Triple premiership Tiger Jack Riewoldt has launched a staunch defense of Damien Hardwick, saying the reaction to his coach’s comments towards a Williamstown player at a VFL game on the weekend had been overblown.
Hardwick allegedly called Seagulls forward Darby Henderson a “weak f***ing pr**k” during the Richmond-Williamstown VFL clash on Saturday at Punt Road Oval.
Hardwick’s alleged comment came around five minutes after Henderson had struck AFL-listed Tiger Rhyan Mansell in the back as retaliation for being slung into the fence.
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The VFL Match Review Panel charged Henderson with rough conduct, with the incident assessed as intentional conduct with low impact and body contact. The incident was classified as a one-match sanction, but Henderson as a VFL-listed player had the option to accept a $250 fine and a reprimand with an early guilty plea – an option Henderson accepted.
The Seagulls initially sought a ‘please explain’ from the Tigers, whose chief executive Brendon Gale was reportedly involved in talks between the two clubs. Both clubs then indicated they believed the matter was closed.
However the AFL on Monday launched its own inquiries into the incident, with the league expected to ask questions of both clubs.
Asked on Fox Footy’s AFL 360 if the story had been “overblown”, Riewoldt said with a laugh: “Oh my gosh, yeah … Like, this isn’t kids footy.
“You know what senior coaches care about? Their players – and if something untoward happens, which is what’s happened in this case and someone’s done an act that probably isn’t deserved to be on the footy field, then of course a bloke who cares about his boys is going to say something. That’s care.
“It gets clicks because Richmond are a big club and Damien Hardwick is the coach.”
speaking to the Herald Sun on Monday, Henderson said he got a shock when he realized Hardwick was the person calling out from the crowd, adding it was “a bit strange… a bit bizarre”.
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He added witness accounts reported in the publication were “spot on from memory” and matched up with what he’d heard and been told by spectators.
“He was going pretty hard at me… it would have been five or six minutes (from the incident) before I came off, so obviously he kept it in mind and he was waiting there.
“I understand he was sticking up for one of his young players… it was probably in the heat of the moment, and I have no hard feelings.”
Henderson’s dad, Brett, told the Herald Sun: “To hear the outburst from Hardwick was disappointing as he is in a privileged position.”
AFL 360 co-host Gerard Whateley said the line between VFL footy and community footy in this situation had “been a little bit blurred”.
“There is a formal investigation which adds a legitimacy to the story. But there is a difference between that happening down at a community park and it happening in the VFL with a Richmond team playing,” Whateley told AFL 360.
Herald Sun chief football writer Mark Robinson added: “I think it was absolutely overblown. You know why? Because it was a crap act and for them to be whingeing after they do something like that, come on. You give it, you wear it.
“I can understand why it’s a story, but ‘don’t do it again, everyone move on’.”