if he didn't coach again ... I would be really disappointed if one of the great coaches of modern footy is not coaching," he said.
"He still has plenty in the tank."
MOST VFL/AFL GAMES AS COACH AND PLAYER
307 - Jock McHale and Gordon Coventry (Collingwood)
289 - Damien Hardwick and Jack Riewoldt (Richmond)
282 - Dick Reynolds and Bill Hutchison (Essendon)
278 - Hardwick and Dustin Martin
278 - Alastair Clarkson and Jarryd Roughead (Hawthorn)