Tom Harley: Mr Perseverance becomes elite

Photos courtesy of Norwood Football Club

 

Tom Harley

 

1997-98 Norwood (SANFL) – 21 games, 10 goals

 

1998 Port Adelaide (AFL) – 1 game, 1 goal

 

1999-2009 Geelong – 197 games, 11 goals

 

AFL career – 198 games, 12 goals

 

·       All-Australian: 2008 (vice captain)

·       AFLPA Best Captain Award: 2008

·       Captain of Geelong Football Club: 2007-09

·       Geelong Football Club Best Clubman Award: 2002, 2006, 2008

·       Geelong Football Club Coach’s Award: 2001

·       Geelong Football Club Most Determined and Most Dedicated Player Award: 2000

·       Geelong Football Club Community Champion Award: 2008

·       South Australian State of Origin representative honours: 2007, 2008 (captain)

 

Tom is a dual AFL Premiership Captain with the Cats but of course you all realise his greatest football achievement is playing in the Norwood Reserves flag in ‘98 (cough, cough). But back to the beginning.

 

School years

 

Tom is the son of Rick and Trish (nee Rofe), having two brothers in Sam and Ben. The Harley boys attended Loreto College (yes, Loreto College) which is unusual in that it is an all-girls college. However, from Prep to Grade 2 Loreto was mixed – it was 26 girls and six boys so potentially a good strike rate! Remarkably, Loreto has the distinction of having two AFL captains in Tom, and Luke Darcy as ex-scholars.

 

Tom then went to St Andrews before moving to St Peters College (aka Hackney High) at the beginning of Grade 5. Tom was an accomplished footballer and cricketer in particular as a junior but just missed selection in the SAPSASA State primary schools football side, with good mate Toby Porter picked. Tom admits it may have been the first time he was faced with adversity and he didn’t handle it well with tears shed. It was indeed a valuable learning experience.

 

Tom played junior footy for Walkerville – home of Josh Francou, Matty and Jon Robran, Angus Monfries, Will Minson, and the Holland tribe (and many others). All of a sudden adolescence set-in boys grew and developed and raced past Tom who was a late developer. He admits he hated standing the mark as he had  nothing under the armpits.

 

In Year 10 at St Peters, Tom was on the bench and was told to come back next year and train with the Third XVIII. He sufficiently impressed to be given a chance for the Second XVIII but was taken off at half time – not for poor form but the First XVIII coach wanted to have a look at him The famous Harley tenacity which we all saw throughout his career had well and truly surfaced for Saints.

 

 

Photo supplied by Harley family

 

 

It is part of footy folklore that Tom as a junior just turned up at club and representative training which isn’t quite true but he was tenacious and always had a crack which resulted in quite a few coaches along the way having affection for Tom. His inner belief and willingness to stand up and even request what were considered the toughest jobs as a junior (e.g. being more than willing to stand Warren Tredrea when others ran a mile) helped.

 

Grant Dalwood, Norwood’s Under 19s coach, quickly became a massive fan. He could see traits of Tom’s dad, Rick, an accomplished state amateur player in Tom. Grant bucked the normal trend and pushed to coach Russell Ebert for Tom’s inclusion in the State Under 18s side. Another defender being injured when the side was due to be picked was a sliding doors moment. Tom had a fantastic carnival playing mainly at CHB performing more than admirably standing Bowen Lockwood and Lance Whitnall and being chosen in the All Australian Under 18 side.

 

Russell Ebert adds “Tom was a pleasure to coach. He listened and quickly put into practice instructions while respectfully putting his own point of view across and adding to the discussion and then put an imprint on the game. Tom was a natural leader and personally I was disappointed when Tom was traded from Port to Geelong”.

 

 

Senior football

 

Tom had rapidly come from a long way back and was subsequently chosen in Port Power’s original AFL squad. Tom was always studious and could see the whole picture that it was important to study and had been accepted to university in the field of commerce.

 

At Norwood, Tom had very strong competition for spots, in particular in defence at senior level with Stephen Pitt, Dale Fleming, and Lachlan Bowman being the key talls. While Tom also played up forward but Scott Bassett, Andrew Pascoe, and Jim West were proficient in that area as well. Tom played 21 games for the Legs over the two seasons and was frustrated at times at not feeling he secured a senior spot.

 

In `98 Tom made his AFL debut coincidentally against the Cats but spent the majority of the game on the bench, although he did kick a goal with his only kick (100 per cent success rate). Tom wasn’t getting much continuity in his footy, in a six-week block playing AFL, SANFL and SANFL Reserves. At least he played in the reserves premiership side with an eccentric and very close-knit bunch.

 

Tom is full of praise for Mark Williams and that he was a major influence on his career. In `98 he had deferred his commerce studies and trained with a group of Port youngsters which included Michael Wilson, and Rhett Biglands under Chocko’s tutelage. Tom felt that Mark was sensational in his communication skills with young guys and teaching and trying to improve an individual’s skills. It can be revealed now that if Tom had stayed in Adelaide he would more than likely have been a Rooster instead of a Redleg in `99.

 

 

The Cattery calls

 

Tom could have stayed at Port but when Geelong approached him he decided it was very much a challenge which appealed, joining a new environment outside of his comfort zone. Tom in moving to Geelong and not knowing anyone joined in going out with other players till the wee hours of the morning on the booze, getting to know everyone. This was something he hadn’t done at Port as he preferred to generally socialise with his schoolmates.

