Lou Richards has been remembered as a footballer with indomitable courage, a cheeky showman and loving father at his state funeral in Melbourne.
Football identities, political leaders and AFL fans have gathered to bid farewell to the Collingwood legend and media star at St Paul’s Cathedral.
Magpies faithful and football fans have also congregated at nearby Federation Square to watch the service broadcast live on the big screen.
The tributes have been led by Richards’ daughter, Nicole Morrison, who reflected on his role as “Captain of Team Lou”, his family.
“Edna [his wife] was vice-captain, although everybody suspected she really pulled the strings,” she said.
“Lou’s team, formed over 50 years ago, was a team of women. Perhaps it was visionary in this case as well.
“The team comprised of strong women, supporting Lou, with the vice-captain keeping a vigilant eye on him.”
Ms Morrison recalled how she and her sister grew up in pubs — first at the Town Hall Hotel, before moving to the Phoenix Hotel, which became known as the place to be for footballers and journalists.
“Lou was strict, particularly with Kim and myself, because he thought that bringing up two children in a hotel could be problematic,” she said.
“Rule number one, treat others as you would like to be treated yourself. Arrogance or snobbishness was not tolerated.
“Rule number two, no arguing the toss. What Lou said went and you actually knew he was firm, but fair.
“Number three, do not behave like a ratbag or a lair. We left that to Lou.”
Richards’ five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren are also at the service.
“Lou was the best captain you could ever have,” Ms Morrison said.
“He got the best out of his players. He loved us, he spoilt us, supported us and, most of all, gave us the most wonderful life.”
‘Always a bit of dash with Lou’
Collingwood president Eddie McGuire spoke of Richards’ journey from the backstreets of Collingwood during the depression, to becoming the greatest star in town.
“At his best, Richards was a brilliant rover,” he told the congregation.
“He was fast, clever, adept at the famous Collingwood short game and an elusive loose man and a big little man with indomitable courage.
“There was always that showmanship and a bit of dash with Lou. Impeccably dressed, with always that sense of occasion. He lived off his wits, especially at Collingwood.”
McGuire said Richards brought “cheek and red cunning to Melbourne” and turned the media on its head.
“He donated so much time to charitable causes. He had a quip and word of encouragement to all he met,” he said.
“In Kipling’s image, he walked through crowds like a whirlwind, but somehow left everyone touched by his presence.”
In his opening remarks, Archbishop Philip Freier called Richards an “outstanding Victorian and Australian” who brought joy to so many.
Current Collingwood players and coaches will form a guard of honour for the motorcade at the end of the service, which will pass the Lou Richards Statue at Collingwood’s Olympic Park headquarters.
“‘G’day Lou,’ a voice bellowed from the footpath, where a young man wearing a giant grin is standing.
“Grandpa replied, not missing a beat, ‘Hello, champ, how’s your mother?’
“‘She’s great, thanks, Lou,’ the young man replied. Then the smile started to fade.
“Driving away I remember turning to grandpa and asking him, ‘Who was that guy?’
“‘I’ll be damned if I know, kid’, said Lou with a cheeky grin. It was at that moment I realised this was no ordinary grandpa.”
Acting Premier James Merlino and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, a Magpies supporter, are among the mourners.
Richards played 250 games for Collingwood and captained the 1953 Magpies premiership side.
“Louie the Lip” also had a successful media career over five decades as a regular on World of Sport and League Teams. He also worked on radio and wrote for The Sun newspaper.
He was inducted into the AFL Hall of Fame in 1996.