Thomas Stanley Raymond Hafey
5 August 1931
Place of birth
Richmond, VIC (3121)
12 May 2014 (aged 82)
Tommy, T-shirt Tommy
Age at first & last AFL game
First game: 21y 298d
Last game: 27y 18d
Height and weight
Height: 173 cm
Weight: 76 kg
State of origin
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One of the most successful and inspirational coaches of the post-war era, Tom Hafey began his senior football life as a tough, relentless back pocket specialist who played 67 VFL games for Richmond between 1953 and 1958. It is as a coach that he is better remembered, however, and his total of 522 games (for a 64.75% success rate) as a senior VFL coach was only ever bettered by three others.
Tom Hafey's first coaching appointment was not in the VFL, however, but with Goulburn Valley Football League side Shepparton, where he spent five seasons, steering the side to three consecutive flags between 1963 and 1965. The 1966 season saw him back at his old club Richmond where he quickly took a leaf out of his Hawthorn counterpart John Kennedy's book by putting his charges through a gruelling pre-season that made them arguably the fittest ensemble in the competition. After narrowly failing to reach the finals in Hafey's first season in charge the Tigers went all the way in 1967, clinching their first senior flag since 1943 courtesy of a nine-point Grand Final win over Geelong. Hafey later coached Richmond to further Grand Finals in 1969 and 1972, 1973, and 1974 for wins in all but the 1972 decider.
Although reappointed for the 1977 season, Hafey failed to gain the support of club powerbroker Graeme Richmond and in the circumstances felt compelled to resign. It was a sad end to Hafey's illustrious tenure at Tigerland, but it was no surprise that such a talented mentor would rise again, and so he did, this time at the Tigers' arch-rival Collingwood. He took the Magpies, wooden spooners in 1976, to the following year's Grand Final only to suffer the anti-climax of draw followed by a heart-rending 27-point loss against North Melbourne in the replay. Three further losing Grand finals followed during Hafey's five and a half season stint in charge, in 1979 and 1981 against nemesis Carlton, and against his old team Richmond in 1980.
From 1983 to 1985, Tom Hafey coached Geelong but was unable to steer the Cats into the finals. He had greater success with Sydney, overseeing finals campaigns in 1986 and 1987, both of which ended at the First Semi Final stage. Although the Swans did not achieve premiership success under Hafey, the fact that they reached the finals at all bore persuasive testimony to his prowess as a coach and undoubtedly helped Australian football gain a toe-hold in essentially 'foreign' territory.
In addition to his club endeavours, Tom Hafey also coached the VFL, New South Wales and Queensland in the interstate arena. As coach of the VFL, he enjoyed a one hundred per cent record.
Given that he was Richmond's most successful ever coach, as well as it's most loved, it was no surprise to see Tom Hafey placed in ostensible charge of the Tigers' official 'Team of the Twentieth Century'.
Author - John Devaney