More importantly it’s put the Saints and their coach in the twilight zone as few outside the club expect him to remain as coach but no-one inside the club is either prepared to – or able to depending on the contract terms – declare their hand in the way Carlton and North Melbourne did when they moved on Brendon Bolton and Brad Scott.
That’s what has made watching Richardson’s performance under the fiercest of pressure so intriguing.
His grace in batting away questions about his future without appearing overly defensive, and his ability to remain upbeat with his players and staff in the face of more losses than he’d have liked, has shown why he is a respected person in the industry.
Not once has he complained despite his players missing for a range of reasons not even Nostradamus could have predicted, his temperament giving the club hope that the bottom will not fall out despite enough speculation occurring for Richardson to admit he felt the need to do a temperature check with his players with three poor quarters in which the Saints conceded 23 of the 50 goals they have conceded in the past three matches.
“I have had a chat to a couple of the leaders just to get a sense as to whether that noise is affecting anything but given that the group is still playing – while we’re frustrated with [occasional poor] quarters – pretty strong competitive ‘for the footy club’ sort of footy, it hasn’t been the issue,” Richardson said.
“I know what my focus is and I am really confident their focus is on doing whatever they can to get our season back on track by playing four quarters of footy.”
The players have spent the week making commitments to each other about the way they want to play after conceding eight of the first nine goals against North Melbourne and Richardson has maintained faith they can upset Geelong to keep things interesting given his coaching career has been comparable to recent performances with one below year in the past four putting him under pressure.
“When it is that finals are parked, and they haven’t been – we’ve made it a bit more difficult for ourselves – you start to talk about young players,” Richardson said.
“It will be a relatively inexperienced group but we’re picking blokes that we think can get the job done.”
While Richardson’s resilience is admirable, Carlton also appear in the twilight zone after football director Chris Judd appeared to rule out caretaker coach David Teague as a candidate for the coaching job, a position Blues’ CEO Cain Liddle had to correct the next day.
Teague took the apparent rebuff on the chin ahead of the match against Sydney saying he had no issue with the comments and he wasn’t ruling out being a candidate for the gig, having won two of his four games as coach.
“If at the end of the year I’m ready to go then yes, but I’m learning a lot about myself right now and I’m really enjoying that process,” he said.
“At the end of the year I’ll have a chat and see where I’m at and I’ll have a better understanding of whether I think I’m ready to go or not.”
Peter Ryan is a sports reporter with The Age covering AFL, horse racing and other sports.