Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Hafey a humble and inspiring mentor

Former Shepparton Football Club players have met at the clubrooms to trade stories about their premiership coach Tom Hafey.

DAMEN FRANCIS May 14, 2014 3:10am

Colin ‘‘Chilla’’ McCartin, Brian Noonan and Gerald Howard met at the Shepparton Football Club clubrooms yesterday to reminisce about their late premiership coach Tom Hafey.

The year was 1965 and Colin ‘‘Chilla’’ McCartin was playing his first game for Shepparton Football Club.

He had just been laid out by Mooroopna playing coach Brian Pilcher, when Maroons coach Tom Hafey approached him.

‘‘I was lying on the ground and Tom came over and said ‘could you get up, we’ve only got 17 men standing while you’re lying down there’,’’ McCartin recalled.

‘‘About a quarter later Pilcher was lying on the ground. Tommy got one back for me.’’

Shepparton went on to win the premiership that season — its third in a row under Hafey, who lost his battle with cancer on Monday, aged 82.

McCartin and fellow Hafey-era premiership players Gerald Howard and Brian Noonan had planned to visit Hafey yesterday.

Instead they met at the clubrooms at Deakin Reserve — named after legendary president Jack Edwards, who famously brought Hafey to the club from Richmond in 1960 — and traded stories.

Shepparton was the envy of clubs across regional Victoria and Hafey was the jewel in its crown, long before his four VFL premierships as coach of Richmond and tenures at Collingwood, Geelong and Sydney Swans that led to his inclusion in the AFL Hall of Fame in 1996.

Noonan, who was Maroons vice-captain for all six seasons under Hafey, said Shepparton was as good for Hafey as he was for the club.

‘‘Shepparton was a very professional club and a lot of this went back to Jack Edwards and the committee at that particular time,’’ Noonan said.

‘‘Tommy was a very humble man and he was rewarded with his successes here to have gone on to achieve so much. It’s hard to believe he started from such humble beginnings.’’

Howard said Hafey’s ability to relate to his players was legendary and the belief and discipline he instilled in them helped the Maroons win a fourth straight flag in 1966.

‘‘I remember one occasion we were playing against Shepparton United and I gave Arthur Reuss from United an absolute towelling,’’ Howard said.

‘‘I was nominated by our committee as best on the ground, but this particular reporter said Arthur Reuss had a field day against Gerald Howard on the half-back flank.

‘‘Tom said ‘don’t read about yourself in the paper, it’s about what you can achieve out there on the ground and what I tell you about how well you’ve done’.’’

Howard said Hafey was a people person above all else.

‘‘The way he would keep in touch with everybody and he had such a brilliant memory, it might be due to the fact he drank black tea and not that other stuff we tend to partake of,’’ he said.

‘‘You would introduce people to him and he would remember their names even though they hadn’t played football and there was no relevance as to why he should remember. He just had a feeling for people, whether they be a high-flier or what, Tommy was just a very down-to-earth bloke.’’

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