Damien Hardwick during Gold Coast's training session at Heritage Bank Stadium on November 27, 2023. Picture: Getty Images

DAMIEN Hardwick expects relations with Richmond to be a little "frosty" this week as he prepares to coach against the Tigers for the first time since last year's sudden departure.

Hardwick left Punt Rd mid-season after leading the Tigers to three premierships from 307 games across 13-plus seasons, before swiftly taking up an offer to coach Gold Coast months later.

Now, as part of the AFL's Opening Round, the Suns will host Richmond at what is expected to be a sold-out Heritage Bank Stadium on Saturday afternoon, pitting Hardwick against his old side and his successor, Adem Yze.

"I haven't lost to them for 14 years and I'm not planning on doing it now," Hardwick joked to AFL.com.au.

"It's going to be awesome. I can't wait for it.

"I speak to people and players (there) all the time, we've been together for a long period of time, and they'll be friends for life. 

"The week prior might be a little frosty, I reckon, as it was when I used to coach against 'Clarko' (Alastair Clarkson). That doesn't mean I love them any less."

Hardwick served five years of his coaching apprenticeship under Clarkson, and after a slow start against his rampant Hawks, ended up with a winning record (eight wins from 15 matches) against his mentor.

One of the lifelong friends Hardwick referred to that he'll face at the weekend is three-time Norm Smith medallist Dustin Martin.

The 32-year-old is out of contract at season's end, and his former coach wasn't being drawn on whether the 2017 Brownlow medallist would be a Gold Coast trade target.

Richmond's Dustin Martin and coach Damien Hardwick embrace after the Tigers' 2020 Grand Final victory. Picture: AFL Photos

"We touch base regularly. He's one of those guys I've had a lot to do with. He's the first player I ever drafted," Hardwick said.

"They're list management decisions, but the reality is any player Gold Coast Suns think will help us, we'll always look at.

"I firmly believe our footy club will start to become a destination club and if we start to progress the way I think we have, we'll start to get those players wanting to come to us.

"The club has had its challenges before, but credit to 'Dewy' (Stuart Dew) and his coaching and the people in this club, they've solidified the club."