 

Tom did ok in the pre-season games, kicking a couple of goals in the last game before Round 1 and was a tad unlucky to miss selection for Round 1. Geelong started the season very well winning their opening five games and, as is generally the way, the magoos guys felt like they were lepers. In Round 7, the Cats were playing in Perth while the reserves played St Kilda and were thumped by 120 points (one too many!). In the review, coach Alan McConnell went around the room and said “Tom you’re a nice bloke and seem to be well-liked but are you respected as a footballer?” It was a lightbulb wake-up moment for Tom. That word respect was vital – previously he had really doubted whether he was good enough to play at the level.

 

Tom decided to knuckle down to be fanatical about his diet, studying the opposition, and training at absolute maximum intensity. His fitness and form improved. Tom made his debut for the Cats in Round 14 against the Crows and Gary Ayres showed his confidence by giving him the job on Darren Jarman. Tom stayed in the side for the rest of the season and developed from there into a highly respected and valued defender. As shown above re. awards won, a highly valued member of the Geelong Football Club.

 

While the Cats had made finals they seemingly hadn’t advanced (in reality, Nick Davis did show in 2005 how it’s such a fine line between pleasure and pain). After the disappointing season of 2006 the Cats decided to do a well-publicised overall review of the club led by chief executive Brian Cook. In the end, 20 out of 21 recommendations were accepted of course one of the most significant was the appointment of Tom Harley as club captain. Now this was unusual in that it was by a board recommendation not by the normal way of the football department and then the board approving.

 

Footy-wise, Tom’s motto to be the best team player he could possibly be and his natural leadership abilities had impressed. It was also his common touch always telling the truth (certainly something a lot of clubs and individuals could learn from) but this was far more far-reaching in that Tom also attended board meetings, was involved in brand development and in the naming of the stands. As the go-between between the players and the board it was much broader than the so-called normal captain’s role.

 

Before the Xmas training break the playing group had met and they established guidelines re. behaviour over the break. Certain individuals had been discussed as possibly being problems in that regard. Steve Johnson had met the leadership group and undertaken to be responsible in particular to alcohol use. Steve was arrested on Christmas Eve for playing up.

 

Tom mentions it wasn’t that side of it which was the problem – the courts would decide that. It was breaking the conditions which the leadership group and Stevie J had agreed upon. Tom was away on holidays in NSW and was actually informed by ex-skipper Steven King of the development. There was then a telephone hook-up of the leadership group where a range of options were discussed. Eventually, the middle ground of not being considered for senior selection for the opening five rounds and having to train with the VFL side was decided upon (this shows how serious the leadership group considered the offence).

 

2007

 

Photo supplied by Harley family

 

Geelong didn’t exactly start the season on fire in 2007 and shortening Stevie J’s ban was mentioned but the leadership group stood their ground and saw the long term picture. Tom admits that Steve was a close mate (and is now – hey, he’s an assistant coach at Sydney now where Tom is the CEO) and it took a while for confidence and trust to return between the two.

 

It turned out to be the turning point of Steve’s career. He worked his butt off and returned in Round 6. The Cats ended up minor premiers finishing three games clear, only losing one further game upon Steve’s return. He ended up making the All Australian side and winning the Norm Smith Medal – a hell of a statement!

 

Frank Costa, the Geelong President, was ruthless in always aiming to get the best possible person for a position not just the best available person. Brian Cook the CEO is the perfect example of this being recruited from West Coast. The appointment of Neil Balme as football operations manager was pivotal also. In hindsight the tough preliminary final win over the Pies by five points was a blessing in disguise. Costa was fond of the analogy that winning a flag was like making sure every person was the best available and was in the correct seat on the bus.

 

In 2007, the Cats arrived at the G and took the cup back along the Corio Highway to Kardinia Park. It has become a well-told story by Tom that in warming up on the ground before the grand final obviously nervous and he’s hearing the predictable line “Harley you’re nothing but a Port reject” when he hears a booming voice: “Tom Harley whatever happens today you will always be an ex-Hackney High Scholar” (referring, of course, that Tom went to St Peter’s College ). He smiles looks up in to the crowd and recognises good mate Nick Emmett. It was the perfect tonic to get Tom to relax.

 

Of course the game was an absolute cliffhanger at the opening bounce with the Cats proceeding to win by 119 points (the number 119 is probably revered by Crows supporters more than Cats supporters).

 

Tom in 2008 had his best season individually making the All Australian side (which had been a long term individual goal). The Cats were the most dominant side seen in a long, long time, only losing one minor round game, cruising through to the big dance. Of course, we all know it’s on the day which counts and the Hawks prevailed. Bad kicking is bad footy. Yes, the Hawks as part of their tactics rushed plenty of points that day but the Cats missed some sitters – 11 goals 23 behinds isn’t exactly complimentary, let’s remember that.

 

Tom got concussed just before half time and who knows how important that was to the result and that no doubt whatsoever the Cats missed his leadership especially during the Hawks’ third quarter onslaught. Tom admits it’s the one lost game in his career which will always burn away in his guts.

