|Full name||Thomas Stanley Raymond Hafey|
|Nickname(s)||Tommy, T-Shirt Tommy|
|Date of birth||5 August 1931|
|Place of birth||Richmond, Victoria|
|Original team||East Malvern|
|Height/Weight||173cm / 76kg|
1 Playing statistics correct to end of 1958 season.
3 Coaching statistics correct as of 1988.
Thomas Stanley Raymond Hafey (born 5 August 1931) is a former Australian rules football Victorian Football League player and coach. Hafey played for Richmond between 1953 and 1958, and coached four clubs—Richmond, Collingwood, Geelong and Sydney—between 1966 and 1988, leading Richmond to a total of four premierships - 1967, 1969, 1973 & 1974. Hafey was an inaugural inductee into the Australian Football Hall of Fame in 1996, named coach of Richmond's team of the century in 1998, and given the AFL Coaches Association Coaching Legend Award in 2011.
Battling Back Pocket
Although Hafey was born and bred in Richmond, he played football in the suburb of East Malvern, starting with their under 19 team and graduating to the senior side in 1950. He spent three years with the club, winning the best and fairest in 1952. As a result, he was invited to train at Richmond. At the time, the Tigers were in some turmoil. The legendary Jack Dyer had quit as coach. In an effort to reinvigorate the team after a number of mediocre seasons, Richmond recruited some highly considered young players, including Ron Branton, Frank Dunin and Brian Davie. However, the unheralded local Hafey was the rookie who exceeded expectations in his first season, playing twelve of the eighteen matches and booting twelve goals.
The following season was less productive for Hafey – he managed just five games due to a bout of hepatitis, spending most of the year in bed and returning to the reserves for the finals. Now a regular in the back pocket, Hafey played in that position when the reserves captured the premiership by defeating Melbourne in the Grand Final. He was named as one of the Tigers' best, and this performance helped to gain him regular senior selection in 1955–1956. In these two years, he managed 28 games without becoming a household name.
After the appointment of Alan McDonald as coach, Hafey's fortunes waned, and was often relegated to the bench. He believed that the Tiger selectors now preferred Ken Ward to play in the back pocket. The Tigers had slipped to the bottom reaches of the ladder and as a regular place in the team looked out of the question, Hafey left VFL football at the end of 1958, aged 27. The average life span of an AFL player is just under five seasons – Hafey had lasted six. 15 of his 67 games had been started on the bench. Hafey made the transition to the local Richmond Amateurs, where he played in their 1959 premiership team.
Transition to coaching
Then came the transition. Hafey left the city for the first time, taking a job as playing coach of Shepparton in the Goulburn Valley area of northern Victoria. With his tenacious attitude to the game, his fanatical devotion to fitness and his ability to engender team spirit, Hafey made his team into a power in one of the best quality country leagues in Australia. Shepparton lost the Grand Final to Tongala in 1961, then completed a hat trick of flags between 1963 and 1965. Meanwhile, his old team Richmond had raised itself from many years of slumber and were on the march, aggressively recruiting in country Victoria. During this time, Hafey acted as a recruiting agent for the Tigers, recommending potential players from his area.
Hafey's performance had drawn the attention of Tiger secretary Graeme Richmond. When Richmond faced a coaching dilemma in 1965 (incumbent Len Smith had suffered a heart attack), the club appointed Jack Titus to serve as a stand-in until a replacement could be found. Hafey was encouraged to apply, and the decision came down to two candidates – Hafey, or former club captain Ron Branton, now coaching at Myrtleford. The two men had started at Richmond at the same time, but Branton went onto great success that included three best and fairest awards and a runner-up placing in the Brownlow medal. Many expected Branton to get the job. However, Graeme Richmond saw something special in Hafey and he was appointed coach for the 1966 season.
On his return to Punt Road, Hafey found the place buzzing. A list of young, high quality players was his to mould. Hafey recalled that he felt some apprehension about his youth (34) and that he would be coaching some ex-teammates, all of whom could boast a greater reputation than his own. But he quickly put his stamp on the club, bringing an intensity and desire that the Tigers needed to reach the top. Although he acknowledged the ideas and tactical approach of Len Smith (who remained at the club as a selector and consultant), Hafey opted for what became his trademark style – kick the ball long and quickly into the forward line. He raised the bar for fitness among his players, extending pre-season training, and introducing a third training night during the week. Richmond quickly became known for being the fittest team in the competition, and often finished a game running as hard as at the first bounce.
