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by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago

Round Nine was tinged with sadness as the football community mourned the passing of four-time Premiership coach Tom Hafey, aged 82, after a brief battle with cancer. While Hafey was a serviceable player in 67 games for Richmond1953-58, it was his coaching career which elevated him to legendary status. Hafey was appointed senior coach of the Tigers in 1966 after a successful stint in the VFL with Shepperton. He set up a rigorous and grueling training regimen which helped the Tigers become a force and went on to coach them to numerous Finals series and four Grand Final victories. Hafey also had coaching stints with Collingwood, Geelong and Sydney.

The outpouring of condolence, affection, respect and memories was enormous as players and fans paid their respects. After his coaching days ended, Hafey stayed involved in football, traveling all over Victoria to attend clinics, visit schools and attend other football functions. He always preached discipline and fitness. A non-smoker and non-drinker, Hafey lived the way he preached. He arose every day of his life at 5:30am and started his day with a swim in the bay no matter how chilly the weather, a run and 1000 push-ups. Also, regardless of the weather, he always wore a t-shirt. As a result, he gained the nickname T-Shirt Tommy.

A service was held at the MCG and was attended over 2000 people who were treated to a video package of his life on the big screen while family and friends attended a service in the Members' Dining Room with the casket draped in a mock tiger skin. The entire Richmond club as well as past players and coaches were there as well as contingents from Sydney, Collingwood and Geelong. Collingwood president Eddie McGuire served as MC and said it was fitting that the day was sunny because Hafey always had such a happy and positive outlook. He also said it was fitting that the service was at the MCG, the proverbial "cathedral" of Aussie Rules. Others in attendance included Richmond legend and media personality Kevin Bartlett, former Tiger player and Essendon and GWS coach Kevin Sheedy, Francis Bourke and former Carlton coach David Parkin. Both Bourke and Bartlett were coached by Hafey. Bartlett and Hafey remained friends and would meet several times a week for lunch.

Family and friends shared their memories of a man who loved his players and had time for everyone. His brother Peter, daughters Rhonda, Karen and Joanne and grandchildren Jackson, Tom, Kate, Max, Samantha and Jamie all shared touching insights of the Hafey they knew. Peter spoke of a brother who was his role model growing up and who took him everywhere, from the beach to the footy to boxing, but who drew the line at letting him tag along when he was "chasing the girls". He said his brother loved helping people, from school children to university students and prisoners - a brother who hated swearing and who loved telling a joke, even if he could never quite deliver a punchline. Tom was the same at home as he was in public - enthusiastic, positive, passionate and, sometimes, demanding. His grandsons, Jackson and Tom, said their "Pa" never pressured them to play the game he loved, happy to know that they were fit and healthy. They also spoke in awe of their grandfather's boundless energy and how he could keep up with them whatever they were doing, even if that meant he suffered the odd shoulder and calf muscle injury.

Kevin Bartlett fondly recounted some of his former coach's favorite sayings: "If you want loyalty, get a dog", "You'd run faster if chased by a crocodile", "He's so slow he couldn't catch Humphrey B. Bear" and - when asked how he was doing - Hafey always replied "Sensational and getting better." Bartlett's speech also raised some laughs as he recounted several amusing incidents, including Hafey's first game as Richmond coach in 1967. As the 19th man that day, Bartlett was sitting on the bench alongside his new coach and took the opportunity to tell him he "didn't have a clue" if he didn't start the best rover in the competition on the ground. Hafey simply ignored Bartlett and dropped him the following week. Bartlett said Hafey had laid the seeds for the Tigers' golden era the previous summer with the example he set on the training track, beating his players in all of their running sessions.

Bartlett also recounted how Hafey once showed up at an engagement party wearing nothing but shorts. When asked why he was not wearing shirt, Hafey replied he didn't know it was formal. Then there were the invitations to his home for the players he coached. He would always tell them it was not compulsory, but if a player didn't show, he would not be selected to play the following week. Another former player, Kevin Morris told how players would often stash beers in the hedges around Hafey's home or in the refrigerator of an accommodating neighbor when they went to his home.