 

2009

 

Geelong reviewed the game and moved on. In 2009, the Cats had a good season only losing four minor round games, so were able to rest important senior players of which Tom was one. Leg injuries in particular were catching up. Tom had a meeting with coach Bomber Thompson before the finals and told Bomber of his decision to retire at the end of the season This was discussed at length and if things went according to plan Tom would end up retiring on 199 games (198 for the Cats). Bomber said to go away and think about it.

 

Upon catching up again, Bomber turned and pointed at the 200 game honour board and offered Tom the two games in season 2010. Tom pointed at the premiership list and captains adding hopefully adding to that in a few weeks’ time and that he was more than comfortable with that the decision he had made.

 

Season 2009 had two dominant teams in the Saints and the Cats. Both had a remarkably similar September in having close-fought wins over the Western Bulldogs and both having comfortable wins over the Pies. In what was an epic Grand Final, Bomber produced the masterstroke at three quarter time mentioning the previous year’s grand final loss for the first time for the year. The Cats just prevailed with the toe poke from Matty Scarlett just so vital in the end.

 

Tom thinks the previous year’s huge disappointment was vital in the crunch. The Cats players just were not prepared to have to face that again. As always Tom had put the team first – his actual retirement was not announced until several weeks after the Grand Final.

 

For the significant influences on his career Tom is extremely grateful for Grant Dalwood to have pushed his case so strongly, Chocko Williams for his care and teaching skills, Gary Ayres for following him closely while Tom was at Port and for giving him an opportunity. Mark Thompson was a fantastic coach with his focus on drafting kids, teaching defensive skills and was fiercely competitive. He also showed his tactical nous, the only time he mentioned the 2008 Grand Final loss was at three quarter time of the 2009 Grand Final. Neil Balme was a vital addition in enabling the Cats to reach the holy grail (lots of mutual respect between Tom and Neil). Frank Costa and Brian Cook were an incredible off-field duo and just so important .

 

 

The best

 

Tom does not hesitate whatsoever in naming Matty Scarlett as the best player he played with and that he was the first defender to regularly get 20 plus touches while standing and completely nullifying quite often the opposition’s best forward. Tom admits if he was a midfielder his thoughts may be different while acknowledging that Gary Ablett (Junior) did things no one else could, Cats-wise best players could go on and on.

 

In terms of the best players he played against, Tom mentions Matty Richardson, Jonathon Brown and Nick Riewoldt as the standouts and then towards the end of his career when standing the medium talls Brad Johnson stood out (I did say “righto, c’mon Tom name just one” – after some deliberation, Nick Riewoldt gets the nod).

 

 

Post-retirement life

 

Tom met his wife Felicity at a Cosmopolitan photoshoot for the best looking footballers in the competition. Felicity was a professional in her own right and was the founding editor of Women’s Health magazine and a media personality. The two did the long-distance relationship thing with Felicity living in Sydney (not many make that work so a huge tick for both of you). Tom acknowledges the selfish life of an AFL footballer so they were always going to settle in Sydney when Tom retired.

 

Tom worked in the media commentating for five years and was bloody good at it with his footy smarts and being able to articulate clearly without going over the top showing through. He would travel down Friday and then generally return to Sydney the following day.

 

Tom was working for AFL NSW and was responsible for the growth of the game in Sydney and the ACT. He worked closely with the late Tony Peek during his time in this role he also was heavily involved with the Swans and liaised with Andrew Ireland. In 2014 he accepted an offer from the Sydney Swans to become general manager of footy operations – a huge role in itself (you could argue an even more important role in a non-traditional footy state).

 

It was almost a natural progression to become CEO in 2019 – a massive role in being responsible as the overseer of everything: commercial business; finance-wise; communication and marketing as well as having a huge part in football operations in general.

 

Tom sees the overall picture and when he was captain of Geelong he appreciated his privileged position and through the Starlight Foundation he personally bought a number of memberships of the Cats each year he would go down and meet the families before the game and got a hell of a lot out of it.

 

Tom was watching TV and saw a segment dedicated to one-punch victim James Macready-Bryan. It had a profound effect on Tom who approached the club about becoming involved in education. James Kelly and David Wojcinski had also seen the program and wanted to make a difference. The Just Think campaign was born encouraging youngsters to think about alcohol. Hey, don’t have a drink but think about its consequences more re. violence and its potential outcomes. Tom is proud that the Cats’ Just Think campaign is ongoing with Zac Guthrie and Mitch Duncan its current ambassadors.

 

Rick Harley (Tom’s dad) is a ripper of a bloke – extremely wise and to show you how well regarded he is, Tom’s mates even now will turn up to Rick’s house and seek guidance about anything, which he gives in a quiet unassuming manner. Just advising never lecturing.

 

Geelong also now has its best clubman named after Tom Harley – no club could show more reverence and how an individual is hugely respected than to name its best clubman in their honour!

 

 

A mate’s view

 

Below is from best mate Toby Porter:

 

We played a lot of footy and cricket together…. in fact, I first met Tom at our first ever game – in 1985 for Walkerville Under 8s. Tom was always a good player but you wouldn’t say a standout.

 

Rick was a huge influence – as kids we’d wear Rick’s old jumpers, watch him play at SPOC and get him to tell us stories about state amateur trips away with Red Emmell & co…

 

We were waterboys together as young kids for the Saints first XVIII – we couldn’t get enough of footy. Tom was genuinely footy mad. He’d know what type of boots each player wore, the sponsors – the works.

