Farewell, Lou

Farewell, Lou

THE state funeral for the incomparable Lou Richards began with a beautiful rendition of Good Old Collingwood Forever by the organist at St Paul’s Cathedral.

It ended with a recording of Frank Sinatra’s time-honoured classic New York, New York.

And the intervening two hours or so were filled with memories of a man who rose from the tough back streets of Depression-era Melbourne, to the captaincy of his beloved Collingwood and all the way to life as Australian football’s first “multi-media megastar”.

A true combination of footy and celebrity, as befitting the wise-cracking Richards, who died earlier this month aged 94.

Richards’ daughter Nicole Morrison recalled how thrilled her father was when film stars such as Russell Crowe and Rachel Griffiths went out of their way to make his acquaintance.

Every year, he greeted then prime minister Bob Hawke at the North Melbourne grand final breakfast with the same line: “Bob, the only thing you’ve never done for the workers is become one.”

Long-time friend and Channel Nine colleague Tony Jones recalled a trip to Fiji shortly after Major-General Sitiveni Rabuka had claimed power in a military coup.

Shortly after a round of golf played to the backdrop of gunfire, Richards felt confident enough to offer some rudimentary economic advice to the military strongman.

“You can’t just have your people sitting around under palm trees waiting for coconuts to fall on their heads,” Richards told Rabuka shortly before the new PM beat a hasty departure.

Collingwood president Eddie McGuire told the packed house at St Paul’s how proud Richards was of his long family history at the Magpies.

The dynasty began with his grandfather Charlie Pannam, and also included uncles Charles and Alby Pannam and Lou’s younger brother Ron Richards.

The highlight of Richards’ 250-game career was captaining the Magpies to the 1953 VFL flag, in a match where Ron claimed best afield honours.

Legendary football scribe Alf Brown famously described the 170cm-Richards as “a great, big little man”.

In true Collingwood tradition, Richards didn’t mind the rough stuff either.

“Lou had a slow-moving conscience – he was often sorry after the game for things he did during the game,” wrote Brown in words recalled by McGuire on Wednesday.

But it was in his post-playing days as a much-read newspaper columnist, TV and radio commentator and fixture on iconic sports-entertainment programs World of Sport and League Teams that he became a legend.

No prediction in his hugely-popular column was too outrageous and no TV prank was too silly, if it could be played for a laugh by a man whose honours included an MBE, a stint as king of Moomba and recognition by the National Trust in 1982 as “a living treasure”.

The Victorian government was represented at the funeral by Deputy Premier James Merlino, while Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton and Senator Derryn Hinch were among the mourners alongside a host of past and present AFL stars.

© AAP 2017

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