EACH morning as Barry Richardson crawls out of bed for a run he curses his mate Tommy Hafey.
The Hafey fitness regime was pounded into former Wodonga junior so hard at Punt Road during the 1960s and 1970s that many of those rituals have proven impossible to break.
Richardson played in premierships under Hafey in 1967, 1969 and 1974 and stayed in touch with the Richmond Team of the Century coach until his passing earlier this week.
“The way he lived his life as a fitness fanatic probably rubbed off on quite a number of us who played under Tommy,” Richardson said.
“I’m still a morning exerciser for example.
“I still curse the little bastard because I think if Tommy can do it at 80 so can I.
“He certainly had an influence on the way a lot of us lived our lives post Richmond.”
Richardson started his VFL career under Len Smith before Hafey took over in 1966 and instilled a work ethic into his players that remains legendary.
The key position player said the 1967 pre-season laid the foundations for Richmond’s grand final win against Geelong.
“It was tough,” Richardson said.
“The hardest thing I ever did in my life was a run with Tommy Hafey during that pre-season.
“We had been down in Portsea running up and down sand dunes and started out on a five-kilometre run along the beach in a group.
“I started talking to Tommy as we were running and the other blokes slowly dropped off and left me with him.
“The tide was coming in so the sand was soft and his little stumpy legs kept going while I was nearly dying with my giraffe-like long legs.
“I couldn’t give up and show weakness so I had to see it out.”
While Richardson expects dozens of similar training and fitness stories to be told as the tributes flood in over the next week, he said the former Shepparton coach was also known for loyalty.
Richardson worked as Hafey’s assistant coach at Richmond in 1976 before taking over the following year when Hafey had a falling out with the Tigers.
He said replacing Hafey was always going to be a “tough gig” after the most successful era in Richmond’s history.
“It didn’t test our relationship at all,” he said.
“Tommy moved on and I had really big shoes to fill.
“(Kevin) Bartlett, (Kevin) Sheedy and (Francis) Bourke were in the side at the time and they were all good to coach, but replacing Tommy was never going to be easy.”
Hafey, who went on to lead Collingwood, Geelong and Sydney in a career spanning 521 matches, remained in touch with many of his former players and met up with some during AFL grand final week each year.
“He was very good at maintaining relationships with players after they finished,” he said
“Tommy has put on a lunch on the Wednesday before the grand final for the past 10 or 15 years and would pay for it.
“Whoever played a game for Richmond was welcome to come along.”
Richardson grew up on a farm between Wodonga and Barnawartha before moving to Ballarat for school in Year 9.
He went on to play 125 matches and kick 134 goals for Richmond.