 

He struggled a little in his mid-teens – just an awkward growth phase. I remember a Norwood Under 15 premiership we won (the old Samboy Cup) coached by Tim Hart. I think he even started Year 11 in the second XVIII for Saints

 

From there he grew into his ‘growth spurt’ and his natural athletic talent shone through (there’s some debate whether his athletic physique came from the Harley or Rofe side of the family…. Tom’s mum Trish was a champion schoolgirl athlete). Tom ended up winning the Opie Medal for BOG in the Intercol in Year 12 (Saints beat PAC by 11 goals that year).

 

One thing I’ve always admired about Tom is the way he made every post a winner when given an opportunity – and he could always step up to a big occasion.

 

The next year (’96), Tom trained with Norwood Under 19s as a bottom age player and was playing steady footy. Still nothing spectacular. I think his big break came when the State Under 18 team coached by Russell Ebert played a trial game against Tom’s Norwood Under 19s. In his usual manner, Tom beat his opponent and Russell must have seen something in Tom’s understated approach because he asked Tom to join the state team.

 

He trained really hard and was given an opportunity to play the first game of the carnival in Melbourne. He strung together a solid carnival – never dominating but NEVER letting his opposing CHF win. Lots of spoils, intercept marks and reading the play well.

 

He made the 1996 All Australian team (with Stewy Dew, maybe Tredrea, Matty Bode, Burgoyne) and was all of a sudden on the radar of AFL scouts. This all happened within a few months. I remember him training super hard around then – he was so focussed and knew he wanted to play AFL.

 

I could go on and on, Malcolm

 

Fair to say he’s made every post a winner professionally, too, with AFL-NSW, the Swans and Channel 7. But one thing I have to say about him as person – he’s just such a solid human who’s never forgotten his bunch of mates back home. Still makes an effort to catch up with a group of old schoolmates. We have a Whatsapp group chat that too much time is probably spent on and the group catches up each year for Christmas lunch without fail.

 

One small story that I think speaks volumes for tom the person:

I remember Tom coming over for one of the kids’ birthdays about 10 years ago. We had a party at our house (back when adults may have enjoyed the kids parties more than the kids themselves) but despite heading to the Melt afterwards, we didn’t manage to sit down for a proper chat… just were in the same room but talking to other people the entire day.

 

He mentioned this when he was leaving and said he’d come around in the morning for a coffee, before flying out. I told him it was a good idea but I needed to be in McLaren Vale at 7am, so we’ll catch up properly next time. He wouldn’t have any of that and said he’d be around at 5:00am. I assumed it was the beers talking and I could sleep in.

 

True to form he knocked on the door at that time with a couple of coffees.

 

p.s. I probably should add he’s a terrific father, husband etc… a genuine ‘team player’ from a family perspective family sense too. He also made sure all of his old schoolmates were involved in his GF successes at the Cats… whether through tickets to the matches or pulling a few strings to get us into parties afterwards…. special times!

 

 

Summing up, Tom got the best out of himself while having a massive influence on others. He is extremely well organised (first person to ever send me a calendar invite to a phone call!), very smart, has had and continues to have a huge influence on footy.

 

 

The season Tom Harley skippered the Cats to a flag was covered in The Footy Almanac 2007.

 

To read pieces from the book, which we are currently publishing on the site, click here.

 

If you want a printed copy of the 2007 edition of the Footy Almanac, they can be purchased here.

 

2007 Footy Almanac

 

 

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Comments

  1. Outstanding Malcolm. Tom was (is) a Cats hero; the bloke who galvanised the enormous talent at the club. As soon as he was announced as captain I felt we were on the right track. He was the man for the time. And his best seasons illustrate how he was a wonderful problem solver too. He slotted into the gifted Geelong side and became a vital cog. Not an easy thing to do.

    I bet I’m right in saying that he had an enormous influence over Cameron Ling too.

    I’m a huge admirer of blokes who aren’t considered the best athlete but emerge as the best leaders of men.

    Great piece.

  2. Really good article RB. Thoroughly enjoyed it. I had no idea Tom wss almost a Rooster.. How did that almost happen?

  3. Once more Malcolm, a most informative and enjoyable article about another Redleg that made good in the big league. I congratulate you on the amount of research you obviously put into this. You’ve done Tom Harley proud.

  4. Michael Rehn says

    As usual a good read Malcolm.Sadly very much a case of our loss being Geelong and now Sydney’s gain. Quality both on and off the field doesn’t grow on trees and Tom possessed both in spades and deserves to be recognized and respected for all he has achieved !!!

  5. Excellent work Rulebook.
    Tom has always been very gracious with his time for my daughter and I, massive Cats fans.
    My favourite Norwood-Geelong player.

  6. Luke Reynolds says

    Brilliant read Malcolm. You articulate well not only the Tom Harley story but how much of a quality person he obviously is. His career and the person you write about reminds me greatly of Nick Maxwell, seemingly very similar both their on filed careers and as off field contributors and leaders.

  7. Dean Bogisch says

    Another informative read Malcom. Tom was a Redleg player for only a short time and the effort you have put into this interview enlightens me immensely. A great asset to football and his family.

