Report: AFL dancing on Tigers’ grave after ‘war’

Richmond’s demise is reportedly being celebrated as a victory at AFL headquarters after claims the two parties have been at war over “loathed” behaviour.

Reports of a deteriorating relationship between the reigning premiers and the governing body surfaced again earlier this year following the Tigers’ nightclub incident which concluded with a $20,000 fine being handed to Richmond star Shai Bolton.

The messy saga is one of the reasons the AFL is privately happy with the Tigers missing the finals following their loss to GWS — according to veteran footy journalist Caroline Wilson.

Bolton was left with a broken hand as a result of a scuffle inside a Melbourne night spot where Daniel Rioli was left with a black eye.

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Coach Damien Hardwick said at the time he was comfortable with how his players behaved.

It was then reported by Wilson that the AFL was not happy with the timeline of the club reporting the incident to the league and suggested the AFL had doubts about the club’s internal investigation which resulted in the club taking no disciplinary action against its players.

It came after a turbulent 2020 season where the Tigers were involved in a series of Covid-19 bubble breaches, including captain Trent Cotchin’s wife Brooke’s day spa visit and players Sydney Stack and Callum Coleman-Jones being sent home from Queensland after a physical altercation on the Gold Coast. The club was fined $100,000.

Wilson has also called Hardwick “arrogant” in recent weeks, highlighting his comments about criticism from footy legend Jonathan Brown and previous comments about the AFL moving Tigers home games from the MCG to Marvel Stadium.

Damien Hardwick has been in the headlines all year.Source:Getty Images

Now she says the league is pleased to see the club humbled by its 2021 season performance.

“There have been some little lapses in discipline. No one is celebrating this missing of the finals more than the AFL,” she said on Channel 9’s Footy Classified on Monday night.

“They loathed Richmond’s behaviour last year. There were so many things that they felt they didn’t do right in the hub. And there have been so many comments this year by Damien Hardwick that have riled the AFL.”

She suggested Hardwick has “created some problems for the club internally”.

Kane Cornes responded to her statement by saying: “They have been an arrogant footy club, there’s no doubt about that”.

The divide between the club and the league was exposed by the nightclub incident.

Wilson said in May they were at “war” in the days following Hardwick’s public comments on Richmond playing away from the MCG.

Sydney Stack and Trent Cotchin after the Giants ended their season early.Source:Getty Images

“There is no doubt there is a war going on behind closed doors between Richmond and the AFL. Damien Hardwick is the front man, but he’s not the only man,” she said.

“I have no doubt that if the AFL is true to form, Richmond will not get one, but probably two games at Marvel Stadium next year.

“That was ridiculous what Damien Hardwick said, particularly after a big win. There is a bit of hubris there from the coach.

“The AFL was saying that Richmond had really nothing to answer for … that was the feeling coming from both Richmond and the AFL.

“Then suddenly, Bolton is fined $20,000 out of nowhere. Someone has apparently hit Daniel Rioli and yet no one has been charged. We still haven’t been told how Bolton broke his wrist.

“That is a massive fine and there is something that has gone on. Is there anger at what Damien Hardwick said? Certainly Gillon McLachlan was angry.

“I absolutely think there is spite there on both sides.”

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