At the end of Hafey's daughters' speech they passed on a simple message from their mother and Hafey's wife, Maureen: "He really did love you all."

Hafey's casket was then brought out onto the MCG ground for a lap of honor with the Richmond song playing so fans could also say their farewells. As it made its way around the ground, Bourke and Sheedy were joined by Collingwood greats Tony Shaw, Peter Moore, Peter Daicos, and former Blue Greg Williams (played under Hafey at Geelong) and they walked around the boundary.

A few others had tributes for Hafey. Andrew Demetriou described Hafey as a mentor, a leader and an inspiration to many of the game’s greatest figures. He spoke of Hafey being a mentor not only for players on the field but off it as well. He also spoke of Hafey's dedication to fitness and health and the game, saying "Tom Hafey built teams and clubs to be successful, guided young men to be successful both on ... the ground and off the ground ... and ... simply loved our game. A man who brought sustained success to Richmond in the 1960s and 1970s after two decades in the wilderness, Tom built a feared side that claimed four flags from five Grand Finals and then he revitalized the fortunes of Collingwood, taking the Magpies to a Grand Final in 1977 the year after a wooden spoon and five Grand Finals in all, without achieving the ultimate success. Through each of his stints at four clubs, Tom championed fitness, teamwork, morale and dedication, and lived those ideals to the fullest with his personal creed of five Ds that ‘Desire plus Dedication plus Discipline plus Determination equals your Destination."

AFL Coaches' Association CEO Danny Frawley said that Tom Hafey had an enormous influence on AFL coaching, and those who played under him. Frawley went on to say, "In 2011 Tom was inducted as a 'Coaching Legend' of the AFLCA joining John Kennedy Snr. and Ron Barassi. This honor was due recognition of this individual’s massive influence on the game of Australian Rules."

Ahead of the game between Richmond and Melbourne, Kevin Sheedy was one of four past players who brought out the four Premiership cups and presented them to his daughters and sister while a video tribute was shown on the MCG screen. Thirty-four of the Premiership players were also present to form a guard of honor with the current players from both Richmond and Melbourne. The final tribute was greeted with applause from the 59,000 plus crowd. At the same time, in Shepperton where Hafey started his coaching career, a minute of silence was observed before the game.

TOM HAFEY
67 games for Richmond, 1953-58, 10 goals.
Played for Richmond Amateurs, 1959.
Played for Shepparton,1960-65.

Richmond coach 1966-76. 248 games for 173 wins, 73 losses, two draws. 20 finals for 15 wins, four losses, one draw.
Collingwood coach 1977-82. 138 games for 89 wins, 47 losses, two draws. 18 finals for nine wins, eight losses, one draw.
Geelong coach 1983-85. 66 games for 31 wins, 35 losses.
Sydney Swans coach 1986-88. 70 games for 43 wins, 27 losses. Four finals for four losses.
Coached Shepparton 1960-65.

Overall Coaching Record:
522 games (fifth most ever) for 336 wins, 182 losses, four draws.
42 Finals games (fourth most ever) for 24 wins, 16 losses, two draws.
Richmond Premiership coach 1967, 1969, 1973, 1974.
Richmond Team of the Century Coach (1998).
Richmond Hall of Fame Inductee (2002).
Richmond Immortal (2003).
All Australian Coach 1980.
AFL Life Member
AFL Hall of Fame Inductee 1996 (Coach).
Shepparton Premiership coach 1963, 1964, 1965.

Audio tributes, including Kevin Bartlett's can be heard at sen.com.au. Click on the audio link at the top of the home page, then scroll down the audio menu to find and listen to the tributes.

Source: Patrick Keane, AFL Media Release, theagecom.au, Paul Armstrong, AFLCA Media Release, sen.com.au

Article last changed on Monday, May 26, 2014 - 11:35 PM EDT


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