Hafey joined Tigers after Coaster said no

THE journey to Tom Hafey becoming a Richmond legend has links to Burnie.
Nanjing Night Net

Speaking after Hafey’s passing on Monday night following a brave battle with cancer, ex-Tiger Ray Stokes yesterday revealed the process that led to Hafey’s appointment as Leg 1coach in the club’s golden era, where it won premierships in 1967, 1969 and 1973-74.

Richmond faced a coaching dilemma in 1965 when incumbent Len Smith suffered a heart attack.

The club appointed Jack Titus to serve as a stand-in until a replacement could be found.

Leg 2Stokes, who played 93 games for Richmond between 1946-51, said it was at that time club powerbroker Graeme Richmond flew down to the Coast and spoke to him at his car yard at South Burnie.

Stokes had returned to the North-West to captain-coach Burnie during the mid-1950s, leading the Leg 3Tigers to the NWFU premiership in 1954.

“He came over to see me and said he wanted a footballer who was mad on physical fitness to coach the side,” Stokes said.

“He reckoned that was the only way that Richmond was going to improve their game.

“He was interviewing Leg 4Tommy at the same time and I said `well you can count me out because I’m not going back to Victoria because I’ve settled back down in Tassie and have given up coaching’.

“To which Graeme responded: `Well if you’re not interested in it then I’m going up to get Tommy because he’s physically fit Leg 5himself and the [Shepparton] sides he’s won [the premierships in country Victoria] with are too and that’s what we want at Richmond’.

“I might not have got the job anyway, but that’s how he came to coaching Richmond and they never looked back.”

The pair formed a special friendship over the years with their alignment to Richmond.

Stokes said Hafey would often fly down to the Coast for football business and he would always call in and see him.

“I had a fair bit to do with him and I’d often go along with him to these different events,” Stokes said.

“He was a great old mate of mine he was, there’s no doubt about that.”

Stokes said the reason “T-shirt Tommy” had so much success as a coach was because he was an inspirational leader.

He made the Tigers the fittest team in the competition and his charges would say they played for Hafey more than they did the jumper.

“He was a great fanatic on fitness,” Stokes said.

“That’s how he got Richmond to the top straight away. He got them on a physical fitness program which the club had never had before.

“He used to run every morning and swim every morning, and he got the players to do the same and that’s how they came to winning so many premierships – they used to run over sides.

“But he was a great speaker too and he knew football back jlto front.”

Stokes said Hafey would be remembered as a quality individual who got the most out of life.

Hafey is survived by wife Maureen and his daughters Rhonda, Karen and Jo.

GREAT MATES: Richmond legend Tom Hafey (right) shares footy stories with former Tiger and Burnie Football Club stalwart Ray Stokes (left) during his visit to the North-West Richmond Supporters Group. Hafey died on Monday.

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