The Passing of a Magpie and Media Icon - Lou Richards

Lisa Albergo's picture

by Lisa Albergo reporting from AFANA from Chicago

There can be many descriptions of Lou Richards - a cheeky rover, a larrikin, a wit never lost for words, a media star and clown, a gentleman who always was happy to have a chat. Richards, 94, passed away quietly in his sleep in the nursing home where he resided on May 8. Some say he was one of first superstars of Australian Football, which was the VFL during his playing career. For most fans, it is the media work for which he is best known as he forged a brilliant and often hilarious career first in radio and newspapers. He was one of the early pioneers of "sports entertainment" TV programs, one of which was League Teams which he did alongside Tiger legend Jack Dyer and Geelong icon Bobby Davis. The show, with its raucous banter and jokes, was a precursor to today's Footy Show.

The tributes came from everywhere, not only from Collingwood people, but fans who remember him from his television shows.

Collingwood president Eddie McGuire, said in a public statement, “No man has done more for our game ... He was a quintessential Collingwood man who spoke to the entire football world. Born in the shadows of Victoria Park, with three generations of family tradition behind him that involved 930 games and eight premierships ... Lou transcended football. He was a pioneer for footballers who entertained. From his nicknames, to his outrageous tips and dares, to his accurate and exciting calling, and of course the hosting of League Teams, World of Sport, Wide World of Sport, The Sunday Footy Show and his radio career ... Lou Richards had it all with a wisecrack, a wink and pure class ... ". Collingwood Coach Nathan Buckley said it is a sad day for the football world, “Lou’s contribution to Collingwood, to football, to the football media and to the life of this city was monumental ... he was incomparable. With a [uniquely Aussie] charm and a great sense of humor ... Lou became one of the giants of his century ... ".

Former Magpie star Peter McKenna said Richards was one of the “first real media stars”, but believes that media notoriety overshadows his on-field talent and achievements, “I think that people forget what a terrific player he was ... I’ve spoken to a lot of players who lined up with Lou and they all said he was a terrific captain. People think of Lou more as the cheeky media star, and they tend to forget he played more than 250 games for Collingwood and captained them. Lou was a character. He brought funny to football.”

Richards grandfather was another Collingwood star and former captain, Charlie H Pannam. Pannam's two sons (Richards' uncles), Charlie Jnr and Alby, also played for the Magpies; Charlie later coached South Melbourne and Alby coached Richmond. And Richards' brother, Ron, also was a Magpie and starred in the 1953 premiership side. Lou showed talent during his school days and debuted in 1941 against old foe Carlton. He was coached by the legendary Jock McHale and later Phonse Kyne and was an integral part of the Magpie midfield. His grit and determination made him a fan favorite.

Dual Collingwood premiership legend Murray Weideman recalls Richards as a ferocious skipper, leading by example with his tenacity and will to win. Magpies premiership captain Tony Shaw told Fox Footy Richards was an "icon" of Collingwood, “When you think you think Lou, you think about ... Collingwood ... you think about entertainment, and you think about a larrikin person.” Weideman recalls that he himself was a bit of a larrikin who was once scolded by Lou but also mentored by him.

Collingwood champion Peter Daicos says Lou Richards "made me love the game", and joined former Magpies captain Tony Shaw in calling for him to be granted Legend status in the Australian Football Hall of Fame. It was also Richards who gave Daicos his famous nickname, 'The Macedonian Marvel'. " Richards is also credited with Leigh Matthews' nickname "Lethal". .

Shaw recalled that Lou Richards had written a scathing article about him early in his career, “He said I was too short and too slow and I cut it out and stuck it in my locker. We laughed our heads off about it later and then when we won the premiership in 1990 he said, 'I suppose now I'm Collingwood's second-best premiership captain".

Joffa Corfe, leader of Collingwood's cheer squad, said of Richards, "He was a great character of Collingwood, and a great character of the game" who would be remembered for his ability to make people laugh, "When you look back at old clips of the TV shows ... you still laugh at the way Lou carried on ... He just had this ability to make people laugh ... he's left us with fond memories that will last through the generations.”

