17/04/2024
Damien Hardwick. Picture: Gold Coast Suns/Supplied

Damien Hardwick. Picture: Gold Coast Suns/Supplied

Damien Hardwick is set to face the club he won three premierships as coach at for the first time, when his Gold Coast Suns take on Richmond today in Opening Round.

The former Port Adelaide and Essendon premiership player admitted, despite many years in the game, he’s still riding the wave of emotions that come with any football season.

“The nervousness and anxiety is still there, every first round…you come to it with exactly the same feeling,” he said.

“For some unknown feeling, Round 0 always feels like it’s worth eight points.”

Having led Richmond to its most wins under a single coach, Hardwick acknowledged that opening the season against the Tigers will be significant.

“The edge is always there, but it would be nice to tick that box [beating Richmond], but they’ll be saying exactly the same thing,” he said.

“There’s two sides that are both at the start of their journey with two new coaches.”

The Suns announced a sellout of the newly crowned People First Stadium, something Hardwick highlighted as a point of improvement for the Suns this season.

“We want to fill it more with Gold Coast fans than opposition fans, but we’ve gotta fulfil our end of the bargain and win some bloody games,” he said.

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Having cultivated a rowdy Richmond army at the MCG, Hardwick is looking to build another raucous environment and make their stadium “a venue where opposition fans are scared before they even come in here”.

Previously claiming that the ‘floor’ for the Suns this season was to reach finals, Hardwick is looking towards the journeys of GWS and Collingwood for some inspiration for the Suns future success.

“They play a relatively similar game style that did take a little bit of time for them to click but when they did get it, all of a sudden they started to get on a roll,” he said.

The Magpies and Giants made preliminary finals in both Craig McRae and Adam Kingsley’s first seasons, which would mark a momentous season for the Suns in what would be their first ever finals campaign.

Hardwick made sure to try and remain grounded when talking about the potential of his playing group, admitting that the team realises “It’s a long journey…and we’re only at the very start of the mountain.”

The Suns’ clash with the Tigers will be the third of four games in Opening Round, which has seen only Queensland and New South Wales host games.

Hardwick applauded the efforts of the AFL to grow the game in the northern states.

“The fact we’ve got a Round 0 in the northern states I think is incredible for the growth of the game,” he said.

“Half of Australia’s population is in NSW and QLD, so if we want to grow the game, we should continue to promote this…”.

Hardwick even stated that the AFL should look to the American sporting culture.

“Their cities support all their teams, we should be the same,” he said.

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