- By Rhett Bartlett
Exclusive to www.rhettrospective.com
Tom Hafey's style of football was always direct. So much so, that it won him 4 Premierships across 7 years as coach for Richmond.
And his response to the claims by Andrew Dememtriou in The Age to Caroline Wilson that Punt Road was 'a crap ground to train on. It's just a bad ground and it's the wrong size.' was almost as direct.
'That's a ridiculous statement. I think that is wrong, I don't think it is crap' Hafey said when contacted by www.rhettrospective.com this afternoon.
'They talk this way because they play on perfect grounds- yet the number of players that continue to slip on perfect ground is amazing'
'(Punt Road) is a long way better that alot of other teams have to deal with. The ground still is perfect as a training facility.
Tommy should know, for many years he has travelled the breadth of Australia, coaching junior clubs and guest speaking at little known towns. 'How would they (footballers) go playing in Queenstown- it's just gravel!' 'Remember that Docklands was rubbished initially too! and most recently Collingwood and Brisbane played in mud and rain at the Gabba. It won't always be perfect weather and grounds wont always be perfect- regardless if it is in Western Australia or Sydney'
When pressed further regarding suggestions that the ground size, may be consider a reasoning behind Richmond's lack of success- Hafey was adamant 'It has got nothing to do with it!' - citing instead an imbalance in the handballing and kicking stats of the Tigers on the weekend.
In no way, Hafey suggested, does the condition of the Punt Road ground directly relate to the Tigers performance on match day.
And 5 time Premiership player Kevin Bartlett feels the same, 'We never trained at the MCG, we trained at Punt Road, and in my opinion it never affected the Richmond style of play. It never ever impeded the Richmond style of play- and we were the longest kicking, fast kicking ball side in the competition and we trained at Punt Road.
He points out that other teams around his time of playing and coach, played on smaller grounds:
Go down and have a look at Hawthorn's old ground at Glenferrie Oval- it is the smallest ground in the world and they won premierships galore!
Suggesting that Richmond's lack of success lately is due to the state of the Punt Road Ground is something Bartlett disagrees with: 'It certainly wouldn't be an excuse! Training at Punt Road wont stop you from winning a premiership.'
And although the glorious ancient ground herself is unable to defend these Demetriou comments- there are still some Immortals who are more than happy to.
- by Rhett Bartlett