  8. Sam Harley says

    Malcolm great piece and apologies for being snowed under to contribute. A common theme is his outstanding leadership and humility which I am sure he learnt from his older brother… if I had the time to contribute I would say I have never met a person with a more level headed approach to everything. His siblings are a tad more impulsive and in most cases that has fared us well but Tom has a knack to bring calm to any situation. I think this leadership quality is the golden nugget for fans, players and administrators of the Swans. We are seeing leaders in this current climate make rash and impulsive decisions regarding business and I guarantee Tom will be strategic yet tactical in the decisions he makes for the club. And the biggest question I get asked is…. my answer is always “Yes I taught him everything he knows”

  9. Epic, Rulebook. Just epic.
    Well played, a wonderful read.

  10. Roger Murdoch says

    Great read Mal. What a brilliant leader Tom is. I witnessed this 2 yrs ago at the NEAFL grand final which my son played in against Tom’s Sydney. Long story short, a Southport lad got confused at 3/4 time and was on the field when he shouldn’t have been , a count was taken, and all hell broke loose. Emotions were running rampant. It was Tom who calmed the situation, made a decisive and fair call and the game went on with the result unaffected. He was cool calm and decisive in the storm which typifies his successes in life.

  11. Justin Stewart-Rattray says

    Thank RB a great read. I didn’t know a lot about Tom’s early years but that was a fantastic insight how he never gave up and made the AFL and left his mark. Often this is the way of later developing players.
    Felt a tad old though having played SPOC b’s with Rick Harley also a terrific guy!

  12. Tiger Fanatic Bushell says

    Great read RB, well done. I have been impressed with Harley being able to move over to Victoria the home of footy and became a premiership captain in one of the greatest sides the game has ever seen. I am certainly not surprised with Tom Harley now serving as CEO of the Swans FC as he seems like a very smart man.

    Cheers Bushy

  13. A great read yet again! Truly dedicated and his success is undeniable, a true testimony to putting in the hard work!

  14. Greg Robins says

    Outstanding writeup Mal, well done. I can really appreciate and feel the pride and class of the Harley family coming to the fore in your story of another Norwood legend. Norwood for AFL.

  15. Ross Dillon says

    Malcolm
    Another very well written analysis ..
    Well done .
    Tom is a Credit in every respect and a wonderful example for young people .

  16. James Dalwood says

    Good Read, Book.
    One of Dad’s favorite players on both a coaching and personal level.

    You should ask Grant about how the conversation between he and Ebert went re; Tom selection the the u18 State team!
    Amazing anyone from SA got drafted in the era.

  17. G’day Rulebook,

    Your pieces are always really interesting and offer tremendous insight. But this one has special meaning for me and dare I say all Geelong supporters. Thanks to you and to Tom for sitting down for a chat(s) to get this together.

    I am a sports fan. I have no real inside knowledge. Just little hints now and then. Snippets. Morsels. So this is a wonderful insight. It confirms what a lot of people thought I reckon. Even to an outsider Tom was impressive. He was willing to do the tough intereview after a terrible loss in those early days – even though he wasn’t the skipper. He spoke convincingly – love of club and the game came through. He showed determination. I don’t need to re-visit the qualities here shwn across many years. You’ve done that beautifully in the piece.

    I think there is a strong school of thought on the free-spirited vantage point that is the Gary Ablett Terrace that the 2007 flag was a players’ flag. No doubt the coach also played his role. It seems he was good at helping young players learn the game. Many think that Tom and the senior players were a massive influence. You can point to other factors – yes, Neil Balme was important. One that I give weight to, and again I am an outsider, is that Joel Selwood arrived. In one of those awful losses in the early part of 2007, Selwood showed leadership and belief.

    I don’t know Tom well, other than thorugh seeing him on TV/radio etc, but enough to say g’day. I know Rick better and getting to know Rick (and learning of his reputation in SA sport andlaw and so on) has been instructive (apart from being enjoyable). It was terrific to have Rick at the Almanac lunch in Melbourne before the 2007 Grand Final (the red wine frivolities preclude me from claiming accuracy in remembering how that all happened) and later that afternoon Di and crew turned up. That led to a phone call to Tom which was brilliant. The rest is history. (There may be some merging of memories in that)

    Rick jokingly signed emails to me something like FOTCGPC – Father of the Current Geelong Premiership Captain. Before passing that title no to Mr Ling.

    They were great years for Geelong supporters.

    So again, Rulebook (and Tom) thanks for reminding us of such happy days.

    Which act as encouragement to get through the moment we’re in, so that they might return.

    Stay well.
    JTH

  18. Martin Rumsby says

    A great article about a man who made a significant contribution to footy during his playing days and has continued that contribution in retirement. Thanks Malcolm! Like Charlie, I am interested in the story behind Tom almost becoming a Rooster.

