Died: Tom Hafey. Photo: Gary Sissons
The football world is in mourning tonight after the death of coaching great Tom Hafey at the age of 82.
The four-time premiership coach had been fighting a short battle with cancer.
Hafey coached 521 games at Richmond, Collingwood, Geelong and Sydney over a period spanning three decades. In 1999, Hafey was named coach of Richmond's team of the century.
The legendary life of Tom Hafey
Richmond footballer Kevin Bartlett talks to coach Tom Hafey, 1974. Photo: The AGE ARCHIVE
He had earlier played 67 games between 1954 and 1958.
Hafey helped Richmond redisover its pride and dragged the club "up and over the hill" after 23 barren years, said former Tigers president Ian Wilson.
Wilson said Hafey, who led the Tigers to four premierships in the 1960s and 70s, inspired the people around him with his love of football, zeal for life and devotion to his own physical fitness.
"He was just a great person, an inspirational person who loved football and who made the club something to be very, very proud of after we'd been down in the dumps for so long," said Wilson.
"He brought some pride back into the place, and football was his life. I remember going away on business one season, for three weeks, and he said 'how could you possibly leave Melbourne when the football's on?' He loved the game so much he couldn't imagine going away when the footy was on."
Richmond chief executive Brendon Gale described Team of the Century coach Hafey, who went on to steer Collingwood, Geelong and Sydney in a coaching career spanning 22 years, as a "giant" of the Tigers. He is survived by wife Maureen, daughters Rhonda, Karen and Jo and their families.
“Tommy means so much to the Richmond Football Club. He has had an enormous influence on so many people connected with the club," said Gale of the man whose early morning run, swim and push-up routine by the bay were legendary.
“His coaching achievements at Tigerland are legendary, and he was a constant source of inspiration to the yellow and black.
“Tommy was a fine example of how to get the most out of life – his mantra of hard work, discipline, dedication, persistence, honesty, loyalty, integrity, good health and vitality, was not only the recipe for success on the football field, but success in his wonderful life."
The Tigers plan to pay tribute to Hafey at Saturday’s game against Melbourne at the MCG.
After playing 67 games for Richmond as a back pocket in the 1950s, Hafey became their coach in 1966 and was a central figure in the club’s golden era.
He coached Richmond to the 1967, ‘69, ‘73-74 premierships, placing a big emphasis on player fitness.
Hafey was named the coach for Richmond’s team of the century and is one of five club immortals.
He left the Tigers after crucially losing the support of club powerbroker Graeme Richmond and joined Collingwood.
After finishing last for the first time in 1976, the Magpies flourished under Hafey - the first outsider to coach the club.
They had the historic grand final draw against North Melbourne that season before losing the decider.
Under Hafey, the Magpies’s notorious ‘‘Colliwobbles’’ continued when they also suffered narrow grand final losses to Carlton in 1979 and ‘81.
He was sacked midway through the 1982 season.
After coaching Geelong for 56 games between 1983-85, Hafey took over Sydney under flamboyant owner Geoffrey Edelsten.
He coached the Swans for 70 games from 1986-88, his last AFL coaching appointment.
Hafey then became a long-time radio commentator and is one of the game’s most beloved figures.
Away from the AFL, Hafey became renowned for his passion for fitness and an early-morning workout regime that would have worn out many people much younger than him.
In late April, it emerged that Hafey was back in hospital with complications after having surgery the month before to have a brain tumour removed.