Main content

'Will we see his kind again? I doubt it'

Richmond players run through the banner during the 2014 AFL Round 09 match between the Richmond Tigers and the Melbourne Demons at the MCG, Melbourne on May 17, 2014. (Photo: Darrian Traynor/AFL Media)
The Tigers run through a banner paying tribute to club legend Tommy Hafey
He expected you to get the best out of yourself, no matter what
Kevin Sheedy on Tom Hafey

"There is only one Tom Hafey. Only one."

GAME great Kevin Sheedy has remembered the man he considered a father-figure with a touching tribute ahead of Richmond's clash with Melbourne at the MCG.

Sheedy, who met Hafey when he was 17 years old, delivered a fitting speech at Richmond's president's function, less than a week after the four-time premiership coach passed away.

Sheedy was one of 34 of Hafey's former players from the 1967, 1969, 1973-74 premiership winning sides who attended the lunch. 

The former Essendon and Greater Western Sydney coach played in the latter three victorious Grand Final teams.

"I often wonder where we would sit as players today and where we would ever be without that man," Sheedy said.

"I couldn't believe that at 35 years of age, when I was 17, how powerful a person he was.

"My own father has died and I met this guy, and his dedication and his inspiration was just magnificent.

"Most of us at 18 don't really know who you're going to be, let alone where you're going to end up.

"He'd shape that for you.

"He was intimidating because he expected you to get the best out of yourself, no matter what."

Sheedy remembered how hard Hafey, who had a famous fitness regime that carried on until he fell ill, would train the players, especially after a loss.

But he said it was those directions that made his charges believe they could play out the last 30 minutes of any game.

Hafey passed away aged 82 on Monday after a brief battle with brain cancer.

The Tigers honoured his legacy with a video tribute before the game and invited everyone to stand for a minute of applause, in a gesture to symbolise a celebration of life.

The two teams – wearing black arm-bands - lined up as Hafey's four premiership cups were placed on the field in front of his former players.

Former Richmond player Francis Bourke, who played 300 games for the club including Hafey's four premierships plus the 1980 victory, paid tribute.

"He was able to relate to everyone," Bourke said.

Richmond president Peggy O'Neal thanked Hafey's family, including his wife Maureen, for continuing to share the revered figure with the club even in his passing.

"Tommy defined passion, he defined discipline, he defined commitment, and ultimately he helped define our football club," O'Neal said.

"We're all diminished when any Tiger is lost, but when a Tiger like Tommy Hafey departs, the void seems so large it will never be filled.

"Will we ever see his kind again? I doubt it."

The Tigers' banner read, "Tommy Hafey. A Tiger to a T", in tribute to his famous fondness of wearing t-shirts, which the Richmond players also did on Friday at training.

Hafey's open funeral will be held on Monday at the MCG at 2pm in the members' pavilion.

https://twitter.com/AFL_JenPhelan