  19. Malcolm Ashwoodmi says

    Dips love guys who get the absolute best out of themselves and a inspired and vital choice as skipper the club nailed it.Charlie Tom was frustrated at his lack of league opportunities at the parade while being aware of how strong the legs were at the time he needed to be playing good Sanfl league footy to push his case properly. Fisho thank you.Michael Tom did the Cats proud and continues to be a vital part of the swans and afl landscape.Fester no doubt what so ever,Harls truly gets it and values everybody.Luke the similarities between,Tom and Nick are uncanny both absolute elite leaders and Organisers on the ground defensively.
    Dean greatly appreciated and v much so.Sam absolute gold seriousness mixed in with your customary good humor.Smokie thank you.Froggy yep just basic calm common sense surely it was a case of two Redlegs solving the problem.JSR fantastic never say I determination and self belief how do you reckon I feel age wise some of the guys from my footy days are now grandfathers.Bushy part of Toms reasoning going to the cats was to get out of the comforts of home and test himself geez what a success he has turned out to be and I have no doubts what so ever he could do any ceo job more than comfortably.Campbell thank you and v much so. thank you

  20. I admit I was somewhat taken aback when my journalist daughter announced that she had met a footballer in whom she had more than a passing interest! I had imagined a potential son-in-law of another description albeit how good would it be to have say an electrician, psychologist or a builder on board? But a footballer? Rugby League; dismay! As history shows he came on board and his mother-in-law and I couldn’t have asked for better stock.

    When he (gentleman that he is) asked for my okay to marry our eldest daughter I reinforced our strong desire that he be the best dad he could be to, hopefully, future grandchildren – and to always hold in high esteem his future wife. In his inimitable style he’s not let us down! He’s a phenomenal dad, a great husband a highly family member in our clan.

    As people from NSW we were under educated regarding the nuances of AFL. No longer are we in the dark with Tom on board. Why, we have strongly embraced the game although our allegiances to the Cats are tested with Tom now at the helm of the Swans. His time at Geelong was for us, an outstanding baptism into the game and 2007 was something else indeed. Why, we even paid a small fortune to get a cup replica after enquiringly of his then girlfriend if he was a ‘keeper’. If not, we didn’t need one – and then we bought another in 2009! Whatever happened in 2008? But that’s never discussed in the household!

    When he joined our crew I really couldn’t have given a toss as to how good an AFL player he was or wasn’t The important values were matters of integrity, commitment to family, quality fathering and cherishing our daughter. I was more interested in what sort of man, rather than what sort of player! He has never let us down, Tom Harley is a bloke from the top shelf; and he made the best choice when he ‘chose’ our daughter. He couldn’t have made a better choice!

    A great article and I have valued the varying follow up comments that have only reinforced the views of Tom’s parents-in-law. Thank you to the various authors

  21. Ryan Sheridan says

    Tom is and always has been a good man. Level headed and never forgotten his grass roots. Only last year he arranged for a friend of mine’s son who suffers from a rare illness to meet the Swans players at training and other game day experiences. His younger brother Ben is one of my old mates and the respect i have for this family is high. I hate people with arrogance but this bloke never had it and still doesnt.

  22. Tim Hoile says

    Great read Malcolm.Amazing how many footballers were influenced by Mark Williams and Balmey. Tom Harley is a fantastic example of perseverance

  23. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Greg thank you.Rossco poignant as always thank you.James thank you and I will ringGrant today.JTH thank you likewise I know,Rick far more than,Tom and Rick was the driving force in helping make sure the interview occurred,Tom is the most articulate and organized footballer I have ever met a calendar invite and phone call occurring to the second ain’t the normal for a footballer probably the most I had previously spoken to Tom was at his famous grand fathers wake,Paul Rofe when,Tom was asking me to recount,Rofey stories,Paul of course having played for,Ad Uni.Tom was very engaging and honest over the interviews just such a quality individual a fantastic family are the Harley’s.A significant point was Tom mentioning about his parents separating when he was quite young and that he had never heard either utter a bad word about the other speaks volumes for both and that they put the kids 1st.JTH Balmey bringing calmness and surety can never be underestimated and yes,Joel Selwood arrival absolutely vital for the Cats ( I detest the ducking crap no he is the best footballer in the game getting low in the contest and many clubs use footage of,Joel as a coaching and teaching aspect ) JTH I can well and truly picture,Rick and the almanac fraternity on the Friday arvo.
    While Toms modesty won’t allow it I will if Tom hadn’t got concussed in 08 the Cats defensive structures wouldn’t have gone haywire in the 3rd q of the gf.Rick signing emails like that pure gold you,Cats fans got a fantastic ride,I admit I did think of Tom shoving it up,Port in 07 thank you.Martin thank you and selfishly I wish you were still at Modbury Hs during this trauma.Kevin thank you for such a insight and yes in the son in law draft you got a number,1 choice well and truly.Ryan thank you and yep you nailed it.Tim ( Numbers 23 and 2 ) Spot on couldn’t agree more thanks folks

  24. Thanks for taking us behind the public image of Tom, and the other players you’ve profiled Rulebook.

    Looking forward to the next one.

  25. Great read Book – one of your best.

  26. Daryl Schramm says

    Congratulations on another great piece of work Malcolm. I remember many of the names associated with Tom’s story, but have not met Tom. I nearly did one day years ago after reading his book ‘Standing Tall” and wanted to thank him for getting his philosophies in print. I’m sure most would find the book helpful. Another book covering his learnings over the past ten years and beyond would also be of interest.

  27. Malcolm you summed it up well at the end ‘He got the best out of himself’ as he was certainly not the best player at the Cats during that time but probably one of the mot professional and why they made him captain and model for their club…….oh Port Adelaide…..

