Mourners have packed into the MCG’s members dining room for the funeral of AFL icon Tom Hafey.
Hafey died of cancer aged 82 last week and his family opted to hold a public service at the venue where the four-time premiership coach celebrated so much success with Richmond.
Kevin Bartlett, Kevin Sheedy, Tony Jewell and Rex Hunt were among Hafey’s former charges at the 2pm service, while the Tigers’ current squad walked into the MCG together.
Melbourne Storm NRL coach Craig Bellamy, who struck up a friendship with Hafey in recent years, and hundreds of fans dressed in Richmond apparel joined Hafey’s wife Maureen, their children and grandchildren for the service.
Richmond’s yellow and black were the predominant colours chosen by a mixed crowd, which varied from school children to incoming AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan.
McLachlan said the funeral’s venue couldn’t be more fitting for a man of the people.
“It’s fabulous it’s here and it’s amazing to see people walking down the hill into the ground, obviously lots of football lovers – Richmond faithful and others,” McLachlan said.
“It’s great to be able to celebrate Tom here today … he treated everyone at face value, he was enthusiastic, smiling and looking forward to every day of his life.
“He had an extraordinary ability to link the community with the game.”
At the end of Hafey’s service, the hearse will do a tribute lap of the MCG on its way to a private family cremation.
The MCG’s famous Long Room will host a private wake.
McLachlan said the league had discussed a lasting tribute to Hafey internally and would do so with the Tigers and other clubs “at the right time”.
Hafey coached 522 VFL games total at four clubs, but was known as Richmond royalty for the fact he broke a 24-year premiership drought at the club in 1967 and won three more flags in the next seven years.