Over the past few years we have lost some genuine AFL greats in the likes of Allan Jeans and Bobby Davis. But another legend of our game was added to the list on Monday night – the legendary Richmond coach Tom Hafey.
He was known as close to the fittest 82-year-old man up until six months ago when he was diagnosed with a brain tumour.
At the time he was still doing up to 300 push-ups and sit-ups, taking a dip in the St. Kilda foreshore and running approximately eight kilometres each day.
It makes it even more surprising and upsetting that he still passed away aged 82. It shows us that cancer can claim anyone. Even someone we all thought could live until his late 90s.
Tom Hafey wasn’t inducted into the AFL Hall of Fame because of his playing abilities, but he was still a handy player for Richmond between 1953 and 1958 before turning his eyes to coaching.
He took over his beloved Tigers in 1966 and coached his team to four Premierships in 1967, 1969, 1973 and 1974, before coaching Collingwood, where he became the first non-Collingwood man to lead the mighty Magpies.
He coached the club through the ‘Colli-wobbles’ period, where Collingwood just couldn’t buy a Premiership.
In his first year as coach, he took the ‘Pies all the way to the grand final, before falling short to the Kangaroos in an infamous grand final replay. Two years later he was denied a flag by Wayne Harmes’ desperate boundary line tap back in play, which would have been overturned if the Review System existed back then.
But it proved not to be, and heartbreaking grand final losses in 1980 and 1981 caused him to change clubs to Geelong in 1983.
At the cattery, Hafey didn’t impress. He joined the revolutionary bandwagon of the Sydney Swans as coach for three years, before retiring after a long and largely successful 22-year period of coaching, where he coached four Premierships at his beloved Richmond.
Hafey’s career was celebrated by the Richmond Football Club and by the AFL Hall of Fame, which he was inducted into in 1996.
At Richmond he became an immortal, the coach of the team of the century and a life member due to his brilliant years at the helm during the late ’60s early ’70s. As Richmond’s form slump continues currently, I’m more than certain that the Tigers wish that they could have the legendary Tom Hafey back coaching for them at the moment.
Statistics show that Hafey was the fifth most successful AFL or VFL coach in history, which is an amazing achievement for a man who wasn’t very well known for his playing abilities.
Nobody will forget the legendary Tom Hafey, who lived his life to the fullest and was the heart and soul of one great football club, and a well liked man by all other clubs, especially Collingwood, Geelong and Sydney.
Rest in peace.