Scott prone to stay with Felines, however Hardwick will accept Suns’ call after Dew terminating

Former Richmond coach Damien Hardwick will take a call from the Gold Coast after the club sacked Stuart Dew, while another potential contender, Chris Scott, likely to extend his contract with Geelong.

A source close to Hardwick, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed that the triple-premiership coach would be willing to have a discussion with the Suns about the now-vacant position.

But the source added that while Hardwick said recently he wanted to coach again in the AFL, the just-departed Richmond coach had not said when he wished to resume.

Hardwick, whose children are all adults, had a taste of the relaxed, sun-drenched lifestyle on offer on the Gold Coast in 2020 when the competition relocated due to COVID-19. He is a short-priced favourite to coach the club, which has not had a premiership coach at the helm yet. Their sole senior coach with experience was Rodney Eade, who coached them from 2015-17.

Ken Hinkley and Chris Scott are the other coaches who have been linked to the Suns, but Hinkley appears likely to re-sign with Port Adelaide and Scott is contracted next season with the Cats.

A senior Geelong source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the Cats were confident Scott would extend his contract beyond 2024 and would not be a candidate for the vacant Suns’ job. The dual-premiership coach is known to be happy and is continuing to perform well in his role leading Geelong.

Hinkley is yet to officially commit to Port Adelaide, but he is expected to remain with the club that is once again a strong premiership chance in 2023. The club and coach agreed not to decide his future until at least August and are likely to stick with that agreement. The Suns would need to chase Hinkley – who was an assistant at the club before joining Port Adelaide – with a compelling offer to lure him from coaching Port’s talented list.

The Suns denied speculation over Hardwick’s future played a part in Dew’s sacking, which they said was evidence-based. They said they had not spoken to Hardwick during Dew’s tenure and would not comment on whether they wanted a proven coach to succeed Dew.

“This has now allowed us to have some clear air to look at next steps, and that’s a really important part of governance in any business to ensure that we set about a good process, a good system, good governance around the selection of our next senior coach,” Suns chairman Bob East said.

Gold Coast players and staff were informed Tuesday morning that the board had decided on Monday night that Dew’s time as coach was over.

East and club chief Mark Evans said the lack of progress since last year was the main reason behind Dew’s removal. At the same point in 2022, the Suns were 11th with eight wins and a percentage of 108.9 compared to 13th this season with seven wins and 92.5.

In the past two weeks, they have been well beaten by Collingwood and Port Adelaide by 78 and 33 points respectively.

“There is a clear gap between where we currently sit and where our expectations lie,” East said.

The move comes less than a week after Evans held a joint press conference with Dew to reiterate the club’s support for the coach amid reports from Caroline Wilson on the Real Footy podcast and Nine’s Footy Classified that Dew’s days at Gold Coast were numbered.

Evans and East defended the Suns’ rapid about-face, saying the club had not misled its members and fans. East said it would have “cut to the culture” of the club if it did not act immediately once the decision was made. But Gold Coast did not explain why the call was made now and not after the season.

“It wasn’t just last week, we have been consistent in our support of Stuart,” East, who took over as chairman this year from Tony Cochrane, said.

“But, as any organisation should do, there should be a process of continual evaluation and continuous improvement. It did crystallise over the weeks and months that there were gaps.

“I’m not about to run a commentary or public commentary on performance appraisal, but it was very clear that we needed to close the gap.

“You cannot be disingenuous in any organisation, let alone a high-performance organisation. So once that decision is made, it is incumbent on the leaders of the club to act on those decisions.”

In a statement East said a change was necessary.

“We feel we have a great opportunity to achieve success with this group but haven’t seen the improvement we were after in 2023 and as a football club we must be prepared to make tough decisions, in that pursuit of success,” East said.

“Stuart has made a significant contribution to this football club, dedicating countless hours towards helping establish a platform from which our club can grow, and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank him, his wife Sarah and family for the last six years.”

Damien Hardwick departs his press conference at Punt Road after announcing he was stepping down as coach of Richmond Football Club.
Analysis AFL 2023
Hardwick might be first – but not only – call the Suns make
A premiership player at both Port Adelaide and Hawthorn, Dew started as coach at the club in 2018.

He coached the Suns for five completed seasons without reaching finals. However, his contract was extended last season until the end of 2024 after the club decided with COVID-19 interruptions and the rebuild, he needed a fair shot at the job. His payout was set at no more than six months, but he had potential triggers in place if the team made finals.

Dew has been under pressure this season as the Suns attempted to make finals for the first time after opening the season with three losses in their first four matches.

Their capitulation against Carlton three weeks ago when they were still in the hunt to make finals was the beginning of the end for Dew. The Suns managed to defeat the Hawks on the Gold Coast but were thrashed against both Collingwood and Port Adelaide in the past two weeks. A source, who wanted to remain anonymous because he was not authorised to speak publicly, was in the rooms after the Port Adelaide loss and said the mood was darker than usual – but the move still surprised him.

Dew had a winning record of just above 30 per cent in his 84 games.

Former St Kilda coach Alan Richardson is the only other AFL coach to last well into their sixth season at one club without making finals in the preceding five years. He also parted ways with the Saints after 16 rounds.

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