Old mates could share a slice of footy history
Saturday, September 30, 2017 - 11:06 PM

 - from afl.com.au

RICHMOND coach Damien Hardwick and his assistant Blake Caracella have long shared a close friendship, and after the AFL Grand Final on Saturday, they might also share a significant League record.

If Hardwick and Caracella can drive the Tigers to break their 37-year premiership drought against Adelaide, they will become the first men to win flags with four clubs as players, coaches or assistant coaches.

According to the AFL's statistics and history consultant Col Hutchinson, this charmed pair is among an exclusive group of eight who have each won premierships at three clubs.

They are already in exalted company given the list of three-club premiers features legends Ron Barassi, Leigh Matthews and Mick Malthouse, along with contemporaries in Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge and Sydney assistants John Blakey and Stuart Dew.

Victory on Saturday would also make Hardwick just the fourth man to have won flags at three clubs as a player or coach. The three to have achieved this feat are Barassi, Matthews and Malthouse.

Although the Tigers duo have changed their stripes a few times, one thing hasn't changed: wherever they have plied their trade, success has generally followed them.

'Dimma' and 'Skunk' (as the elusive Caracella was called by his teammates because no opponent seemed to want to go near him) first became acquainted at Essendon in 1995, and were strong contributors to the Bombers' 2000 flag.

Hardwick, 45, was also a member of Port Adelaide's first premiership team against Caracella's Brisbane Lions in 2004 before acting as Alastair Clarkson's right-hand man in Hawthorn's 2008 triumph.

Meanwhile, Caracella, 40, played in the Lions' 2003 flag and was an assistant coach at Geelong when it saluted in 2011.

Caracella had spent 2007-09 on Collingwood's coaching panel and just missed the Magpies' 2010 premiership.

Given their mateship, it was perhaps only ever a matter of time before Hardwick and Caracella reunited in a professional sense.

The timing was perfect during Richmond's coaching panel shake-up at the end of last year when seven-year Cats assistant Caracella moved to Punt Road, where his responsibilities included "midfield spread and ball movement".

The Tigers have dramatically improved in both areas, and it's no coincidence that chief playmakers Dustin Martin and skipper Trent Cotchin have enjoyed brilliant seasons. So Caracella hasn't only helped save Hardwick's job but has also contributed to a surprise shot at a flag.

A long-awaited premiership would be the crowning glory of Hardwick's career to date, while head-coach-in-waiting Caracella's greatest moment might well be ahead of him.


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