AFTER a chaotic finish to what has been a difficult year, Richmond coach Damien Hardwick admits his exhausted players will enjoy the chance to recharge and refresh so they can come back hungry for success in 2022.
The Tigers looked like they would end the season with a loss on Saturday, after being 31 points down late in the final term against a Hawthorn team saying goodbye to legendary coach Alastair Clarkson and veteran Shaun Burgoyne.
But Richmond refused to lie down, kicking the final five goals of the game – including a toe-poke in the dying seconds from Jack Riewoldt – to secure a remarkable draw.
Hardwick said post-game it had been a challenging week for the club, with the retirements of its premiership stars David Astbury and Bachar Houli adding to the emotion of Clarkson and Burgoyne’s farewell.
He praised his side for continuing to fight to the end, even when a loss looked beyond doubt.
"I was really pleased the guys fought it out for [Astbury and Houli]," Hardwick said.
"We didn’t have a win but we managed to nullify the result.
"So it was a reasonably positive way to finish off in the year and we’re really pleased with some of the efforts of our younger players as well, which will be a really positive thing for our fans to sit back and enjoy."
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Richmond’s year was plagued by injuries to key players including Dustin Martin, Trent Cotchin, Dion Prestia and Toby Nankervis.
And now with the home and away season finished, the two-time defending premiers are set to miss September action for the first time since 2016.
Hardwick said while his players were shattered to miss out on finals, taking an extended break after four years of deep September runs could be beneficial in the long term.
He said his side would reset in the off season and come back "bigger and better" in 2022.
"It has been a long four years. You look at the vast majority of clubs that have won some flags, it does effectively add another season to what the other sides have played," he said.
"I think our guys will enjoy the break. Don't get me wrong, they'd much rather be playing finals and competing as hard as they could but I think they're exhausted.
"So they'll rest, they'll recharge. The coaching group will do the same, we'll look at some things that worked, [and] some areas of our game that need to improve."
Meanwhile Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson, who joined Hardwick during his post-match press conference, said he was relieved to now take a break from the relentlessness of coaching.
He joked that he was happy to not have to review the final stages of Saturday's game, when the Tigers came home with a flurry of goals.
"You know what is a weight off my shoulders, [that] I don't have to watch or review the last 10 minutes of that game," Clarkson said.
"Coaches in the AFL probably watch five or six games of footy a week, and each one of them takes three of four hours to analyse … so it's an enormous workload that all the coaches have.
"It's tiring, it's relentless, when you've got to cope with that for 17 years … it's not a part of the game you actually really enjoy.
"But if you want to be good you just have to do the hard yards."
As Clarkson prepares to hand the reins over to Sam Mitchell as senior coach, he encouraged him to stamp his own vision on the side.
"It's a baton change. I think we've been able to show in the second half of the year that there's enough emerging talent at our footy club to move forward," he said.
"Mitch has got to work out what his vision is for the footy club and where he wants to take it. It's his responsibility to write a new chapter for the Hawthorn footy club.
"There's been some great chapters. I've been really fortunate to be a part of the last one but it's time for us to renew and get a new chapter written."