Ray Byrne pays tribute to Tommy Hafey

RAY Byrne will remember Tommy Hafey as a genuine, honest, super bloke and a fantastic coach.

Tom Hafey taking the Bendigo Pioneers for training in July, 2005. Third from left in the front row is Geelong skipper Joel Selwood. Front left is Strathfieldsaye's Shannon Geary.

Tom Hafey taking the Bendigo Pioneers for training in July, 2005. Third from left in the front row is Geelong skipper Joel Selwood. Front left is Strathfieldsaye's Shannon Geary.

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.”

Tommy Hafey at Creek Street Christian College in 2008.

Tommy Hafey at Creek Street Christian College in 2008.

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.”

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