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Tom Hafey – Retired Australian Rules Football Player

Known by the nicknames T-Shirt Tommy and Tommy, Thomas Stanley Raymond Hafey was one of finest players of Australian Rules who became a legendary coach after his career as a player.

tomhafeyBorn on August 5, 1931, Tom Hafey played for Richmond football club between 1953 and 1958. After he retired as a player he became a coach and coached four different clubs between 1966 and 1988.

During his coaching career he led Richmond to 4 premiership wins. He was given the “Coaching Legend Award” of AFL Coaches Association in 2011. Hafey died at the age of 82 on May 12, 2014 because of a secondary cancer.

Playing Career

1953-1958: Richmond Football Club

Tom Hafey had a brief playing career with Richmond football club. His playing career started with the under-19 team of East Malvern and in 1950 he was moved to the senior team of the club. In 1952 he won the Best and Fairest award of East Malvern.

It was then that Tom Hafey was invited by Richmond. Tigers were at that time facing a serious problem because Jack Dyer, their legendary coach, had quit. Hafey was one of the many promising players who were recruited by Richmond in an attempt to stabilize the turmoil. In first year of his recruitment, Tom Hafey played 12 out of 18 matches and score 8 goals. Next year because of a temporary bout of hepatitis, Hafey could only play 4 matches and was sent to the back pocket, helping the reserves to win the premiership by crushing Melbourne. He became a member of Richmond’s senior team in 1955 and 1956 and played on 28 games.

After Allan McDonald became the coach of Richmond, Hafey was often benched because Allan used to make Ken Ward play in the back pocket position. Hafey was never happy about being a backup player and decided to retire in 1958.

Coaching Career

Tom Hafey started coaching Goulburn Valley’s Shepparton club after 1959 and turned the team into a winning team. The team lost the Grand Final in 1961 but went on to win three times straight in years 1963, 1964 and 1965. During that time, Hafey was also involved in recruiting players for the Tigers from his own birthplace, Richmond.

1966-1976 – Richmond Coach

Hafey’s performance was soon noticed by Richmond’s secretary Graeme Richmond and Hafey was selected as the coach of Tigers for 1966 season. Since 1951, Richmond had failed to reach the top of the ladder but with Hafey coming in as coach, Richmond managed to finish 5th on the ladder for the 1966 season.

The following year the Tigers dominated right from the beginning and registered a premiership win by defeating Geelong in the Grand Final. Richmond was dubbed the fittest team of the year. 1968 was somewhat a slow season for Richmond and they did not make it to the finals. In 1969 the team went on to win another premiership. Bouts of poor performances started pouring in from 1970 and continued until 1972. Richmond registered its worst ever loss against Carlton in 1972 finals.

However, Tom Hafey led the team to back-to-back premiership wins in 1973 and 1974. In 1975 Richmond lost the preliminary finals. 1976 turned out to be the worst finish by Hafey as Richmond ended in 7th position on ladder. In 1977 Hafey was reappointed as coach but when it was leaked that Graeme Richmond had voted against Tom Hafey, Hafey decided to resign immediately.

1977-1982 – Collingwood Coach

Hafey joined Collingwood as a coach in 1977 season. The 1976 season was awful for Collingwood as they finished last on the ladder. Hafey’s appointment as coach was a turning point. In just one year, Collingwood rebounded from last to first on the ladder. In 1977 Grand Final, the match ended as a draw between Collingwood and North Melbourne.

A week later in a replay match, Collingwood lost. Hafey did manage to lead the team to Grand Finals of 1979, 1980 and 1981 but Collingwood failed to win any premiership. In 1982, Collingwood lost 9 matches in a row and Hafey was sacked.

1983-1985 – Geelong Coach

Hafey earned a 3-year contract with Geelong but failed to infuse the same level of spirit as he did in case of Richmond and Collingwood. By end of 1985, Hafey’s contract was not renewed because Geelong did not make it to the finals in those three years.

1986-1988 – Sydney Swans

Sydney Swans hired Hafey as a coach for a three-year contract. The team under Hafey won 43 matches and lost 27 matches of the total of 70 matches coached by Hafey.

Awards And Achievements

Tom Hafey earned quite a number of awards and achievements, most of which were because of his coaching career with Richmond. Here is quick list of the awards and achievements of Hafey:

  • 1967, 1969, 1973 and 1974 – Premiership Coach of Richmond.
  • 2002 – Inducted into Richmond Hall of Fame.
  • 2003 – Given the status of Richmond “Immortal”.
  • 1996 – Inducted into Australian Football Hall of Fame.
  • Hafey is also a Life Member of Richmond and AFL.
  • 2011 – Won the “Coaching Legend Award” of AFL Coaches Association.
  • Hafey became the coach of Richmond Team of the Century.

Hafey’s death on May 12, 2014 will remain as a great loss for AFL. His legacy will be remembered for ages, especially by the Tigers.

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