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Devastated Hardwick has no answers for loss

Hardwick's 'emotional rollercoaster' Watch Richmond coach Damien Hardwick's post-match press conference
Trent Cotchin of the Tigers looks dejected after a loss during the 2014 AFL Round 09 match between the Richmond Tigers and the Melbourne Demons at the MCG, Melbourne on May 17, 2014. (Photo: Michael Willson/AFL Media)
Injured captain Trent Cotchin could find no excuse for the loss
A SHATTERED Damien Hardwick has conceded his Richmond outfit is nothing like the one that played in a final just eight months ago – and simply doesn't know why.

After Saturday's 17-point loss to Melbourne, the Tigers appear unlikely to repeat last year's achievement and finish in the top eight, slumping to just two wins from eight games.

Hardwick, who looked drained and overwrought following an emotional week with the passing of club great Tommy Hafey, struggled to find words after the game.

Five talking points: Richmond v Melbourne

He grew emotional as his post-match press conference went on, particularly when talking about David Astbury's knee injury.

When it was put to him that teams don't just lose ability in a period of nine months, he said the reason behind the Tigers' alarming drop off had him mystified.

"We were having the exact same conversation," Hardwick said.

"Personnel has changed a little bit. Has it changed a lot? No.
  
"Unfortunately at the moment, we're not the same side.
  
"It's disappointing to me, it's disappointing to the players - more importantly, it's disappointing to our fans.
  
"We have to make sure we take some steps and get our game back up and going.

"Unfortunately I've been saying this for six or seven weeks - I'm sick of talking about it."

He was then asked if the situation was exasperating, or frustrating.

He sighed and responded with, "Yeah, you've got no idea."

Captain Trent Cotchin, who Hardwick admitted probably shouldn't have played after quarter-time because of an ankle injury he needed re-strapped in the second half, said the players didn't shy away from pre-season expectations.

But after being comprehensively beaten in one-on-one contests, he said it might be time to put players "on notice".

"We let ourselves down in a few areas we'll have to review quite closely," Cotchin said.

"Whether or not it's putting guys on notice or just coming together as a group and making sure we're prepared as best we can be for next week.

"Without looking at the game it's hard to see but there's times, me included, where we need to win our one-on-one contests and we let ourselves down.

"We'll do some work on that this week at training and make sure it doesn't happen on a consistent basis."

Cotchin could barely run by the game's end, with Hardwick conceding he was in doubt for Saturday's clash with Greater Western Sydney.

"To his credit he fought it out, that's the type of kid he is - we need a few more like him," Hardwick said.

Hardwick gutted by Astbury's knee injury

The Tigers will turn to the VFL for fresh personnel, but Hardwick said ruckman Ivan Maric would likely need another two games after his return on Saturday.

While the coach won't publicly draw a line through the season yet, his demeanour suggested he knows the enormity of the task ahead of the Tigers if they are to repeat last year's September berth.

"(It's) incredibly disappointing - one, from a seasonal point of view, but then after the death of an icon of our footy club, to dish up that kind of performance was really disappointing," he said.

"We know what's happening - at the bookends, in essence, we're losing the contested ball.

"It was a strength of ours last year and for whatever reason, it's not working this year.

"Funnily enough though today, we lost through the middle as well.

"People will say the emotion got to us, but emotion doesn't come into winning one-on-one contests.
  
"That's just whether you want it as compared to the bloke beside you.
  
"Unfortunately, they wanted it a lot more than us today."

Twitter: @AFL_JenPhelan