A Tribute To Lou

I met Lou Richards once in my life, many years ago. Or so I thought.

It was 1991, an AFL pre-season practice match at Maher Oval in Wagga. Sydney were playing Collingwood. It was a rather exciting event for me as a 10-year-old and even more so for my Pies-supporting brother.

Never had we experienced a game of this calibre without having to travel to Melbourne and the fact that my brother’s team was playing was an added bonus.

Collingwood had won the flag the year before so we had the chance to see premiership heroes like Daicos, Millane, McGuane and Crosisca up close. This was also the year that Warwick Capper returned to the Swans following his tenure at the Brisbane Bears. The star power this day was undeniable.

At quarter time and three-quarter time we were even able to make out way out to the huddle and listen to Leigh Matthews instruct his charges.

We took this opportunity to grab a few autographs. Do people still get autographs? That’s what we did in the days before selfies; got famous people to write their signature on a piece of paper. An odd practice if you think about it too long, but an accepted one nonetheless.

Daics listens intently to Lethal’s message. Not sure who #36 is. It was a year before Sav Rocca wore the number and several years after Rene Kink.

We must have got Daics’ autograph last of any player. I remember it that way because the pen ran out as he was signing his name, so it was more of an etched autograph than a written one.

As we were getting the autographs we spotted Lou Richards walking towards the interchange bench. We simply had to get a man of his standing in the game to sign our paper.

“You want MY autograph?”

He sounded bemused when we approached him. Peculiar reaction, we thought. Surely he’d signed thousands of autographs in his time. He’s been on TV for the previous 30-some years and a legendary player before that. A premiership captain no less.

Despite his notable surprise he did provide his autograph and we went home very chuffed indeed. From memory, Collingwood lost but that was neither here nor there. We shared the space of some great football people.

It was quite some time, possibly years but at least months, that we realised that the signature we had received was not Lou Richards at all. By this time we had labelled all the autographs with our own handwriting: Peter Daicos, Tony Francis, Lou Richards etc.

I’m not even sure what led to our realisation. Whatever the case, we learned that the man who had been so surprised by our approach was in fact Lou’s younger brother, Ron. In retrospect it made far more sense. While Lou had no official role with the club at that time, Ron was Chairman of Selectors. His presence on or about the interchange bench was warranted.

Although he wasn’t who we thought he was, Ron was himself a great figure of the club. He played with Lou in the 1953 premiership and served as a lower grade coach and on the Collingwood board after his retirement.

Both Ron and Lou have left us now. Both contributed a great amount to footy over their lives in different capacities. It feels as though the curtain is being drawn across an era with the passing of the likes of Lou, Tom Hafey and Bob Davis. These characters made the game enjoyable just through the natural personality and enthusiasm. No confection or contrivance required.

A friend put it that Lou reminded him of a time that footy wasn’t taken quite so seriously. I think that’s true as well. Lou didn’t take the game as seriously as some do today, but he could also teach a few of today’s broadcasters a serious lesson in how to do their job.

He was an undeniable great and he will be missed. RIP Lou Richards.

About Josh Pinn

Blogger and Podcaster for footygospel.com

Comments

  1. John Butler says

    “No confection or contrivance required.” That’s the key, I think. Lou, Jack & Bob were just who they were. And you’re right when you say they didn’t take themselves or the game too seriously.

    Nice work Josh.

  2. Nice work Josh.
    Sounds like a big day then, Premiers in town and the Wiz.

    Lou rightly lauded in tributes as someone who changed footy. Not on the ground, but with access to it. Made footy fun and in doing so help broaden its appeal.
    There a still a few public links back to footy in the 60’s, but not many. All of ‘League Teams’ are now gone. We still have Mike Williamson from the ’66 GF, and radio’s ‘Arry Beitzel among a handful.
    I think they took their craft seriously, while keeping the game in context. As you say, maybe some in the current day can take a leaf from their books.

  3. Peter_B says

    Terrific story Josh. Lou was a loveable larrikin – but never a mug lair. The cheeky champion. Mickey Rooney in footy boots.
    For me his passing marks the end of a link back to growing up in the Australia of the 1930’s – the Great Depression and living on the susso and the kindness of others.
    My father had a copy of Lou’s autobiography “Boots and All”, so I had a sense of him as a champion player in the great Collingwood teams of the early 50’s and then their rivalry with Norm Smith’s Melbourne of the late 50’s. Roving in the mud heaps. Copping a sling from John Wren in the rooms after a match – that was 10x your match payment. (No breaching the salary cap in those days – more escaping the poverty trap.)
    In the last day many who knew him well have remarked on his unflinching kindness to all comers. Like Arnold Palmer was to golf fans. Early deprivation shaping generous character. As the twig is bent……………
    Vale’ Lou.

