by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago
Former Cat Paul Couch, 51, passed away on Saturday morning, March 4. He was out for a bicycle ride with friends when he suffered a heart attack and could not be revived. The football community, while shocked and in mourning, is remembering him as a much-loved person and player who always had a ready smile. The Cats confirmed the news on Saturday afternoon, calling Couch "an icon" and "a friend to all who knew him". Both the Cats and Essendon wore black arm bands during their NAB match.As soon as the news broke, the tributes began to flow in. Club CEO Brian Cook said Couch was a "great big-time performer" who helped the club get back to playing finals. He also said Couch was fun-loving and a great family man. Couch remained close to many at the Geelong club and to teammates from his playing days.
The AFL issued a condolence statement through Gil McLachlan, "Paul Couch was a bubbly, infectious figure with a ready smile ... He was a consistent State of Origin representative and among the very best midfielders in the game ... as evidenced by his stellar record ... he always presented with a large ready smile and was incredibly popular with all his peers. Our sincere condolences ... to his family from ... the football community ... ".
Couch, according to former club president Frank Costa, Couch was just a quiet country lad from Boggy Creek in Victoria's southwest. Once at Geelong, he quickly established himself, gained confidence and "... and became quite a personality ... ". Costa described the well-liked clubman as "a happy person, "If anyone wanted to have a word ... he'd stop and give you time. He's one of those convivial guys with a natural happy nature ... he's one that we're very, very sad to lose."
Coach Chris Scott said pre-game that it was "terrible news" and described him as a great of the club and that everyone would need time "... to digest it ... and think of the best way to pay tribute ... He was a young man, a very fine fellow, a bloke who always had a smile on his face ... a guy who will be very sorely missed ... ".
Malcolm Blight, who coached Couch at the Cats, said the left-footer was “a true favorite son" whose lack of speed never hindered him as he was able to find time and space.
Couch was also involved in the media. Fox Footy commentator and Hawthorn great Jason Dunstall, who played against Couch during the 1980s and 1990s, said he was “numb” when he heard the news, “It’s not just sad for Geelong, it’s sad for the entire AFL community ... “This is a bloke that wasn’t just a star footballer, he was the genuinely brilliant bloke ... ".
Retired Brisbane Lion Jonathan Brown added: “As a kid I would love to go to Kardinia Park and see Paul Couch wheel out on his left foot and put it (the ball)down Gary Ablett’s (Senior) throat. It was a sight to see.”
Couch's son Tom played three games with Melbourne in 2012, but now plays for Collingwood's VFL team.
Couch is survived by wife Geraldine and his four children - Tom, Jessie, Molly and Joe.
Twitter was full of tributes as well:
Former Tiger great and current SEN personality Kevin Bartlett: RIP Paul Couch a beaming friendly smile greeted people .Such a delightful person and a champion player
Former Cat champ Cameron Ling: So sad ... Loved watching Couchy play as a kid!
Retired Demon/Cat Sam Blease: Sad day ... Paul one of the good guys, gone far to soon!
Former Seven commentator Drew Morphett: Shocked ... Former colleague @ Ch7. Always fun company
Collingwood's Taylor Adams: RIP Couchy, a fantastic mentor ... throughout my junior footy days.
Former Hawk/Blue and current SEN personality: Daniel Harford: ... a great in the art of the "old school centerman". A joy to watch.
259 games 1985-1997
Five-time Victorian representative
All-Australian 1991, 1995
Geelong best and fairest 1986, 1989, 1995
Brownlow Medal 1989
Geelong team of the 20th Century (interchange)
Source: afl.com.au, foxsports.com.au, Encyclopedia of League Footballers
Article last changed on Monday, March 07, 2016 - 1:25 PM EST