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Suns have '80 per cent' of flag team: Damien Hardwick

Damien Hardwick debuts the Gold Coast Suns colours. Picture: Regi Varghese.

Damien Hardwick is not the Messiah, but he feels like a very happy boy on Christmas Day.

The new Gold Coast coach is bullish about orchestrating a fourth AFL premiership, saying the Suns have 80 per cent of the players they need to challenge for their maiden flag.

Hardwick and the Suns hierarchy kept the door ajar when inevitably asked if one of those players might be Richmond star Dustin Martin.

While he noted the Brownlow Medallist remained contracted to the Tigers, Hardwick, club chairman Bob East and chief executive Mark Evans all deferred to the Suns list management team.

As widely anticipated, the three-time Richmond premiership coach will take over at the Suns, and has signed a six-year deal.

It is three months since Hardwick abruptly left the Tigers in mid-season, saying he had done all he could at the club, and six weeks from when the Suns sacked coach Stuart Dew.

Gold Coast are yet to make the finals after 13 years in the AFL, but Hardwick oozed confidence at Monday's media conference.

"I'm very, very, very excited - I liken it to waking up on Christmas Day, walking into a brand new set of toys," he said.

"Eighty per cent of our first premiership side is sitting in this room right now... This side and this club are very capable of saluting in the not-too-distant future."

But Hardwick and East stressed that would take the efforts of the whole club, saying one man did not make a flag.

"I'm not the Messiah. I'm part of the puzzle that's going to take us where we need to go," Hardwick said.

The 51-year-old will take over from interim coach Steven King after the Suns' season ends next weekend.

King and much of the existing Gold Coast football department will stay put, with Hardwick saying he felt no need to make changes.

The Suns' new coach forecast an attacking style similar to what has taken Collingwood to the top in 2023.

"You have to tailor a game plan to what you have here, and a lot of the tools I'm looking for are in this building right now," he said.

"We'll bring a style of game that will be relatively similar to what you see Collingwood, GWS and Richmond play... At this stage, I'm thinking I have all the people I need in the building, and I don't really need to bring anyone else."

But inevitably, Hardwick, East and Evans were asked about their potential interest in Martin.

"He's a contracted player at Richmond," Hardwick said. "List management decisions will come in due course."

Hardwick said he had not spoken to Dew. The pair were 2004 premiership teammates at Port Adelaide and worked together at Hawthorn.

"It's very cut-throat, that's the reality of the situation," Hardwick said.

"My time will come ... this is the nature of the business we're in.

"No apologies for that, you have to succeed."

East said the club was delighted to secure Hardwick, who had coached the Tigers from 2009.

At the start of August, East and Evans flew to Milan, where Hardwick was holidaying, to complete the hiring process.

Asked when they had convinced him to join the Suns, Hardwick said "probably after entree".


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