Vale: Lou Richards Australian Football's great entertainer
Monday, May 08 2017 @ 09:30 PM ACST
Contributed by: Troy Thompson
One of the greatest icons of Australia football Lou Richards, Collingwood 1953 Premiership Captain and arguably the first truly transcendent superstar of Australia’s game, has passed away aged 94.
An amazing career as a player on the field and Melbourne football media superstar made him one of the most recognised names in the game. In his later years on top of the accolades in the Collingwood Football club's statement below Richards was named captain of The Greek Team of the Century.
This was a representative team chosen in 2004 made up of Australian Football players of Greek Heritage (his maternal grandfather Charlie Pannam shortened the family surname from Pannamopoulos after migrating to Australia from Greece). Our condolences to Lou's family and friends. He will be missed.
Collingwood Football Club Statement.
Vale Lou Richards
Pioneer. Legend. Icon.
Lou Richards, Collingwood 1953 Premiership Captain and arguably the first truly transcendent superstar of Australia’s game, has passed away aged 94.
Collingwood President Eddie McGuire sent his heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Richards.
“No man has done more for our game than Lou Richards. He was a quintessential Collingwood man who spoke to the entire football world,” McGuire said.
“Born in the shadows of Victoria Park, with three generations of family tradition behind him that involved 930 games and eight premierships in the black and white.
“But Lou, and everyone knew him as Lou, transcended football. He was a pioneer for footballers who entertained. From his nicknames, to his outrageous tips and dares, to his accurate and exciting calling, and of course the hosting of League Teams, World of Sport, Wide World of Sport, The Sunday Footy Show and his radio career, which included top rating shows on 3DB and even Triple M with the D-Generation.
“A prolific author, Lou Richards had it all with a wisecrack, a wink and pure class.
“My thoughts, and all of Collingwood’s, are with the Richards clan.”
Collingwood Coach Nathan Buckley said it is a sad day for the football world.
“Lou’s contribution to Collingwood, to football, to the football media and to the life of this city was monumental,” Buckley said.
“In his inimitable way, he was incomparable. With a larrikin charm and a great sense of humour, and not a little talent as a player, Lou became one of the giants of his century.
“Today is a sad day for so many people, Collingwood or not, and our thoughts are with his family.”
While Richards’ pedigree as grandson of former Collingwood captain Charlie H. Pannam made him a likely contender to complete the leap to league football, his on-field precociousness at Collingwood Technical College saw him earmarked as a future elite footballer.
Emerging from the wartime milieu to make his senior debut against traditional foe Carlton in 1941, Richards was a local hero in the truest sense, leading the club through one of the most storied eras in its history.
A ferocious on-baller, Richards was an integral member of the Collingwood engine room under both Jock McHale and Phonse Kyne, with his grit and determination immediately endearing him to the Victoria Park faithful.
Though Richards was a leading competitor in his own right, establishing himself among the VFL elite as he donned the Big V in 1947 and 1948, it was in the role of captain where he truly excelled and made his most enduring contribution to the Club.
Dual Collingwood premiership legend Murray Weideman recalls Richards as a ferocious skipper, leading by example with his tenacity and will to win.
“As a footballer, Lou was quite good, he’d score two or three goals every week, but as a leader, he was one of the greatest in my lifetime,” Weideman said.
“I learned a lot from Lou. I was a bit of larrikin as a kid, I was 17 years of age, playing league, and he took me into the medical room one day and I got a dressing down for getting ahead of myself. That was the best thing about Lou, he was honest.
“I remember the 1953 Grand Final when I came on just after half time. I had just got my first kick, and I said ‘what do you want me to do?’, and he said ‘just kick the ball as far as you can kid’.”
Elevated to the captaincy in 1952, Richards’ arrival in the role sparked an immediate ascendency, his seemingly innate ability to inspire on and off the park driving the club to a new plane, with a Grand Final appearance that year confirming a revival in fortunes.
Redemption was secured 12 months later when, in captaining the black and white to a drought breaking VFL Premiership in 1953, Richards helped restore Collingwood’s place at the game’s summit in a 12-point triumph over Geelong.
Making his final appearance against Essendon in 1955, Richards’ 250 senior games saw him stationed ninth on the all-time list upon retirement, emphasising his longevity and consistency throughout a career spanning two decades, during which he was thrice the club’s leading goal kicker.
While two-time Coleman Medallist and Magpie legend Peter McKenna described Richards as one of the “first real media stars”, he believes his prowess as a presenter and media performer led some to overlook his many on-field achievements.
“I think that people forget what a terrific player he was for the Collingwood Football Club,” McKenna said.
“I’ve spoken to a lot of players who lined up with Lou and they all said he was a terrific captain. People think of Lou more as the cheeky media star, and they tend to forget he played more than 250 games for Collingwood and captained them.”
“Lou was a character. He brought funny to football.”
While the term pioneer is sometimes bandied about too liberally, in the case of Richards, the description was more than apt.
Richards embarked on a post-playing career which established him at the vanguard of the fast converging fields of sport and media as a ground breaking crossover figure.
Through his exploits at the Sun News Pictorial, and television networks Seven and Nine, Richards forged new ground in entrenching the genre of ‘sports entertainment’, with his League Teams and World of Sport programs the precursor for modern incarnations such as The Footy Show.
His verve, showmanship and ability to convey the timbre of the game’s place on the cultural landscape enabled Richards to blaze a trail across media of all forms.
Richards’ contribution to Australian football was acknowledged in 1982 with an MBE, while he was inducted into the Australian Football League’s Hall of Fame in 1996.
His status as a Collingwood icon was formally recognised when he was named in the inaugural class of inductees to the Club’s Hall of Fame in 2004.
Collingwood Football Club sends its heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Lou Richards.
• Played 250 games, kicked 423 goals
• 1953 Premiership Captain
• Inaugural class of inductees to Collingwood FC Hall of Fame
• Collingwood FC and AFL Life Member
• Victorian State Representative – 1947, 1948
• MBE for services to sport
• Inducted into AFL Hall of Fame 1996
• Leading goal kicker 1944, 1948, 1950
• Made his debut against Carlton in 1941 at 18 (Round 6)
• Played final match against Essendon in 1955 (Round 17)
• Sun News Pictorial (26 years)
• Channel 7 (two decades)
• Channel 9 (15 years)