Richmond Tigers coach Damien Hardwick was unveiled as the Monjon Allan Jeans Senior Coach of the Year for the first time at the 2017 Shadforth Financial Group AFL Coaches Association Awards on Tuesday night.
Hardwick narrowly edged out fellow Grand Final coach Don Pyke (Adelaide Crows) and John Longmire (Sydney Swans) just days after leading the Tigers to their first Grand Final since 1982, and just 12 months removed from an internal review that threatened to end his tenure at the club.
The 45-year-old accepted the award, which was voted on by his peers and named in honour of coaching legend Allan Jeans, in front of more than 380 guests at Peninsula in Docklands.
Hardwick was deemed to be the best performed senior coach throughout the 2017 home and away season, up to and including the preliminary finals, and having regard for current season's performance, available resources, player talent and team management.
AFL Coaches Association CEO Mark Brayshaw hailed Hardwick’s ability to turn around the Tigers’ fortunes after a challenging 2016 season.
“Damien has really shown his mettle this season. He was tested, and questions were asked about him after last year, but he remained steadfast. He's come back and—through hard work and perseverance—has been instrumental to the Tigers’ revival,” Brayshaw said.
“Throughout his playing career Damien was known for his grit and toughness, and I think we’ve seen those same qualities shine through this year.
“This award is also a testament to Damien’s panel of assistant and development coaches,” Brayshaw said.
Several other awards were announced throughout the night, the most notable of which was the 2017 Shadforth Financial Group AFLCA Coaching Legend, which saw the induction of Malcolm Blight as an AFLCA Coaching Legend.
The former North Melbourne, Geelong, Adelaide and St Kilda coach guided the Crows to two consecutive premierships in 1997 and 1998, and took the Cats to three Grand Final appearances in 1989, 1992 and 1994.
Blight was inducted by former Adelaide Crows colleague Neil Craig, who was head of the side’s fitness program during their back-to-back premiership run.
Two more of Blight’s former charges–Ken Hinkley and Simon Goodwin–paid tribute to the influence that the sometimes different, yet honest and caring coach had on their careers and the game.
“He brings the environment, and gives it a feel that anything is possible…he’s got a special quality, a special aura, and a special ability to be able to bring people together,” Goodwin said.
“He just did what he had to do. It didn’t matter, it was all about the team and having success and whatever needed to be done he was prepared to do that. And there was great players over the journey that Malcolm had to make big calls on, and having been involved with him for quite a bit I know that was a great strength of his – having the courage to make those calls,” Hinkley said.
Blight joins fellow coaching greats Kevin Sheedy, Leigh Matthews, David Parkin, Allan Jeans, Tom Hafey, Ron Barassi, John Kennedy Snr and Mick Malthouse on the esteemed list of coaching legends.
The theme of honouring icons of the coaching caper continued, with John Worsfold presenting WA great and WAFL legend John Dimmer with the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Worsfold paid homage to Dimmer’s immense contributions to football in Western Australia, with a decorated coaching career spanning three decades and 284 games being highlighted by four WAFL premierships – two each with West Perth and South Fremantle.
The Atlantic Group Assistant Coach of the Year Award went to Rhyce Shaw of the Sydney Swans, ahead of Richmond’s Craig McCrae, and last year’s winner–and Shaw’s Sydney Swans colleague–Stuart Dew. Sydney Swans senior coach John Longmire had glowing praise for his development coach.
“Rhyce has been able to make the transition, from coaching to playing, look so smooth, but we all know it’s not as easy as what Rhyce made it look. He’s fantastic with relationships, sensational with football knowledge and just a great assest to this football club,” Longmire said.
Mitch Hahn of the Brisbane Lions was awarded the La Trobe Business School Career and Education Award, which recognises a coach who has excelled in furthering their coaching credentials through study and career development.
Gerard Whateley continued his dominance being voted by the coaches for a fourth consecutive year as the winner of the AFLCA Media Award, for his work on Fox Footy’s AFL 360 and on ABC Radio. It follows Whateley’s dominance of the recent Australian Football Media Awards, underlining his excellence and overall contribution to the game.
2017 Monjon Allan Jeans Senior Coach of the Year
1) DAMIEN HARDWICK – Richmond Tigers (294 votes)
2) DON PYKE – Adelaide Crows (283 votes)
3) JOHN LONGMIRE – Sydney Swans (72 votes)
4) JOHN WORSFOLD – Essendon Bombers (34 votes)
5) LEON CAMERON – GWS Giants (31 votes)
2017 Atlantic Group Assistant Coach of the Year
1) RHYCE SHAW – Sydney Swans
2) CRAIG McCRAE – Richmond Tigers
3) STUART DEW – Sydney Swans
4) BEN RUTTEN – Richmond Tigers
5) NIGEL LAPPIN – Geelong Cats