AFTER going through its premiership era, Richmond is now in the process of change.
Damien Hardwick, their triple-premiership coach, left mid-season and is now in the Gold Coast bright red polo. Trent Cotchin, the skipper of all those flags, has retired as has the spearhead of their glory years, Jack Riewoldt. Administratively, John O'Rourke has been the Tigers' president for less than a year. His next decision will be his biggest so far. Who will fill the shoes permanently of Hardwick?
As AFL.com.au reported last week, interim coach Andrew McQualter and Melbourne assistant Adem Yze have leapt ahead as the two frontrunners for the role, with well-credentialled assistants Daniel Giansiracusa (Essendon), Chris Newman (Hawthorn) and Xavier Clarke (Richmond) no longer a part of the Tigers' coaching process. A decision is expected around Grand Final time.
A key question will be how much more change is actually required? There is an argument that whoever is appointed – regardless of background at Tigerland or not – will be a voice of change on top of the layers that have already occurred in recent months.
In McQualter, the Tigers have a long-term assistant who knows the group, is popular and respected by players and understands the Richmond way. A short-term interim coaching stint does not provide a strong window for change to be introduced like a full-time coaching job would. Nor should the caretaker curse be applied to him like it has for others in recent seasons – his time as Richmond's head coach didn't come after a brutal sacking or stretch of pressure.
In Yze, the Tigers will be considering a fresh voice altogether who comes from a developed program, has match-day experience with the Demons and has been second-placed in his past two attempts at landing a senior coaching role – with Essendon and Greater Western Sydney. The Giants' success this season under Adam Kingsley, who had also been knocked back for previous coaching roles, will work in the favour of those who have chased multiple jobs.
In deciding between two qualified, experienced and successful candidates, the Tigers will also be weighing the unique circumstances of their coaching search.
It didn't come on the back of a horror season, an elongated period of failure or a culture that has imploded. It was driven by Hardwick's quick and sudden departure from the club, with the new Suns head coach saying he had "tried to cook the sausages 100 different ways and I couldn't find 1001". Richmond players, too, might have been ready to see the barbecue packed up and put in the garage.
Because of Hardwick's rapid mid-season exit, McQualter was thrown the keys to the senior team as the interim coach and finished with a 7-6 winning record. He made moves – restoring Liam Baker to the forward line, Dustin Martin to the midfield and Jayden Short getting back to his running best off half-back – and rode the wave of a club dealing with the end of its golden run but working ways to remain in the finals hunt until the last few weeks of the season. Four players also got their debuts under McQualter.
That McQualter was by Hardwick's side for a decade since joining Richmond in 2014 gives him an advantage on knowing the inner workings of the club and what has contributed to their premierships. Familiarity can be the friend of success. That Yze hasn't had this gives the former Dees forward an edge if the Tigers are looking for an outsider's view.
Yze has been in charge of the Demons' midfield and is also the head of strategy on game day and in constant communication to coach Simon Goodwin from the coaches' box. Before Melbourne, he had been at Hawthorn as an assistant coach. Yze had taken some time to decide whether to throw himself into the coaching process at Richmond, which itself was done a little differently to other clubs through the application process.
Now that process is at its pointy end, the Tigers have a call to make. If change is on the agenda, both offer it in different ways.