Hardwick makes first big poaching move

New Gold Coast coach Damien Hardwick has lured what could be the first of a few former Richmond players to the Suns.

AFL: David King takes aim at Carlton forward Jack Martin for his brainfade against the Swans that has seen him suspended for two matches.

Days after Hardwick was filmed catching up with Tigers star Dustin Martin on the Gold Coast, amid ongoing speculation the pair could re-unite, Geelong confirmed it had released Grigg from the final year of his contract to “pursue another opportunity”.

The Suns then confirmed that opportunity was with triple-premiership winner Hardwick who has signed a massive six-year deal at the Suns having left the Tigers mid-way through the 2023 season citing burnout.

“Geelong Cats can confirm that it has agreed to release assistant coach Shaun Grigg from his 2024 contract to pursue another opportunity,” the Cats said in a statement.

Grigg spent nine seasons with Hardwick at Richmond, including the 2017 premiership victory before spending four years at Geelong as an assistant coach.

Damien Hardwick and Shaun Grigg during their Richmond days. . (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

Richmond are confident Martin, who is contracted at the club, won’t be moving north to join Hardwick but speculation intensified when the pair were photographed sharing a beer on the Gold Coast, where Martin is holidaying.

Grigg’s departure from the Cats came as North Melbourne continued a cleanout of assistants with John Blakey and Gavin Brown joining Brett Ratten in leaving the club.

Ratten, who took over as caretaker coach when Alastair Clarkson stepped away to focus on his mental and physical health, confirmed last week we wouldn’t return in 2024.

Now Brown and Blakey are out the door in what the Kangaroos have labelled a mutual parting of ways.

Blakey had oly been at North for two seasons after 14 years with the Swans., while Brown had been at the club for a decade, having first joined North Melbourne in November 2013 as senior development coach.

“After conversations with ‘Blakes’ and ’Browny’, we have agreed to mutually part ways,” North Melbourne’s general manager of football Todd Viney said in a statement.

“These decisions are never taken lightly, but the time is right for all parties to move forward in new directions.”

The Western Bulldogs also parted ways with development coach Travis Varcoe after three seasons at the club.

Varcoe, a premiership winner with Geelong, joins assistant coaches Marc Webb and Rohan Smith to depart the club in the off-season following the Bulldogs failures to make the finals.

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