The AFL and Australian Media Industry is mourning after the passing of legendary player and broadcaster Lou Richards.
Richards, 94, died in Melbourne after a career on and off the field that, along with Ted Whitten and Ron Barassi, ranked him as one of the largest figures in the game across multiple decades.
A member of the Australian Football Hall of Fame for his playing feats across a 250-game career for Collingwood, including captaining the 1953 Magpies’ premiership side, Richards found further greater fame at the forefront of the game’s growth in the media.
Richards was a newspaper columnist, radio caller and expert and, most particularly, a star in the emerging medium of television as both host and match-day caller.
Working alongside the late Bob Davis and the late Jack Dyer, Richards revolutionised the coverage of the VFL and future AFL by re-defining game-day as entertainment as well as sports commentating, and paved the way for the growth of the sport.
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.
As part of the Channel Seven team in Melbourne, Richards was a pioneer of sports broadcasting, commentary and particularly the magazine show format.
Combining with long-time HSV-7 general manager Ron Casey, who would host World of Sport and call football, Richards brought football to the fans as entertainment.
He started with Seven in 1959 before generations of Australians loved him on programs including World of Sport and League Teams.
Alongside fellow football legends Bob Davis and Jack Dyer he also became known as one of the so-called ‘Three Wise Monkeys’ on League Teams every Thursday night, their largely unscripted banter winning legions of fans everywhere.
His loss is felt by all at Seven, including long-time colleague and producer Gordon Bennett, who worked with Richards on League Teams and World of Sport commented:
“It was Lou and Ron Casey that pushed Seven’s football to the forefront and made it so popular. The fans all loved Lou. He was their hero. Even though he was a Collingwood player, people from all teams loved chatting to him.”
Channel Seven Melbourne managing director Lewis Martin added:
“Lou Richards was not only a great football personality on Channel Seven, he was a television pioneer and his legacy can be seen today in sports entertainment television.
“He was and always will be a beloved member of the Seven family from who we learned a great deal. Lou will be missed, but always remembered fondly. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.”
AFL Chief Executive Officer Gillon McLachlan paided tribute stating that the modern AFL competition owed a huge debt of thanks to the late Lou Richards.
“The AFL, our players and our clubs all benefit from the massive interest in our game around the country that is driven by media companies, and their desire to report every happening to our fans, along with trying to entertain them at the same time,” Mr McLachlan said.
“Lou Richards was the original driving force of the media’s expanding interest in our game, particularly with the emergence of television from the late 1950s, and his time as a host and match-caller for the Seven Network developed a style that has often been copied but never bettered.
“Everyone in our industry, who is fortunate to earn a living around the game we love, has the likes of Lou Richards to thank for his work ethic, his love of the game, his willingness to both poke fun at himself and others and his one-off originality.
“As a player, he captained his club to a premiership – an honour that every player would cherish in a heartbeat – and was inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame and the Collingwood Hall of Fame.
“We express our sincere condolences to his family, many many friends and all those who were touched by a great Australian life,” McLachlan said.
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.”