Pioneer. Legend. Icon.
Lou Richards, a Collingwood Premiership Captain and arguably the first truly transcendent superstar of Australia’s game, has passed at the age of 94.
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 bow 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.”
It was Richards though who helped launch McKenna’s media career, with an impromptu phone call proving the catalyst.
“Lou was responsible for me ending up on World of Sport. When I was teaching at Marcellin College, the phone rang one day and it was Lou. He rang the school and said, ‘how would you like to commentate on football? ’I said ‘yeah, I’ll give it a go Lou.’
“That was one of the biggest thrills of my football career. (The World of Sport hosts) were bigger than big, they were the football media stars of Melbourne. To actually end up on the panel with them was kind of daunting but they made me feel welcome.
“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 groundbreaking 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, while 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.
The club would like to extend its deepest sympathies to the Richards family.
- 1953 Premiership Captain
- Member of 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
- Media pioneer
- Paved path for emergence of multimedia superstars, holding roles at Sun Pictorial
- Made his debut against Carlton in 1941 at 18 (round 6)
- Final bow in black and white against Essendon in 1955 (round 17)
- Played 250 games, kicked 423 goals
- Hailed from Collingwood
- Sun News Pictorial (26 years)
- Channel 7 (two decades)
- Channel 9 (15 years)