Richmond began 1966 in brilliant form. A month before the finals, they hit the top of the ladder for the first time since 1951 and seemed certain to play in September. But two losses relegated the Tigers to fifth place with thirteen wins and a draw, the best performed team to miss out since the inception of the McIntyre finals system in 1931. Stung by the near miss, Richmond cleared a number of players who failed in the two crucial defeats and boosted by two champion new players in Royce Hart and Francis Bourke, dominated the 1967 season, running out winners in a classic Grand Final against Geelong. In two years, the team lost only seven games and Hafey had gone from an unknown coach in the bush to the toast of the football world. In particular, the critics were impressed by Hafey's ability to succeed in the finals with a team that went into September without a single player with finals' experience.
With hindsight, the premiership marked a turning point for the game. The Tigers were fitter than any team that had gone before and were the highest scoring team since 1950. Australian football, after two decades of defensive-based play, was about to enter an era of high scoring, aided by rule changes, new tactics and betters standards of fitness.
However, Hafey was powerless to prevent a premiership hangover the following year, and although the Tigers made a last-gasp bid to play finals by winning the last six games, they were denied. The club believed that had they made it, they would have gone all the way. When the Tigers were again lethargic in mid-1969, accusations of under-achievement arose. The Richmond administration were not above spreading a few rumours with the press that Hafey was on the way out. But the players rallied behind Hafey and finished the season brilliantly, snatching fourth place before winning all three finals to take a second premiership. It was noticeable that Hafey was able to get his players to peak at the business end of the season.
After another dip in 1970, Hafey took the Tigers to the finals for the next five years, finally finding the consistency that had eluded the club during his early years. Basing the team's strategy around all-out attack had drawbacks, most famously during the 1972 finals, when his team conceded the highest score to Carlton in a shock upset. Hafey later admitted that the defeat left him down, to the point of depression, for many months but it later became the motivation for his greatest success, the back-to-back premierships of 1973–1974. By now, the aggressive attitude of the club both on and off the field had created deal a of resentment toward the club. A number of controversial incidents during the 1973 Grand Final, the Windy Hill brawl, the attempted recruitment of John Pitura from South Melbourne and the reaction to Kevin Bartlett's failure to win the Brownlow medal all focussed negative attention on the club. Yet Hafey used the various reactions to his advantage claiming "it's Richmond against the world" and adding the rider after the 1974 Grand Final "…and today we won".
However, just two years later, the most successful coach in Richmond's history had left the club. The team showed signs of ageing in 1975, when only experience and guile got them as far as the preliminary final and then a raft of player departures destroyed the Tigers' 1976 season. The team slumped to seventh, Hafey's worst ever result. Hafey had no contract with Richmond; the coach was appointed on a year-to-year basis. He was reappointed for 1977, but not unanimously and crucially, it was the club's powerbroker Graeme Richmond who voted against Hafey. When this outcome was leaked to Hafey, he immediately resigned.
The Collingwood Years
Consumed by coaching, Hafey's initial thought was to seek a job in West Australia. Destiny decreed another path when Hafey had a chance meeting with the new Collingwood president, John Hickey. The Magpies had just endured their worst ever season, rent by in-fighting the team had finished last for the first time. After nineteen years without a premiership, Collingwood was moribund by its tradition, part of which decreed that no "outsider" could coach the club. Hickey wasted no time in securing the most successful mentor in the game, and Hafey was appointed as the first non-Collingwood man to coach the club for the 1977 season.
In a Cinderella-like performance, Hafey took essentially the same list of players from the bottom to the top of the ladder in one season, the first time this had been achieved in the VFL. Hafey's next challenge was to overcome the "Colliwobbles", the so-called disease that afflicted the club and caused many heart-breaking finals losses. Collingwood had lost eleven of their last thirteen finals matches, many by slender margins. The tide seemed to have turned when the team beat the favoured Hawthorn by just two points in the semi final. A fortnight later, in an historic Grand Final, the first to be telecast live, Collingwood sat on the brink of history at three quarter time, leading North Melbourne by 27 points. Moving in to address the team's huddle, Hafey was horrified to see trainers and committeemen congratulating the players on their Premiership. Worse was to come when North fought back dramatically, but the game ended in a draw. The dream slipped away in the replay the following week and Collingwood lost a high-scoring contest.
