Like any country town associated with football, Yarrawonga and Mulwala have many people who possess so many fond and funny memories of Lou Richards who passed away on Monday, May 8 aged 94 years.
“Lou was a legend of Collingwood Football Club, became a media legend and was an icon,” passionate Pies supporter and a former boxer John (Jinx) Clarke told the Yarrawonga Chronicle.
“His television appearances on World of Sport on a Sunday (Channel 7) were legendary. The show covered football, the trots, boxing, wood chopping, handball competitions. No show’s come near it since those 1960 and 1970s and never ever will.”
Jinx recalled some times in the 1960s and 1970s. “Lou was a good mate of ‘Squizzy’ Squires (star local and Melbourne footballer) who came and starred in Yarrawonga/Mulwala. Word has it that Squizzy used to go shooting and he’d take ducks and chooks to Lou.
“Lou was in Yarrawonga for a charity function in the 1960s that I attended and he was terrific.”
Lou was very supportive of umpires according to former VFL umpire Ken Norris who loves playing golf on our three 18-holes courses.
“He never bagged them to my recollection,” Ken, who umpired 12 senior games in the 1970s and is with the A.I.S. in Canberra, said. “Lou was always very supportive when the umpires had a fundraising run for the Royal Children’s Hospital and other charities. He and Jeff Crouch (former top senior umpire) were good mates through the media. Lou realised we had a tough job.”
The dynamic little rover played 250 games with Collingwood and captained the 1953 premiership team. He always defended his players or subsequent Pies footballers if he felt it was justified.
“He’d come into the rooms before the game,” Paul Walker, who was the first person to kick at goal at VFL Headquarters at Waverley with Collingwood Reserves before he played three senior games with the Pies, said.
Lou was commentating those three games. “This day I was playing against a bloke called Brown, I think, from Hawthorn and I tackled him in their goal-square and the umpire paid a freekick to him, much to my disbelief. I heard after the game Lou also disagreed with the umpire and said ‘That was a fair tackle by young Walker’. Lou was only a little fellow but walked tall and was held in such high regard at Collingwood.”
Numerous funny tales are told in the book, The Footballer Who Laughed, compiled by Lou and assisted by the great sporting scribe Tom Prior. One such occasion was when Yarrawonga’s Peter (Crackers) Keenan was playing for Essendon against Hawthorn. Crackers and his opponent, Don Scott were the best of enemies, belting hell out of each other as usual.
The free kicks were going Scotty’s way, however, Crackers objected in his usual forthright fashion. “How about giving me a go?” he shouted at field umpire Glen James, an aboriginal from Shepparton way who has played golf at Yarrawonga/Mulwala Golf Club Resort. “I’m black and blue from Scott’s punches and you’re doing nothing about it.”
“Stop your whingeing,” James shouted back. “I’m black all over and you don’t hear me squealing for free kicks.”
In the 1960s in the VFL night series for those sides which did not make the top four - and therefore did not make the finals - I went to a South Melbourne/Footscray game to see the reigning AFL premiers, the mighty Doggies. Entering the Lakeside ground at Albert Park, I noticed Lou walking in with other commentators who included Bobby Davis and I asked Lou who he thought would win. “Who’s playing?” he replied.
After a magnificent playing career, Lou endeared himself to supporters of all football clubs. The excitement and fun he brought to households via television, especially Thursday night footy teams with Jack Dyer and Bobby Davis, Sunday morning’s World of Sport and his broadcasting of games, will never be bettered.
He was a football media pioneer who opened up so many career paths for retired footballers. Lou will be sadly missed.