My Hero Tommy Hafey

My dad attended St Ignatious school in Richmond as a boy. Jack Dyer a couple of years his senior put the school on the map and it followed that Peter, Paul, Philip and Patricia spent our first few years in Tigerland and although moving down to Queenscliff we were true blue Tiger supporters.

When Richmond played Geelong at Kardinia park dad would take us to the game. Freddy Swift, Roger Dean Polly Farmer and Doug Wade were just a few of the super stars we saw.

Moving to Chelsea in 1964 we became more involved in junior footy and travelling in to punt road after our U15 match was a relatively short journey by train. 1967 saw the 1st tiger flag for 24 years and the name Hafey became synonymous with success. Hafeys Heroes boasted talent on every line. The aura that was Richmond during this era drew astute future footballers .Two such rising stars were Lee and Kelvin Matthews who Phil and I had played with at Chelsea in the morning and like us had got into the Tigers Den after the game for the victory celebrations. It was a real surprise seeing them there because I don’t think they were Richmond supporters. In the space of around 12 years Tommy nurtured inspired and coached the Tigers to 4 Premiership flags an unbelievable effort of saintly proportions. His unexpected departure from the club in 1977 was devastating for me in particular so I followed him to Collingwood for the next 5 years. He took the Pies from bottom of the ladder to a Grand Final draw the next year. Sacked once again after great success(5 GF appearances) he moved on to the Cats so I followed My hero and supported another new club.

The Sydney Swans was Hafeys next assignment in 1986 so naturally I became a Swan supporter. Record crowds and massive scores was Tommy’s affect on Tinsil Town. He was still leading by example having the club record for the most number of push ups. A team of super talented individuals including Williams, Healy, Capper and Roos gelled together under his tutelage but unfortunately no flag, yet they won a heap of games with an exciting fast moving style of football.

Tommy was deemed too old to coach in the modern era of football ( a croc of bullshit if you ask me) and though he applied for a number of vacant positions none fell his way .I was hoping he could have landed the St Kilda position in 89 this was certainly a club in need of stability ,discipline and leadership but unfortunately he was overlooked time once again.I felt really disappointed for him but true to his wonderful character he was able to move on and continue with a life that has been inspirational to most Australians in all walks of life.

During the late 70’s I was driving our Junior team down to Bells to compete at the Victorian Surfing Titles. The comp would start at 8am so we left Chelsea just after 5. In the car headlights on the Beach rd Beaumaris to Brighton stretch I spotted the lone figure of a runner in shorts, no tee about 600 meters up front. I said to the 5 kids on board check this out, there is only one person in the whole wide world this could be! As we passed Tom I hit the horn and the young grommets saluted with cheers .Tom Hafey was the real deal He practiced what he preached.

One of my charges that day was Phil Coates a Collingwood supporter and by the time he entered the open division a real Hafey fitness nut.In preparation for the vic Titles we undertook a 10 week training program that included a 2km run up hill then the push up sit up routine.Very few surfers trained back then and the benefits were there when Phil placed First second First over three consecutive years and I picked up 2 senior mens titles as I tagged along for the ride.

The Hafey family spent most of their summers holidaying at Sorrento and by the aggressive way Tom rode his Surf Ski at Portsea back beach you could tell he really enjoyed the Ocean.In later years he accompanied his grandchildren to Pt Leo where they had surf lessons and competed in the Trigger bros surf crew comps. Its always a pleasant surprise to see someone who has devoted most of his hours in pursuing excellence on the footy field able to hold their own on a surf vehicle.The Healy bros are another good example; Greg is now Ceo of Quiksilver Australia and Gerrard is on an endless pursuit of big scary waves.

During the 90,s Tom and Maureen visited our Sorrento store on a number of occasions and it gave me the opportunity to relay my story of support for him after he was sacked by the Tigers.Tommy was quick to correct me saying he initiated his departure but didn’t elaborate and so for the next 20 years I was left to wonder exactly what had happened.It was like a black hole.

Finally on the 24th of May 2014 Caroline Wilson wrote a most revealing article in the Saturday age just days after Hafey’s passing. In a nut shell The Richmond nine man committee led by Caroline’s father Ian Wilson voted to reappoint Hafey as coach and Tom was told the good news.The vote had been split 7 to 2 and unfortunately one of Tommy’s greatest friends and backers in Graeme Richmond thought the club needed a change.

The betrayal was leaked to Hafey who resigned 24hrs later. Perhaps if I had known these facts I might still be a tiger supporter, luckily I now follow the Cats.

The Richmond Football Club to their credit brought Tom back home at the end of his coaching career but who knows just how many Premiership Flags could have been raised if he had stayed at the helm a little longer.

Tom Hafey was my hero, a truly great man loved and admired by millions of Australians. There is no end of superlatives to describe the positive influence that Tom Hafey has had on our society.