Lou Richards with his statue, which was erected at Collingwood’s Olympic Park in 2014. (AAP: Julian Smith)
The AFL community is remembering former Collingwood captain Lou Richards as a pioneer for Australian Rules football, opening up media careers to modern footballers and introducing the sport to new audiences with his “panache”.
Lou Richards, also known as “Louie the Lip”, died at the age of 94 on Monday.
Richards followed his 14-year playing career with a decades long career in television, radio and newspaper, most notably on the long-running World of Sport and League Teams, with Richmond legend Jack Dyer and Geelong star Bob Davis.
The shows combined football and entertainment for the first time in the 1950s, and are considered the precursors for today’s AFL media environment, like The Footy Show.
AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan said Richards’ media work had opened up another future for modern footballers upon retirement.
Collingwood president Eddie McGuire said Richards epitomised the city and its love affair with football. (AAP: Julian Smith)
“He’s made a career in media an option for so many players … he promoted our game in a way that hadn’t been done before and he opened us up to a whole new audience,” he said.
“A player, a marketer, a gentleman, someone that everyone revered and loved. He’ll be sadly missed.”
Collingwood president Eddie McGuire said modern footballers owed Richards a debt of gratitude for his work.
“Every footballer should come and lay a wreath in front of Lou Richards’ statue today,” he said on Monday.
“He was the man who brought entertainment, sport and the whole understanding of how big football could be to Australian Rules football.”
Comedians and entertainers joined football clubs and politicians on social media to pay tribute Richards.
“Lou Richards was the original and the best and he wouldn’t mind me saying that,” Dave Hughes tweeted.
“A genuine icon of Collingwood and AFL, [and the] media. Before The Game and all modern footy shows are indebted to him,” Peter Helliar said.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said Richards was “a legend and a larrikin” whose “irreverence, energy and good humour [were] as thoroughly Australian as the game he loved”.
Richards ‘epitomised Melbourne’
Richards, who was born in Collingwood and followed in his grandfather and uncle’s footsteps to captain the team, was known for his ferocity on the field.
During a 14-year career he played 250 games and kicked 423 goals, as well as leading the Magpies to a 17-year drought breaking premiership in 1953.
McGuire said Richards epitomised the city and its love affair with football.
Collingwood Football Club cheer squad identity “Joffa” said he was a great Collingwood icon.
“He was fun, Louie was a knockabout sort of bloke, he was easy to approach and he was easy to talk to, [he] loved the ‘pies,” he told ABC Radio Melbourne.
“He was just a bloke next door, he was a very funny man.”
In a city obsessed with football, veteran sports broadcaster Sandy Roberts said Richards’ newspaper columns became television newsworthy items.
“Some of the dares he had each and every week ‘if Collingwood can’t beat Carlton, I’ll have a bucket of spaghetti poured over my head in Swanson Street’,” he said.
“The news boys were there and it was a news story on the bulletins that night — that is how big it became.”
McGuire said the club was speaking with the family about how to honour the champion.
Collingwood is playing an away game this weekend against Greater Western Sydney, but he said the players would wear black armbands.
He said he would leave it to the Government to decide whether he should be given with a state funeral.