AFL CEO Gil McLachlan said that the modern AFL competition owed a huge debt of thanks to Richards, “Lou Richards was the original driving force of the media’s expanding interest in our game, particularly with the emergence of television from the late 1950s ... ".

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull remembered him as a "legend and a larrikin", "His irreverence, energy and good humor as thoroughly Australian as the game he loved," he tweeted.

"We are very saddened by the passing of the great Lou Richards. Lou was an icon of the game, and a very big part of our family" .#9AFLFootyShow

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said what Richards lacked in height, he made up for in fight and tweeted, “Farewell to a legend named Lou ... A Victorian icon.”

Immediately after he retired from football, he broke into the media in 1955 with a job at the now defunct Argus newspaper, and radio commentator. He later moved to the Sun, then the Sunday Age. He then joined Channel Seven where he co-hosted League Teams, which was on air for more than 20 years. He then moved to Channel Nine and Wide World of Sports and Sports Sunday. His last regular television spot was handling the somewhat chaotic handball segment on the Sunday Footy Show, from which he retired at the end of 2008. (Ed. note: the segment featured fans attempting to handball a Sherrin through a hole cut into a bulls-eye).

For the newspapers, Richards and his cohorts were always coming up with publicity stunts to keep "Louie the Lip" in the news. He often became the news with his self-imposed dares. He became known as the "Kiss of Death" for his tipping and often made bold dares if his tips didn't pan out. Some of the more famous ones are: he, at 5'6"and 161 pounds, carried North Melbourne ruckman Mick Nolan (248 pounds) piggyback along a Melbourne street, cutting Ted Whitten's lawn with scissors, sweeping a major Melbourne street with a feather duster, and jumping off a pier St Kilda into freezing water. .

He also bought several pubs in Melbourne and later had part ownership of a small country radio station as well as some property on the Mornington Penninula with herd of cattle.

PLAYING CAREER
Collingwood Technical School
Abbotsford
Collingwood reserves premiership 1940
Collingwood seniors 1941-55, 250 games, 423 goals
Club captain 1952-55
Premiership captain 1953
Runner-up in Copeland trophy (best & fairest) 1947 and 1950
Club's leading goal kicker 1944 (28 goals); 1948 (44); and 1950 (35)
Total goals for Collingwood 423
Represented Victoria three times 1947-48

Honors
Inaugural class of inductees to Collingwood FC Hall of Fame (2004)
Collingwood and AFL Life Member
MBE for services to sport (2006)
Inducted into AFL Hall of Fame 1996
Football Personality of the Year 1975
1981 King of Moomba (an annual festival held in Melbourne during Australia's Labor Day in March)

In 1982 the National Trust classified him a living treasure to be protected against demolition. With typical humor, Richards said that when he received the call, he feared he was going to be "certified".

MEDIA CAREER
• Sun News Pictorial (26 years)
• Channel 7 (two decades)
• Channel 9 (15 years)

Many fans are calling for a state funeral, and McGuire said it would be "fitting" but also said it would be up to the family to decide, As for elevating Richards to Legend status in the Hall of Fame, McGuire said it would be a discussion for another day.

Richards is survived by his daughters Nicole and Kim, five grandchildren, and his brother, Ron.His wife of 60 years, Edna, whom McGuire called "the love of his life", passed away in 2008.

One final note to epitomize the lovable and affable character he was. A caller to SEN's Overnight Crowd related this story: some 30 years ago he was at a function and ended up sharing a table with Lou and another media personality. He said the other personality was an arrogant jerk, but Lou was happy to answer his questions and even asked questions to "the nobody" sharing the table.

Ed. note: anyone wanting to see clips of Lou in his playing days or on TV shows can view clips on YouTube

Source: Stephen Rielly, Collingwood Media Release, theage.com.au, heraldsun.com.au, Patrick Keane, AFL Media Release, wikipedia, SEN 5/8 Overnight Crowd audio

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