DAMIEN Hardwick's shock decision to quit Richmond will cause a flurry among both the top rung of assistant coaches as well as those in senior ranks with uncertain futures.
The coaching landscape is never stable for long, with 13 coaching changes taking place since 2020, 37 since 2010, and four ahead of the 2023 season alone.
Another year of coach changes is now guaranteed after the vacancy at Tigerland was created, coming at a time when Port Adelaide's Ken Hinkley is out of contract and Gold Coast's Stuart Dew is under pressure.
Hinkley's future and the prospect of Richmond poaching him will draw immediate focus at a time when the 56-year-old's team is 8-2 and on a seven-game winning streak.
Power president David Koch reiterated on Tuesday that the club's position with Hinkley was to wait until August before discussing the coach's future, with Koch satisfied with how that approach was working.
"Ken and I both agreed before the start of the season started so we stick to the plan," he told Channel Seven.
Both Hinkley, while he remains uncontracted for 2024, and Hardwick now loom as attractive future options for the 4-6 Suns, who appear unlikely to feature in finals for a sixth season under Dew.
Gold Coast chief executive Mark Evans supported Dew on Tuesday but stopped short of committing to the coach for the remaining 18 months of his contract.
"Stuey is our coach and we're getting behind that and we're going to try and get those wins over the next month or two months and set up a really promising finish to the season," Evans said.
When asked whether Dew was guaranteed to lead Gold Coast into 2024, Evans remained steadfast.
"Stuey's our coach. The important message to every single person and everybody at the Suns is that we have to go after showing the world that we're continuing to improve," Evans said.
"This time last year we were in the same position. We went to Darwin, came back with two wins, and got our season to square.
"We'd like an extra win or two from where we are, but the opportunity sits ahead of us now to get those wins and show people we are improving."
Elsewhere, there is mounting external pressure on West Coast coach Adam Simpson and the wider club due to a horror run of losses and a mounting injury toll, but change in the top job is not expected.
Simpson has one of the longer existing contracts among AFL coaches, expiring at the end of 2025, and he has maintained his commitment to seeing through that tenure and assisting the club's rebuild efforts.
Carlton president Luke Sayers moved this week to ease pressure on coach Michael Voss, declaring he would "absolutely" remain at the helm next season, even if the Blues missed finals this year.
North Melbourne remains confident that master coach Alastair Clarkson will return to his post after taking an indefinite period of leave to focus on his wellbeing, with assistant Brett Ratten now in that role as a caretaker.
Ratten is among a group of assistant coaches with recent senior coaching experience who would be considered unlikely to jump back into the hot seat yet, with Ben Rutten and David Teague likely to fall in that bracket.
Other previous coaches with senior experience include Don Pyke (Adelaide), Leon Cameron (Greater Western Sydney), Justin Leppitsch (Brisbane) and Nathan Buckley (Collingwood).
Pyke joined Sydney in 2021 and was at Longmire's side as the side reached last year's Grand Final, with Cameron securing a role with the Swans Academy after leaving the Giants last season. Buckley has forged a successful media career after stepping down as senior coach two years ago.
Leppitsch stands out as an option after the role he has played alongside Craig McRae at the Magpies and his existing ties to Richmond as a former assistant to Hardwick and key figure in the club's three premierships between 2017 and 2020.
Caretaker and highly rated assistant Andrew McQualter will have an opportunity to jump from caretaker this season to permanent replacement, while highly touted assistants Daniel Giansiracusa (Essendon), Adem Yze (Melbourne) and Ashley Hansen (Carlton) would contend.
Richmond chief executive Brendon Gale spoke on Tuesday of Hardwick's selfless decision allowing the club to get ahead in its search for his replacement.
While assessing potentially available options in the senior coaching market, the club would be expected to run a process that includes untried assistants, just as Hardwick was when he was appointed ahead of the 2010 season.
"The game is evolving, we want to find the next Damien Hardwick," Gale said.
"We think we're a pretty attractive proposition. We are a strong club with a strong culture (and) we are pretty confident we've got a culture where a coach will thrive in our football club.
"Because of this selfless decision it gives us an opportunity to get ahead of that."