'I want to find the next Damien Hardwick': Gale

·3-min read
Diego Fedele/AAP PHOTOS

Amid wholesale change at Richmond, chief executive Brendon Gale gives the strong impression he is going nowhere.

Damien Hardwick's shock resignation highlights the end of the dynasty that broke their wretched AFL premiership drought and returned the Tigers to a position of strength.

Much is made of the "pillars" at a successful club - Richmond's for their three flags were Hardwick, Gale, president Peggy O'Neal and captain Trent Cotchin.

Then came senior football advisor Neil Balme, a crucial addition when the club was on shaky ground at the end of 2016.

O'Neal resigned at the end of last year, with John O'Rourke taking over. Now Hardwick is gone and Cotchin, surely, will retire at the end of this season.

Gale was a candidate for the AFL chief executive role, which went to Andrew Dillon, and the popular thinking now is he is their No.1 choice to take over the long-vacant football manager position.

But Gale, the former Tigers star who became club CEO in 2009, said at Hardwick's retirement media conference on Tuesday that he wants to oversee what comes next.

"We want to find the next Damien Hardwick," he said.

"We think we're a pretty attractive proposition - we're a strong club with a strong culture.

"I'm committed to this next chapter of Richmond ... this is my focus."

Co-captain Dylan Grimes noted it is rare for the coach to resign mid-season and the club not to be in turmoil.

The mood at Hardwick's media conference, packed with players and staff, was definitely not one of gloom.

Hardwick said Gale, sitting alongside him, was "the great Nostradamus" for engineering Richmond's revival at a time when many people thought they would remain a basket case.

Balme's return to Punt Rd, where he made his name as a player, was massive in the review that followed their disastrous 2016 season.

His nous was crucial when Richmond won the first of their three flags a year later, with the next two coming in 2019-20.

Balme will remain an invaluable sounding board for caretaker coach Andrew McQualter and whoever takes over full-time from next year.

"It's no coincidence - he comes to our footy club and he's like one of those Buddha dolls - you rub his belly and the good luck follows you," Hardwick said of Balme.

"Balmey's one of those guys, he's very forthright in his opinions of the game and sometimes when you over-complicate it, he'll tell you.

"That's a great thing about Neil."

As Hardwick sat next to him with tears in his eyes, Gale was very clear-headed about what comes next.

"This is sad, don't get me wrong. I love this man and a lot of people do," Gale said.

"But it's onward and upward - we're looking forward to writing the next chapter of this incredible story of Richmond.

"We have an incredible team on and off the field."