  28. Peter Crossing says

    Well done young Malcolm.
    Tom Harley has been an impressive presence in the game in a number of areas.
    And he played cricket for Prospect.

  29. John Griffen says

    What a good read on Easter Friday .
    Lucky I played with the wise one “Rick Harley “. And lucky enough to have Doc Harley as our club doc at South Adelaide.
    A real delight to read , wish my dad was alive so I could forward to him .
    Dad loved an intelligent,,clean footballer , the Harleys were that .

  30. Mal Lockwood says

    Hi Rulebook. Well done this is a very well thought out and put together piece. I enjoyed the quotes and thoughts of other coaches etc and the personal viewpoint of one of his old mates really gave further insight to Tom the person, as well as Tom the footballer. Thanks.

  31. Jason Unsworth says

    Malcolm great article mate and pretty well spot on.
    Tom has been a great servant of the game both on and off the field.
    And I’m proud to say I actually met him one day at Kardinia park along with Nick Maxwell.
    He’s a fantastic guy.
    As a hawks supporter I have a lot of respect for him.

  32. DA’rcy Evans says

    Malcolm another brilliant article mate…love reading about footballers who were not the best footballers back in their junior dats, but just kept giving their all and made it to the top level …cannot remember if Port just let go of him, but t if they did, presuming their kicking themselves now ….also Tom has proven you can play football at the highest level and get a great education finishing of his Commerce studies and is now the CEO of the Swans …well done again mate, love the articles

  33. Arson Garson says

    Good job “Book.
    Agree with many above comments that it is one of your best.
    And yes, as a Port Man, I concede we got that one wrong!
    As KT (must be a subject for a future Article by you Book), has announced he is stepping down at the end of this Season (if we have a Season, and if KT doesn’t change his mind due to Covid-19 issues), had Tom stayed in Adelaide, Tom H might just have been the next CEO of Port ! …

  34. Simon Phillips says

    Great write up Malcolm. It’s fair to say Tom was always destined for greatness. People are naturally attracted to leaders and people of his character and calibre. Outstanding footballer and even more impressive person in general

  35. Well put together and a seriously good read .
    Obviously a ripper bloke as well as a good football person

  36. Raj Singh says

    Great article Malcolm. Especially enjoyed Toby Porter’s account from a different perspective.

    Impressive he has first XI captain ahead of the likes of Harley and Adcock. What happened there?

  37. James Peter says

    Malcom’ I’ve learned something about Tom he’s a genuinely good bloke and leader and he’s from the might legs and his greatest achievement has to be the 98 reserves flag (lol) I always admired him as a player and leader shame the crows couldn’t get him in a leadership role or management position as he would’ve brought a great culture to the club but good on him!

    Would love to meet him one day would be a interesting bloke to have a yarn with bout football and just life in general!

    Once again mate great read and awesome work people don’t really know how much effort you put In keep it up your welcome to do an article on me haha one day

  38. Sam Di Bacco says

    Well written, well researched; another impressive article Malcolm.
    Congratulations, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

  39. John Topperwien says

    Once again a great read Malcolm, you always give a great insight into the person you write about. You write very much like the great Mike Coward

  40. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Mickey and TC thank you.Daryl yes it’s a fantastic book ( used it in regards to research ) which Tom wrote entirely himself agree totally re a second book and thank you.Dana always my favourite players the ones who get the outmost out of themselves and,Mark Williams calls,Tom the one who got away.Peter thank you I tried to get more out of,Tom re his cricket exploits but v firm enjoyed the game but he was a footballer.Coach thank you greatly appreciated yes the wise one v apt description.Mal thank you,Toby was worried it was about himself to much a modest top bloke also.Jason thank you well said a fine servant of the game indeed.
    DA’arcy thank you yes the power regretted that one massively.Arson Garson ( yes re KT at the end of his tenure ) and ironical,Tom may we’ll be now swings and round a bouts.Flip well said couldn’t agree more.
    TJ thank you.Raj thank you I am trying to get,Toby to elaborate I fear his modesty will prevent highly regarded as a youngster,Toby.James thank you I admit I would love to have,Harls at the,Crows and well played.
    Sam thank you greatly appreciated folks

  41. John Kennedy says

    Hi Malcolm! I find you a person whose actions speak louder than words, when questions are asked, actions don’t lie. Keep healthy, be well in these, catastrophic moments in time. Cheers JK.

  42. Malcolm Ashwood says

    John greatly appreciated I’m certainly not in the class of the great man,Mike Coward,JK thank you and all the best likewise !

  43. peter cahill says

    From afar, i believe Tom to be a true leader and fine person. As a Hawthorn supporter for about 70 years, I admired the way Tom played his footy very much. One of the many champions who made life dificult for Hawthorn teams over the years.

    And now, I have to ask WHICH John Kennedy has written (I assume he’s a past Hawthorn player). Is it the wonderful player from the 1980’s, an unsung member of those marvellous times and teams? Or the legend, the most influential person in the history of my club? (whom I met at half time several years ago in a game against North Melbourne. He was very modest and quiet. All I could get out of him was that he thought we ‘were in a position to win this game’. We duly did)

    And thanks to John H for organising today’s Zoom. As a Hawk fan, hugely enjoyable. I wanted to ask the panel, if Waync Carey was the best player of his era, why is there ever any dispute about G Ablett being the second best. He was a freak.

