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by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago

Just as Round Five was about to get underway, Magpie legend and media personality Lou Richards received two honors from his beloved Collingwood and the AFL. Collingwood president Eddie McGuire, CEO Gary Pert and AFL Chairman Mike Fitzpatrick were on hand for the unveiling of a statue of Richards. Richards, 91, was in attendance with family and friends. Also present were former teammates and media colleagues. The other honor was the inaugural John Kennedy Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to football both on the field and off. Fitzpatrick and former Hawthorn coach and current commission member John Kennedy Sr, for whom the award is named, made the presentation to Richards.

In a career which spanned more than 50 years, Richards became a fan favorite among the Collingwood faithful as a cheeky and courageous rover and endeared himself to millions more when he embarked on a long and successful media career as a columnist, radio commentator and co-host of "League Teams" and "World of Sport" alongside fellow greats Jack Dyer and Bob Davis when television was only just emerging. It was their humor and antics on these shows which inspired the creation of many current programs including "The Footy Show", now in its 21st season on the air. Richards was also a regular on both the Thursday and Sunday night editions of "The Footy Show". His on field chatter and off field irreverent wit earned him the nickname "Louie the Lip". His sometimes notoriously poor tipping earned him another moniker - "the kiss of death".

In making the presentation, Fitzpatrick said, “Lou Richards has had a profound and enduring influence on our code, both with a football in his hands and also ... with a microphone and a pen ... he became synonymous with Australian Football and the larrikin streak that often characterizes our game. He never took himself too seriously and reveled in the opportunity to have some fun and to add some color to the debates of the day. Lou has enriched our enjoyment and love of the game in so many ways ... (and) ... became a larger-than-life character who helped to bring football to life for millions of fans". As an example of that "larrikin" humor, he once took a feather duster to a Melbourne street after Footscray defeated Melbourne in a match. Richards had tipped Melbourne to win the game.

McGuire, who hosted "The Footy Show" for over 15 years, said, “Has any man in football history done more for the game? A champion on the field, Lou Richards became a superstar off it. He helped make football one of the most popular and successful forms of entertainment. His unprecedented career ... as a commentator, entertainer and journalist has had a remarkable impact on the growth and success of the game in this country. No one person can claim to have done more for the game, or for Collingwood, than Lou Richards.” McGuire has often noted that every person making a living in football media owes a debt to Richards for his trailblazing work as a pundit, columnist, spruiker and entertainer, saying “He invented football as entertainment. Millions of fans ... loved and laughed about their football because of him.”

Across the decades, six members of the Richards/Pannam clan played 930 matches for Collingwood and share eight Premierships. Richards actually played along side his uncle Albert "Alby" Pannam for several seasons as well as his own brother Ron. The extensive family connections spanned three generations, with grandfather Charlie Pannam, uncles Charles and Alby, and brother Ron. Thus, Collingwood is the only club in League history to have been captained by three generations of the same family.

The statue of Richards was created by Louis Laumen, one of Australia’s most respected sculptors. His work includes a number of the statues that grace the MCG including those of Leigh Matthews, Shane Warne, Dennis Lillee, Bill Ponsford, Hayden Bunton and Keith Miller. The work was underwritten by two Collingwood supporters who run a wine company. They have also produced a commemorative Shiraz and Sauvignon Blanc, selling by the name of ‘Louie the Lip’.

The John Kennedy Award was struck in 2012 with nominations submitted by the AFL clubs last year. The award, which will be presented periodically, recognizes an individual's "extraordinary contribution to the game in multiple fields of endeavor." The criteria states in part that eligibility can be for contributions made as "an administrator, media representative, player, coach or field umpire, or any combination thereof.”

John Kennedy Snr played 164 games for Hawthorn, was a senior coach at both Hawthorn and North Melbourne for 412 games, including three Premierships, before serving on North Melbourne's board and then joining the AFL Commission. His son Josh Kennedy began his AFL career at Hawthorn but is now with the Sydney Swans.

LOU RICHARDS
Games: 250, 1941-1955
Goals: 425
Honors: 1940 reserves Premiership, Captain 1952-1955, 1953 Premiership, club leading goal kicker 1944 (28 goals), 1948 (44 goals), and 1950 (35 goals), AFL Hall of Fame 1996 (inaugural inductee), Collingwood Hall of Fame 2004.
Equal 10th (alongside Peter Daicos) for games played, seventh on club goals list

Source: Stephen Rielly, Collingwood Media Release; James Avery, AFL Media Release; 100 Years of Australian Football, Encyclopedia of League Footballers

Article last changed on Saturday, April 26, 2014 - 8:01 PM EDT


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