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Collingwood great Lou Richards passes away

Vale Lou Richards AFL.com.au reflects on the life of Collingwood and media legend Lou Richards

Victorian government offers Richards family state funeral
Read the AFL statement on Lou Richards
Watch Gillon McLachlan's tribute

THE AFL world is mourning the loss one of football's greatest and most iconic characters – Collingwood and media legend Lou Richards.

A trailblazer in the football media industry, Richards died aged 94 on Monday.

Richards stood just 170cms but was a giant both on and off the field.


Your stories: The day I witnessed Lou drink from Haydn Bunton's boot


Lewis Thomas Charles Richards seemed destined to play for Collingwood – he was born and raised in the suburb and his grandfather Charlie H. Pannam (abbreviated from the Greek name Pannamopoulos) and uncles Charlie E. Pannam and Alby Pannam were Magpie greats.

Young Lou adopted the same take-no-prisoners approach and became one of Collingwood's finest rovers – fearless, feisty and a noted goalkicker.

Richards slotted 423 goals in 250 games from 1941-55, three times finishing top-three in the Pies' best and fairest, winning three club goalkicking awards, representing Victoria three times, and captaining the Pies to the 1953 premiership.

A cult figure among Magpie fans, Richards was named among his club's best players in most of his 14 finals appearances.

 

However it was in his post-playing career that Richards became a revolutionary figure. The man who became affectionately known as 'Louie the Lip' was one of the first football media stars, with high-paying, influential gigs in television, radio and print.

A media presence for the best part of 50 years, Richards most famously teamed with fellow greats Jack Dyer and Bob Davis on Channel Seven's long-running League Teams program on Thursday nights. (Dyer died in 2003 and Davis in 2011.)

Richards' 'Kiss of Death' column in The Sun newspaper was compulsory match-day reading, as much for its humour as its insights.

In a 2005 interview for a book titled The Champions: Great Players & Coaches of Australian Football, Davis highlighted his little mate's enormous legacy, unashamedly claiming he'd simply "grabbed hold of Lou and Jack’s coat-tails".

"We were known as 'The Three Wise Monkeys', but Lou and Jack were the real stars," he said. "They dominated the radio, the television and the newspapers – it was almost a monopoly. Today's football media owe a huge debt of gratitude to them."

Lou Richards and Jack Dyer in 1999. Picture: AFL Photos

No one is more grateful than Sam Newman, another former playing great who became a media megastar.

"I don't know if any of us would be here without Lou," he said at the September 2012 launch of Richards' autobiography Lou: My Wonderful Life.

"He was a trailblazer, a trendsetter. He started it for all of us, there's no doubt about that."

In 1996 Richards was one of the original inductees, as a player, in the Australian Football Hall of Fame. But that wasn't the honour he ultimately craved – or that many others believed he deserved. In later years Richards openly expressed his desire for official Legend status and voiced his disappointment when it was denied.

In the hearts of many, Richards is a legend anyway.

 

In 1982 he was one of the few football identities to be awarded an MBE (Member of the British Empire) for his services to sport.

In April 2014 Collingwood unveiled a statue of Richards at the club's Westpac Centre headquarters.

The same day, the AFL Commission also awarded Richards the inaugural John Kennedy Lifetime Achievement Award, which recognises an individual's contribution to the game in multiple fields.

In announcing the honour, AFL chairman Mike Fitzpatrick said Richards had exuded "a profound and enduring influence on our code".

"He became synonymous with Australian football and the larrikin streak that often characterises our game," Fitzpatrick said.

"He never took himself too seriously and revelled in the opportunity to have some fun and to add some colour to the debates of the day.

"Lou has enriched our enjoyment and love of the game in so many ways, over such a long period of time."

Collingwood president Eddie McGuire said at the time that "without Lou Richards this industry would just be a local football competition going nowhere".

"This guy turned it into big-time entertainment ... he invented football as entertainment," McGuire said.

Richards and his late wife Edna – whom he often described as his best friend – were together for 60 years before her death in 2008 at the age of 87.

Richards' younger brother Ron, who played 143 games for Collingwood, including the 1953 premiership alongside skipper Lou (both were among the Pies' best players that day), died in September 2013.

Richards is survived by daughters Nicole and Kim, along with five grandchildren.

 

Eddie McGuire on Lou Richards

"There's nobody who epitomised Melbourne and its love affair with football and entertainment more than the great Lou Richards. He was a giant of our game, born in the shadows of Victoria Park," McGuire said on Monday.

"His family played over 900 games and represented Collingwood in eight premiership sides, but also what he did with entertainment, for football and sport, Lou Richards was a person who could be in the Logies Hall of Fame, the AFL Hall of Fame, the Collingwood Hall of Fame, the publicans' Hall of Fame.

"He's just an amazing man, and what a life he led."

Gillon McLachlan on Lou Richards

"Everyone in our industry, who is fortunate to earn a living around the game we love, has the likes of Lou Richards to thank for his work ethic, his love of the game, his willingness to both poke fun at himself and others and his one-off originality.  

"As a player, he captained his club to a premiership – an honour that every player would cherish in a heartbeat – and was inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame and the Collingwood Hall of Fame.  

"We express our sincere condolences to his family, many many friends and all those who were touched by a great Australian life."