Another loss to North Melbourne in the 1978 Preliminary Final caused Hafey to clean out a number of the Collingwood veterans, and later the following season the team emerged as the only challenger to the hot favourite, Carlton. In another dramatic Grand Final, Collingwood held a good lead in the second quarter, but were overtaken by half time. The game ultimately hinged on a freakish piece of play by Wayne Harmes, who somehow chased down his own kick and knocked the ball on for a goal, which had added significance when Collingwood lost by five points. More irony surfaced in the 1980 Grand Final when Hafey took on his old team Richmond. Kevin Bartlett won the Norm Smith medal as the Tigers won by a record margin, yet earlier in the year Hafey had dissuaded a disgruntled Bartlett from leaving Richmond. Somehow, Hafey got the Magpies up for another tilt at the premiership in 1981, and they led by 21 points late in the third term of the Grand Final against Carlton. Two late goals by the Blues caused a number of arguments in the Collingwood three quarter time huddle, and Carlton, spurred on by the disharmony, ran all over Collingwood in the last term to win handsomely.
The continual disappointment around Victoria Park now focussed attention on Hafey's methods. Several leading players at the club criticised Hafey for over-training the team, particularly in the lead-up to big finals matches. It was also felt that Hafey was too slow to respond when the team was going under. Hafey survived into the next season, but a record losing streak of nine games sealed his fate and he was sacked mid-season.
Geelong and the Sydney razzle dazzle
Hafey was still in demand and he was given a three-year contract to coach Geelong in 1983. Although he had charge of some excellent talent at the club, Hafey was unable to engender the type of team spirit he created at Collingwood and Richmond. In pressure games, his star players often wilted and the team couldn't make the finals during his tenure. During 1985, it became clear that Hafey's contract wouldn't be renewed. However, the timing of his departure would provide him with another unique opportunity.
During the 1985 season, the VFL had sold the Sydney Swans to controversial medical entrepreneur Geoffrey Edelsten, in an attempt to create the first privately owned club. "Franchising", club licensing, player drafts and salary caps were all concepts borrowed from the United States that the VFL were attempting to import to Australian football at a time of financial crisis. Edelsten was now frantically signing up star players from Melbourne clubs, offering massive contracts to move to the harbour city. The signature he coveted most was Kevin Sheedy, who had just coached Essendon to successive premierships and was the hottest commodity in the game. Sheedy turned Edelsten down, but urged the Swans' owner to sign his old mentor, Tom Hafey. Hafey duly signed on for three years, was given the highest paid list of players in the game, and he relocated to Sydney with his family.
Criticisms and comparisons
Hafey attracted his share of criticism during his time as a coach. Usually cited as tactically unsophisticated with a tendency to over train players, Hafey's training methods were sometimes labelled monotonous. Critics point out that he "lost" the playing group several times during his career as they rebelled against his training requirements. Further, his record of four premierships can be partially explained by the enormous playing talent at Richmond, and that after leaving Punt Road he never had premiership success again.
Certainly, Hafey's blunt demeanour and unwillingness to cosy up to club administrators contributed as much to his three sackings as did any "losing" of the players. In some notable areas, Hafey's approach differed from most successful coaches who remained aloof from their players. He focussed on the team's camaraderie, in many cases becoming intimately involved with the lives of his charges and he sought to mix with them in social situations even though he was a teetotaller and non-smoker. As a result, the players did it for Hafey. In the centenary history of the AFL, Kevin Bartlett remarked that "Richmond could've been called Oodnadatta…because I believe that the players played for Tom Hafey."
So Hafey's teams usually tackled hard, shepherded, persisted, smothered and backed each other up, aspects of the game now called "one-percenters". Supreme fitness was required to play this way for a full hundred minutes, hence Hafey's emphasis on training. In addition, Hafey strongly believed in leaving players in their designated position, even if they were losing to their opponent, which also earned criticism when the team lost. By contrast, today virtually all players are rotated as the coach seeks "match-ups" favourable to the team. But Hafey was prepared to back his players and build their confidence, another contributing factor to the strong team spirit he was able to engender. It was noticeable that all four teams that he coached improved immediately after Hafey's appointment.
