Sport AFL At Tigerland, there was only one Tommy Hafey

At Tigerland, there was only one Tommy Hafey

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A minute’s silence would have been an inappropriate gesture for someone as loved and inspiring as Tom Hafey.

Instead, the fans and players had a minute’s applause before the opening bounce of Richmond’s AFL match against Melbourne on Saturday at the MCG.

The Tigers and the wider AFL are in mourning following Hafey’s death last Monday aged 82.

Hafey coached Richmond to four premierships between 1967-74 and is one of the club’s most important figures.

But as Hafey’s long-time friend Kevin Sheedy noted, it was also a time to celebrate a great life.

Sheedy, too upset to talk about Hafey during the week, gave a touching speech on Saturday at the pre-game function.

The back pocket who played in three of Hafey’s Richmond premiership teams remembered a coach who had a profound impact on his players.

“There was only one Tom Hafey,” Sheedy said.

“Thinking back on his life, I often wonder (as) we sit there … where we would have been without that man.”

In a moving pre-game ceremony, players from Hafey’s 1967, ’69, ’73 and ’74 premiership teams and members of his family lined up on the MCG wing.

Sheedy and fellow Richmond stars from that era, Kevin Bartlett, Francis Bourke and Michael Green, held the four premiership cups.

They then handed them over to Hafey’s daughters Rhonda, Karen and Jo and his sister Brenda, who placed them on four podiums.

Hafey’s widow Maureen did not attend the game.

Sheedy also spoke at length about Maureen, calling her the players’ best friend.

He remembered the nervous walk from the MCG back to Richmond’s neighbouring Punt Rd rooms after a loss.

As Hafey fumed, Maureen would walk a few steps behind him.

“I would say to Maureen ‘get him happy as quick as you can’,” Sheedy said.

Richmond president Peggy O’Neal said Hafey’s affect on the club was profound.

“As they say, cometh the hour, cometh the man – was there ever a better illustration of that maxim than Tommy arriving at Richmond in 1965?,” she said.

She also noted Hafey’s willingness to help and influence others made the fitness devotee “a coach at large”.

“Will we ever see his kind again? I doubt it,” she said.

Sheedy recalled a round of golf that the Richmond team once played during a training camp.

Their coach, a picture of fitness, strode to the tee.

“He has sliced the ball, it has dribbled down the fairway 25 yards and nearly killed six of his best players,” Sheedy said.

“Golf – technique, style – (were) probably not Tommy’s greatest attributes.”

Sheedy also said Hafey hated him kicking short so much that his old coach printed 20 signs.

These were to be hung around Sheedy’s house – each read “kick it long”.

“So when I went coaching, I got (Derek) Kickett and (Michael) Long – as simple as that,” the legendary Essendon coach said.

The MCG will also be the venue for Hafey’s funeral service on Monday.