Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Hafey Years by Elliot Cartledge

The last few Christmasses I’ve had football books on my wish list, specifically those that relate to the Richmond Football Club in some way, shape or form, and this year was no exception. Santa had a copy of The Hafey Years by journalist and fellow Richmond tragic Elliot Cartledge in his sack for me.

To bring anyone who isn’t aware up to speed: between the years of 1966 and 1976 the Richmond Football Club was coached by former player Tommy Hafey. While Hafey was a modestly talented player, he was a revolutionary coach with an extraordinary ability of getting players to give their utmost, and in his ten years at the helm of the Tigers he delivered 4 Premierships, including the back to back efforts of the 1973 and 74 seasons. Although Richmond did win the 1980 flag, beating arch rival Collingwood by what was then a record winning margin, the years since Tommy Hafey’s departure have been pretty barren.

The book is written from an unashamedly Richmond viewpoint, although it does not attempt to paint a rose coloured picture of anyone involved with the club at the time. Players and officials are human and they have their strengths and their weaknesses. In the case of legendary administrator Graeme Richmond, his strength and weaknesses are often one and the same. While GR had a lot to do with the success enjoyed by the Tigers during the Hafey Years, he was also largely responsible for the team’s fall from grace; a pit they are still struggling to climb out of.

Having lived through the Hafey era, although being a kid during all of it my memories are fairly incomplete, the book was a trip down memory lane for me. Even the players and games I don’t recall well or at all I have memories of my parents, in particular my father, speaking fondly about. It’s a time that many of us, who are desperate to see the team succeed again often relive or long to return to, and Cartledge’s book with it’s quarter by quarter descriptions of the Premiership games, interviews with the players, officials and in some cases the opposition, certainly did that for me, and probably will for many other supporters.

The research in the book is considerable and sheds light on some incidents I had heard of, but been unaware of the full circumstances of. Readers can come to understand people like the often frustrating and eternally enigmatic Billy Barrott or the mercurially talented, but volatile Neil Balme. I even gained more of an insight into the driven Kevin Sheedy, who has been in the media spotlight as a coach and outspoken part of the game ever since he hung up his boots in the late 1970’s.

Many of the names in The Hafey Years are spoken with a hushed reverence by Richmond supporters: Paddy Guinane, Fred Swift, Roger Dean, Royce Hart, Kevin Bartlett, Dick Clay, even the backroom power broker Graeme Richmond and Hafey himself. The book pulls no punches and examines the reasons for the club’s success and why it eventually fell apart.

One thing I was struck by when reading was the similarity with the circumstances of the club just prior to Hafey’s arrival as coach and now. It gives me hope that things are finally turning around and that the Tigers are on the track to some onfield success at long last.

Fans and students of the game will get something out of The Hafey Years, regardless of club affiliation, but the book was written by and for Richmond supporters. If you were fortunate enough to see the club during all or some of the Hafey years then you will love reliving that golden period when the Tigers ruled the AFL (VFL as it was then) jungle. If you’re a supporter who did not see the powerful Richmond of the late 1960’s and 70’s then you’ll still get a smile from The Hafey Years as it will remind you why you follow the Tigers and exactly what the club is like when it’s up and about.

Any Richmond supporter will find The Hafey Years a fascinating and enjoyable experience. One of the best descriptions of the team and it’s success that I’ve been privileged enough to read.


  1. G'day Elfy...I've just stumbled across your review of the book and I'm delighted you derived so much pleasure from reliving that wonderful era. The book was a pleasure to research and all parties (with the exception of Bartlett) were willing and in some cases very keen to contribute. Tommy loves it, by the way and I've had some great feedback from non-Tiger supporters, which is also pleasing. Cheers, EC

  2. Thanks very much for your comment, Elliot. It was a great Christmas read for me, being a true Tiger through and through. I'm really pleased that the book was written and glad that Tommy himself loves it. I've never met him, but I know others that have and he's always presented as a really nice man and impresses them with his presence.