    Peter Cahill, occaional contributor

  44. Robert Bria says

    Nice one ‘Rulebook’. Tom’s Harley football journey is a case study in resilience, patience and tenacity. Setbacks in footy are just part of the journey but it’s how you respond that builds character and helps to lay the foundation of being a future leader. Some juniors are guns and then fade away, while others show signs but don’t hit their mark until years later. Tom is one such leader. One game for the Power -one game! – and then a premiership captain with Geelong and All-Australian. Tom’s story is one that all young footballers should read to understand that reward only comes before sacrifice and work in the dictionary.

  45. Well done Rulebook!
    A great leader on many different levels. I have known Tom since his early days playing at the NFC whilst in my role as the club’s physiotherapist. During that time, the one thing I noticed was his quiet demeanour which obviously provided the foundation to his strong style of leadership – eventually that quiet approach shined through his own strong sense of humility and modesty.
    I have ernomous respect for his determination on many things outside of the football department. His genuine support of the Count Me In Foundation has brought me closer to his diverse stance on the inclusion of people from all walks of life.
    Rick Neagle

  46. Paul Grandison says

    Fascinating article, Rulebook. I wonder if Port May have won more than 1 flag between 2002-2004 if Harley was a part of the Power backline – instead of taking up the opportunity to play with Geelong. A great bloke on-and-off the field.

  47. Damian Obst says

    Malcolm,Tom was a bit early for the time when he started but way made up for it. He was a athlete He was super fit and very harsh on himself. Prob not your normal footballer mentality cause he was very smart like Jon Yerbury. When given the chance was outstanding and his special talent was but I can’t be for sure cause I wasn’t there but a great leader of men. The players loved him and loved playing for him and they were amazing players to so to do that is just special I reckon. 2 x premiership captain says it all. Fantastic man now great family man it’s a credit to him and his work ethic and his family.

  48. JOHN TURNBULL says

    Your excellent piece Rulebook and the supportive attached comments clearly outline Tom’s character and as a leader in the game.
    When we cross paths I’ll tell the tale of flowers to Trish in hospital following his birth….and the game ruckman Rick played the following Saturday in a win for The Penguins ! JT

  49. Lovely Lisa says

    Tom was such a good player and a decent one too. Such a shame the Crows didn’t pick him up, well written Book, a champion in my book.

  50. Loved the article Rulebook. Toby must have slipped you some Mazi wine to raffle so he could get his First X1 photo in there.. Perseverance is an essential quality for a professional athlete but you have to have a bloody good head on your shoulders to be a Premiership winning Captain at Geelong. Credit to him, his family (including Sam!), his mates and team mates who influenced him.

  51. Tom Harley says

    HI Malcolm (and all),
    I really enjoyed the opportunity to chew the fat with Rulebook over a couple of separate phone conversations – a real trip down memory lane!
    I echo all the comments regarding Malcolm’s commitment to the article, I may be biased but he did a great job!
    Thanks for the very kind comments. I am very fortunate to have been exposed to some great people and experiences through football. No better time than now to reflect on that as we all work our way through this current environment.
    Thanks again.
    Tom

  52. John Topperwien says

    A great read once. again Malcolm, Tom was the classic case of perseverance , and you will achieve what you want.; another examplt was Doc Webber.

  53. Geoffrey Wilson says

    Well done Malcolm, another great read on a great footballer and a great bloke, even though i dont know Tom personally.I have learnt through your articles that Tom’s Grandfather and My Dad were Great Mates, thanks to Rick for sharing that information. A great career on the field and now off the field in running an AFL club. Obviously Tom is a man who is born to lead.

  54. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Hi Peter thank you and sorry to disappoint but neither of those,John Kennedy’s.Rob you nailed it.Neags words don’t do you justice what you do for the disability sector great memories of that particular,
    Count me in night, the conversation with you and Tom that night is one I remember and value strongly to borrow you’re phrase,Tom truly gets it.Grando something we will never know suffice to say,Port did make a big blunder.Obba well said ( hey worst spots to be stuck in than,Noosa mate ) JT yes important words character and standing with in the game and look forward to that conversation.LL well said.Raf as you know wine doesn’t work as a bribe any more with me and being serious huge respect to Tom and Toby for having such a close long tern friendship.Tom greatly appreciate you giving up you’re time these articles always end up in general revealing something and we all learn you continue to be a level headed clear thinking person the game desperately needs especially at the current time ( how you managed to cope in that 1st week of the season when the games got played with what was happening in you’re personal life was staggering you’re incredible meticulous organising skills for every minute of the day came to the fore ) John thank you and definitely.Geoff yes it was good to finally determine the relationship and friendships involved yes,TH very much a ban born to lead who comes from great stock and I greatly appreciated,Ricks help with the article and his v v wise advice and guidance in life in general thanks folks

  55. Wendy Granger. says

    Glad Tom is Sydney Swans CEO.. we are in good hands. Go Swans

  56. Sharryne Daley says

    A fabulous article that really gives great insight to to the strength of character of Tom Harley. I have had a few chats with Tom. Always personable, professional and always willing to listen to people on all levels.

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