Damien Hardwick addresses his players during Gold Coast's clash against Richmond in Opening Round, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

A RELIEVED Damien Hardwick said there was a lot to like, but Gold Coast still had "a long way to go" following its first-up win over Richmond on Saturday.

The Suns played a scintillating first half to lead by 61 points at the main break, but watched on as the Tigers reduced the gap to just 23 early in the final term.

SUNS v TIGERS Full match coverage and stats

The home team steadied to win by 39 points in Hardwick's first game in charge after he left Richmond midway through last season.

The three-time premiership coach admitted it had been a huge week in preparation to face his former club.

"It's always a little bit like that in round one anyway," Hardwick said. "It's a mixture of nervousness, anxiousness, excitement, all those things built up into one.

"You're never quite sure what you're feeling. What you are feeling is that inner turmoil.


"I was really pleased our fans and our players could see the way we wanted to play and want to go about it."

Hardwick said he had put the heat on his midfield group following a poor outing against Greater Western Sydney in the pre-season.

Led by an imperious display by powerhouse Matt Rowell, they responded magnificently, winning the clearance count by 12, contested possessions by 27 and generating 20 more inside 50s.

"You can see the style we're trying to look to play and implement and I was really happy with the boys and how they went about that," Hardwick said.

"We've still got a long way to go. There's some things in our game we were OK at, but can certainly get better."


The Suns' coach is also looking for a lighter off-field load ahead of hosting Adelaide at People First Stadium next Saturday night after a huge week of promotion before facing the Tigers.

"I've done more TikTok, Twitter feeds and that type of stuff – I don't even know what a TikTok is half the time – and I said to these guys (the media department) that I'm looking forward to a week off."

"It's not my scene," he laughed.


The man that took over from Hardwick at Richmond, Adem Yze, said his team was "all over the shop" in the first half, losing stoppages, and unable to either lock the ball inside its forward 50 or win it back when the Suns had the ball.

"I was really proud of our players in their response," Yze said, referencing their six unanswered goals in the third quarter.


"It looked like a Richmond game in the second half.

"It could have been a horrendous result and in the end we gave ourselves a shot at it."