|1. Jock McHale (38 seasons)||714||467||237||10||66%||59||47%||8|
|2. Kevin Sheedy (27 seasons)||635||386||242||7||61%||41||4|
|3. Mick Malthouse (27 seasons)||662||385||271||6||58%||42||3|
|4. Allan Jeans (26 seasons)||575||357||216||2||62%||41||54%||4|
|5. Tom Hafey (23 seasons)||522||336||182||4||65%||42||59%||4|
|6. David Parkin (22 seasons)||518||306||210||2||59%||38||4|
|7. Ron Barassi (23 seasons)||515||275||236||4||54%||33||53%||4|
|8. Norm Smith (23 seasons)||452||253||192||7||57%||24||71%||6|
|9. Leigh Matthews (19 seasons)*||439||257||174||8||59%||27||4|
|10. Dick Reynolds (22 seasons)||415||275||134||6||67%||37||57%||4|
* Statistics up to the end of Round 19 of the 2010 AFL season.
Plenty of life after football
Returning to Melbourne in 1989, Hafey was employed by ABC radio as a football commentator, a role he still fulfills. Although often mentioned as a possible candidate by the media whenever a coaching position fell vacant in the AFL, no job materialised – Hafey came to be seen as one of the "old school" coaches, unsuited to the tactically sophisticated era of the last fifteen years. In his radio commentary, he rarely employs the jargon of the modern coach and is prosaic in his attitude toward the game. Hafey believes that football is a simple game that has been over-complicated, that motivation comes from within and fitness is the basis for success.
Rather than take a specific coaching position, Hafey has fashioned a career as a self-styled "ambassador" for the game and a strident advocate for physical fitness in the wider society. He speaks regularly to many types of groups on football and/or fitness, and never fails to emphasise the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. Hafey is also available to sporting clubs and schools to help take training and give motivational lectures. A particular interest is the current plight of Australian football clubs in rural areas, who he believes have been neglected by the AFL since the competition was fully professionalised in the 1990s.
An inaugural inductee to the Australian Football Hall of Fame 1996, Hafey was named coach of Richmond's team of the century in 1998. In 2003, the Tigers set up the Tom Hafey club (a corporate networking group) in his honour.
In 2011 Hafey appeared in a TV commercial for Jeep Australia as part of their 70th Anniversary Campaign. Chosen because he is also aged in his 70's like the Jeep, the commercial shows him running and doing push-ups as part of his regular fitness routine that keeps him young at heart.
In July 2011 a book titled The Hafey Years - Reliving a golden era at Tigerland was published. It documents Hafey's involvement with Richmond as a player, and his run of success as a coach in the 1960s and 1970s. Hafey has resisted having a biography written about him, but author Elliot Cartledge "guesses the 80-year-old supported the project because The Hafey Years is not a biography but a chronicle of an era."
Hafey's coaching "school"
A notable legacy of Hafey's coaching career is the remarkable number of men that played under him at Richmond who later went onto success as coaches themselves. At VFL/AFL level, these include premiership coaches Tony Jewell (at Richmond), Kevin Sheedy (at Essendon) and Mick Malthouse (at West Coast and Collingwood), as well as Kevin Bartlett, Royce Hart, Francis Bourke, Paul Sproule, Mike Patterson, Mick Erwin (who actually replaced Hafey when he was sacked by Collingwood), Neil Balme, John Northey, Ian Stewart and Barry Richardson. In addition, a number of his former players had important careers coaching at lower levels of the game, such as Merv Keane and Kevin Morris.
Hafey's passion for fitness still exists today; every morning he wakes up at 5:20 and goes for an 8 km run, followed by 250 push-ups and a swim in Port Phillip Bay, and when he gets home he does 700 crunches and sit-ups. He is a popular staple on the St. Kilda beach, often saying hello to joggers and cyclists.
- "Tom Hafey, AFL Legend And Jeep's New Ambassador". The Motor Report. Retrieved 19 March 2012.
- McGrath, Gav. "Ballarat author writes Tom Hafey book". The Courier. Retrieved 19 March 2012.
- Baum, Greg (1 October 2011). "An ageless appeal". The Age. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 4 October 2011.
- Rule, Andrew (July 16, 2011). "Unretired football legend Tom Hafey at 80". Herald Sun. Retrieved 19 March 2012.
- Richmond Football Club Official Site – Hall of Fame
- 1971 Tiger Year Book – Richmond Football Club
- Hogan P: The Tigers Of Old, Richmond FC, Melbourne 1996
- Cartledge, E: The Hafey Years - Reliving a golden era at Tigerland, Weston Media & Communications, Melbourne 2011