Hardwick disagreed with the suggestion that the Tigers’ performances dropped significantly without Martin.
“I wouldn’t say that, like we didn’t have the majority of our playing list for the start of last year and you take one of the best, if not the best player in the league out of a side, you’d prefer to have him than not,” he said.
“The reality is there’s 22 other players that play our way, who just didn’t play well tonight. Dustin’s just one player. He’s not the Richmond Football Club. He’s a very important player, don’t get me wrong. But our expectation, the club expectation is our players who pull on the jumper play a hell of a lot better than they did tonight. I’ve got to coach them better as well.
“I know what you’re saying, but I think it’s a long bow to draw.”
Hardwick acknowledged Martin’s teammates walked taller with him in the side. “Yeah absolutely, that’s what the very best players in the competition do, you feel better about life, there’s no doubt.
“But the fact of the matter is, other players have to step up. It happened this week and it will happen again in the future – there’s no doubt.
“We just had too many players today who were well below their best, you’re not going to win many games of football when that’s the case.”
Hardwick called the performance – in which the Tigers trailed by 32 points both at quarter-time and half-time – “un-Richmond-like” and marked by poor execution.
“Defensively we were pretty solid last week. This week, we probably, in all facets of the game, I thought we weren’t terrific. That’s taking nothing away from Hawthorn, I thought they were very good, but I was just disappointed in the way we played. You know, we pride ourselves on a number of things that we do. But none of those things really shone out tonight.”
Hardwick said their poor starts – they conceded the first five goals to the Hawks after giving up the first four in their draw against Collingwood – were disappointing, and that they had failed to stick tackles.
“It wasn’t so much – the pressure was there, but we just missed tackles. They broke through. The number of times we had them, I thought stark, and they managed to get that ball out and that ball forward. That was disappointing, certainly it’s not to our level of expectation for sure.”
The coach said the Tigers had given up easy goals to free kicks (Hawthorn booted six from frees). “We’ve just got to nullify those, those easy goals you give opposition…to give up easy scores like that, it’s really demoralising.
“Look, we’ve got to look at something, it’s not working for us at the moment. You know, same sort of thing, we’re not doing anything that’s dissimilar from last year. But we’ve got to re-invigorate and find something that’ll get us up and going.
“Once again, a lot of things that we’re not executing are in our control. You know, the opposition’s the opposition, but we still pride ourselves on the way we play and we’re just not doing it.
“You know, that’s on me as a coach and the players stepping up and performing what we’re designed to do. At the moment we’re well short of that.
“Do we want to be playing our best footy now? No. Do we need to play a hell of a lot better? Absolutely. We’re well off it at the moment.”
Jake Niall is a Walkley award-winning sports journalist and chief AFL writer for The Age.