When it comes to the Collingwood Football Club, there is no sitting on the fence; you either love them or hate them.
The loving side was brought out in spades today as a huge crowd turned up at the Westpac centre, ready to watch the unveiling of a tribute to one of the legends of the club.
Collingwood veteran Lewis Thomas Charles “Lou” Richards was honoured today with a statue outside the centre, which houses the Magpie’s new home ground, Olympic Park.
Richards is a man whose name is legendary in the club, having captained them to their 12th premiership in 1953, and played 250 games between 1941 and 1955, ranking him equal 10th for number of games played, after Peter Daicos.
He was the leading goal kicker in 1944, 1948 and 1950, and held the captainship from 1952-1955.
Lou is part of a family that spawned five Collingwood players, including his maternal grandfather Charlie H. Pannam, uncles Charles and Alby Pannam, and his brother Ron.
But it is not just his great deeds on the field that have made Richards famous; he is arguably just as well-known for his pioneering role in football media.
This included co-hosting the famous League Teams, being a key member of the World of Sports Panel from 1960-1980, calling several iconic VFL moments from the commentary box during that era, and working as a sports journalist for The Argus, and then the Sun-News Pictorial, where he gained the nickname “Louie the Lip”.
Lou was also a publican, managing several pubs while off the field, including the famous Phoenix Hotel in Flinders Street, which housed many Herald & Weekly Times journalists as regular customers.
Aside from Lou and the many loyal fans, those in attendance at the unveiling included AFL Chairman Mike Fitzpatrick, Collingwood President Eddie McGuire and CEO Gary Pert, as well as old friends of the legend including fellow player Peter McKenna and World of Sports colleague, test cricketer Max Walker.
But the biggest support for Lou came from his family, including great-grandsons Jack and Albert (Alby), who will no doubt carry on the Richards legacy.
Lou was a very humble man when asked for comment, describing his feelings in just one word: “Great.”
Mike Fitzpatrick described the day as “a terrific honour for Lou Richards.”
He also said: “With his 50 years in the media, VFL football is in many ways synonymous with his name”.
While up on the podium, Eddie McGuire spoke with admiration and respect for his friend Lou, and of his legacy in the club.
The statue is just the latest in a long line of honours Richards has received for his years of service to both Collingwood and the VFL/AFL.
These include: the Order of the British Empire in 1981, an Australian Sports Medal in 2000 and a Centenary Medal in 2001. He was also inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame in 2004, named captain of the Greek Team of the Century (due to his Greek heritage) and was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 2008.
As the statue was unveiled, all the current Collingwood players held a guard of honour for the man who will live on forever as one of the greatest in the history of the club. – Jackson Miller