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The legacy of Tommy Hafey

Chief sports columnist Greg Baum reflects on the amazing life of Tom Hafey, a man who "loved football, and football loved him back."

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Richmond chief executive Brendon Gale has called on everyone inspired by the late Tom Hafey to pay their respects at the MCG on Saturday.

Gale says the club was still finalising plans for how best to honour Hafey, who won four VFL premierships as coach of the Tigers and died aged 82 on Monday after a battle with cancer.

Gale suggested Saturday's clash with Melbourne at the MCG would be an important celebration of Hafey's ''irrepressible zest for life'' and ''sincere affinity with people''.

Richmond footballer Kevin Bartlett talks to coach Tom Hafey, 1974. Click for more photos

The legendary life of Tom Hafey

Richmond footballer Kevin Bartlett talks to coach Tom Hafey, 1974. Photo: The AGE ARCHIVE

''We'll have a tribute at the 'G and we're certainly asking all those people who came into contact with Tommy and would like to pay their respects and pay tribute to come along,'' Gale said. ''It'll be a wonderful occasion. It's a fitting venue, scene of many great memories and premiership triumphs.''

Coaching great Kevin Sheedy, a premiership player at the Tigers, paid tribute to Hafey on his website, writing: ''There are many types of love. The love between a husband and wife. The love between a parent and a child. Family love. And there is the special love that joins people who don't share bloodlines, but end up sharing just about everything else along the journey of life.

''I love Tommy Hafey. He was the Tommy who stepped into my life when my father, also called Tom, died when I was still a teenager. He was the Tommy who, as like any young footballer I had ups and downs with early in my career, picked me up when the ball bounced the wrong way and I got clobbered. He was the Tommy who pulled me down when I got ahead of myself.

Richmond chief executive Brendon Gale.

Richmond chief executive Brendon Gale. Photo: Paul Rovere

''We would catch up in person over a cuppa, on the phone … Now those conversations have ended … and I don't know what to say.''

Not just footballers and fans, but sports lovers in general and disciples young and old hailed the on-field and off-field impact of the legendary playing and coaching figure. Carlton coach Mick Malthouse spoke about Hafey's influence. ''Tommy coached me for half a season but that half a season established a bond that was alive and well up until this afternoon,'' Malthouse said after his team's win over St Kilda on Monday night.

''You get blessed when your first two coaches are the late Allan Jeans and now the late Tom Hafey. He was an amazing man - not only a great coach, but a great teacher of men and boys.''

Malthouse said such mentors teach a player as much about life as football.

Richmond great Barry Richardson said Hafey would be remembered for his enthusiasm and lust for life, but for insiders, it was the coach's loyalty that stood out.

Former Collingwood captain Ray Shaw said Hafey ''rescued'' the famous club in 1977. Hafey put the club ''back on the map'' after a ''horror'' 1976, when the Pies collected the wooden spoon for the first time in their history, Shaw said on SEN. ''He was a father to all the boys … we were like a local club, with no superstars … Tommy united all of us.''

AFL boss Andrew Demetriou said: ''Tom Hafey built teams and clubs to be successful, guided young men to be successful both on the ground and off their ground in their lives and, above all, simply loved our game.''