Richmond Football Club legend Neville Crowe has thanked his rescuer after he lost control of his bicycle at the weekend and careered into the Yarra River.
A passing jogger, who happened to be a lifelong Tigers supporter, dived into the muddy river and pulled the 75-year-old club stalwart to safety with the help of other passers-by who formed a human chain to get him to the embankment.
John Greene said he was out for his morning run along the Yarra in Richmond on Saturday when he saw a cyclist flailing in the water. The cyclist appeared to have misjudged a bend and had shot about eight metres off the edge of the bicycle path into the river.
John GReene and Neville Crowe. Photo: Pat Scala
It wasn't until Mr Greene had dragged the man to the embankment that he recognised the former Richmond captain, who also served as club president from 1987 to 1993.
Mr Crowe presented Mr Greene today with a Richmond jersey signed by former Richmond great Billy Barrot and Mike Perry, among others, and a Richmond tie, as a token of his appreciation.
The pair embraced when they were reunited today, and Mr Greene said he was really humbled by the gift.
Mr Crowe said he would sign him up at Richmond any time.
Neville Crowe, right, pictured with Tigers Jack Riewoldt and Matthew Richardson in 2008. Photo: Pat Scala
"As soon as he popped up I just grabbed him in a bear hug and dragged him as quickly as I could into the mud and onto the embankment so that he wasn't going to go back under the water," Mr Greene told radio station 3AW earlier this morning.
Mr Crowe could not recall how he ended up in the Yarra River on Saturday.
“It was just a flash, I don’t know how I did it,” he said.
At the time, Mr Crowe told Mr Greene that he had ridden out too wide to avoid people on the path next to the river but today said his he was unable to remember clearly as he suffers from Alzheimer’s disease.
“It was just lucky enough to have this guy here with that sense of timing and 10 seconds (later) and I would have been gone, so I just think he’s fantastic,” Mr Crowe said.
Mr Greene said: "When I had a closer look I recognised that familiar moustache. My family have been Richmond members for a long, long time. My grandmother went for 40-odd years and missed about five games, so we're Richmond people through and through. I certainly recognised him straight away and told him he was in good hands and that was that."
Mr Greene said Crowe was still remarkably fit for a 75-year-old and kept hold of his bicycle in the water.
Mr Crowe is a regular cyclist but usually rides during the week.
His wife, Valy Crowe, said he had bruises on both legs that resembled "three-quarter leg pants" and other injuries, including cuts on his wrists and thighs.
"Thankfully he had surfaced and his head had popped up and I was able to drag him through the mud and up to the edge of the embankment and we formed a human chain and dragged him out," Mr Greene said.
"He was a little bit shocked and bewildered, as you would be if you tumbled ... eight metres off your bike on a nice leisurely morning ride.
"Lucky he is so fit because I don't think he would have been able to drag himself to the surface of the water and get out if he wasn't so fit still."
Crowe's rescuers took him to a local business, where he was given coffee and kept warm while Mr Greene phoned Richmond CEO Brendon Gale.
Mr Greene than ran home and got his car before driving Crowe back to his Burwood home.
"The people that all helped out were fantastic as well. It wasn't just me," Mr Greene said.
Crowe galvanised the Richmond Football Club during the 1990 Save Our Skins campaign, which saved the club from financial ruin. He is also well known for missing the 1967 VFL Grand Final through suspension, after he was reported in the second semi-final for striking Carlton ruckman John Nicholls.
Crowe insists to this day that he didn't punch Nicholls, that he slapped at him and the slap missed.