  4. george smith says

    Just to let you know that World of Sport ceased to be 30 years ago, when Channel 7 lost the rights to the footy telecasts. It is also the year we lost uncle Doug Elliott, a larger than life character and a great friend of Louie. It was oddly enough when Louie stopped doing footy broadcasts as well. When Channel 7 got back the rights, it was decided that a more “youthful” panel of commentators would suffice, so Louie and Bob Skilton got the chop. I think Louie was over at Channel 9.

    Meanwhile, over at the SANFL, a dark presence was preparing to go full Molly Meldrum on football commentary – one Bruce McAvaney

    We lost a lot in 1987, including milk bottles and the Allens Sweets sign. It was a frustrating year for Collingwood, like this one, winning only 7 matches.

    We have lost Lou Richards and his acid tongue. For a moment or two, football has been struck dumb.

  5. AS a commentator over 30 years, Lou built up his fair share of catchphrases but the one that is resonating with me now because it so summed up his attitude to life is, ‘you never know your luck in the big city’.

    Vale Lou.

  6. Rulebook says

    Great stuff Josh yes Lou,Jack Dyer and Bobby Davis were brilliant entertainment so much better than any footy show today.PB you reminded me I had a copy of Boots and All a great book no idea where it is now

  7. Dave Brown says

    Well done Josh. Ron is one of those names mentioned frequently in books like Matt Zurbo’s – part of the Melbourne wallpaper, not in the headlines but contributing to their club/state. Much like a Slug Jordon or a John Dugdale. Kids still get autographs but not in a book, it has to be on something. Lou’s path a different one – my earliest memories of VFL football are trying to make sense of a Collingwood v North Melbourne match on a small black and white TV with him commentating. I really love that spare, let the pictures talk, style of coverage which still can be got at other levels. He will be missed.

  8. Nice tribute, Josh. And great memories for your brother and yourself.

    I wonder what Lou would have thought of the current day commentators (Darcy, Taylor, H McLachlin, etc) ?

    RIP Lou

  9. Could our mystery #36 in the pic be a very young Jason McCartney?

  10. The Johnny’s did that great song, “the day Marty Robbins died”, where they sing about the Grand Ole Opry in the sky. If you believed in metaphysics you could imagine a World Of Sport in the sky. What a cast you’d assemble.

    The footy panel of course with Bob, Lou and Jack, complemented by Bruce Andrew, Jim Cleary & Ted Rippon. Doug Ring would cover the cricket, Freddy Villiers the soccer, Gus Mercurio the ‘sweet science’, with Bill Collins and Jack Elliot doing the nags. The O’Tooles would have their axes at the ready as Jim Cleary would steadily count them in. Ron Casey would be ‘running’ the show, and of course the ubiquitous ‘Uncle Doug’ was there larger than life, trying to steal the show. Great memories.

    Glen!

  11. Yes, Rick, it turns out it is McCartney. I didn’t realise he wore 36 originally.

  12. E.regnans says

    Love it, Josh.
    One of those who made it all possible.

  13. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Great stuff Josh. A day among many bona fide Magpie legends and Lou had personality and personality goes a long way…

  14. Luke Reynolds says

    Loved this Josh. Ron Richards was a great man too. But very different to Lou.
    Really does feel like the end of an era the passing of Lou and others like Bob Davis, Tommy Hafey etc. But what an era. What legends.

  15. He opened up footy didn’t he? This is beautifully written Josh.

  16. Jim Jonson says

    Thanks for reminding me Josh.
    I saw Lou Richards play many times. Of the other players from 1946 to1948 I can remember seeing Phonse Kyne, Neil Man, Gordon Hocking, Bob Rose, Charlie Uting, Len Fitzgerald, Ray Horwood, Jack Green and Des Fothergill. I obtained some autographs among which I used the way Jack Green wrote his J in Jack for my J in Jim and Johnson. I used his J shape which I still use in my signed name. Des Fothergill of whom my Dad described him as the best drop kick he ever saw. He told how clever Fothergill was and how he just popped up by himself and kicked goals. JIm remembers well seeing that happen. Fothergill all alone on his opposite half forward flank all alone taking a mark and running in and kicking a long drop kick goal. Fothergill shared the Brownlow Medal with Herb Mathews in 1940. Three years after seeing Fothergill play Jim at 16 years of age was playing in Herb Matthew’s captained and coached Ringwood 1st 18 at Ringwood 1n 1950.

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