Tigers leap as Hardwick invokes the Hillary Step
Monday, October 30, 2017 - 3:11 PM

  - from afl.com.au

DAMIEN Hardwick became a storyteller in 2017 and the Richmond coach used the Hillary Step on Mount Everest to inspire his troops on Grand Final day. 

After a season spent crafting often humorous stories in his pre-match addresses, Hardwick left his players with a simple message as they prepared to face Adelaide in the season decider: "40 feet to go". 

The Hillary Step is a 39 foot, near-vertical rock face located high on Mount Everest, presenting climbers with the last real challenge before they reach the summit. 

Richmond was "on the Hillary Step", Hardwick told his players before they ran out on against the Crows. 

"The summit is there. But we've got to walk each foot to get there. I love what we've done, but we've got 40 feet to go." 

Hardwick's final pre-game address is detailed in 'Yellow and Black: A season with Richmond', a fly-on-the-wall account of the Tigers' remarkable season by author Konrad Marshall. 

The Hillary Step anecdote was a running theme on Grand Final day, with Hardwick returning to the message at half-time, which was written in blue on the whiteboard. 

The coach wiped away number four at half time, replacing it with a two: 20 FEET TO GO. 

"Stand up. Everyone get a touch on someone," Hardwick said at half-time after speaking to his players about their pressure, goals from turnovers and the contested style of the game. 

"There's 20 feet to go to that summit. Stay within the framework. Have the desire to succeed. One foot in front of the other, one step at a time." 

The Tigers kicked 10 goals to four in the second half, racing to the summit to win their first premiership since 1980 in spectacular fashion.

Throughout 2017, Hardwick told stories as varied as his lack of understanding when it came to social media to an inspiring 1500s Spanish adventurer who told his men to burn their boats.    

After the frenzy of the post-match celebrations, and once CEO Brendon Gale and captain Trent Cotchin addressed the group, Hardwick had one final story to tell. 

It was designed to acknowledge the Richmond players who had not taken the field on Grand Final day, recognising their contribution in 2017.   

His story was about a US college basketballer who played with immortal NBA champion Bill Walton, wrote Marshall, who was given unprecedented inside access by the Tigers. 

"Itís a great story," Hardwick said.

"This guy, I forget his name, he got recruited to UCLA, effectively to make Bill Walton a better player, to do everything he could to make this star player better.

"Thereís 22 blokes here who played today, but thereís 22 more who didnít play. But through all your training, and all your effort this year, youíve made this side great." 

After thanking the Tigers' training staff and his assistant coaches, he told the players: "The manic nature of the way you played the game, itís just so exciting! I feel like you guys can have your thing tonight, all your celebrationsóIím going home to watch the tape!"

Yellow & Black: a season with Richmond by Konrad Marshall (Slattery Media Group). Available at participating bookshops or via the Richmond website.

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