RAY Byrne will remember Tommy Hafey as a genuine, honest, super bloke and a fantastic coach.
Hafey, one of the greatest coaches in AFL history, lost his battle with cancer on Monday. He was 82.
Byrne, the Bendigo Pioneers regional manager, played under Hafey at Collingwood and Geelong.
“Life, footy, family – he was just a really good friend,’’ Byrne said.
“I went down and saw him two weeks ago and had a cup of tea with him at his place.
“We had a great chat about old things. You could see that he wasn’t well.
“He was a fantastic bloke.”
Byrne said Hafey’s legacy was more than just football coaching.
“He had such a wonderful influence on everyone he met,’’ Byrne said.
“The amount of people that went to see him, not just from Richmond, Collingwood or Geelong, was amazing.
“He knew everyone, it’s amazing how many people’s lives he touched.”
Byrne played 222 VFL games at Carlton, Collingwood and Geelong, and Hafey had the biggest influence on his career.
“He was never negative,’’ Byrne said.
“If you played a poor game he’d give you a spray during the game, but afterwards or the next day’s training he’d be pumping you up again.
“He was a genuine, honest, super bloke and a fantastic coach.
“He got the respect and loyalty from everybody. It’s a hard thing to do and most coaches who are any good will get that.
“Tommy gave you everything and as a player you wanted to give everything you could back.
“Four premierships at Richmond and two runners-up, four grand finals at Collingwood and a preliminary final.
“I just think Tommy was the best.”
VFL club Bendigo Gold paid tribute to Hafey via twitter - the Bendigofc sends it's condolences to the hafey family and friends. A true great of the game who will never be forgotten #RIPTOMMY
EARLIER: The football world is in mourning tonight after the death of coaching great Tom Hafey at the age of 82.
The four-time premiership coach had been fighting a short battle with cancer.
Hafey coached 521 games at Richmond, Collingwood, Geelong and Sydney over a period spanning three decades. In 1999, Hafey was named coach of Richmond's team of the century.
He had earlier played 67 games between 1954 and 1958.
Richmond CEO Brendan Gale expressed his club's sadness via the club's official website.
“This is an extremely sad day in Richmond’s history, to have lost a giant of the Club in Tommy Hafey,” Gale said.
“Tommy was a fine example of how to get the most out of life – his mantra of hard work, discipline, dedication, persistence, honesty, loyalty, integrity, good health and vitality, was not only the recipe for success on the football field, but success in his wonderful life.
“At this time, our thoughts are with Tommy’s wife Maureen, their children Rhonda, Karen and Jo, and the extended family.”