In the lead-up to the State-of-Origin Bushfire Relief match between Victoria and the All Stars at Marvel Stadium next Friday (February 28), Richmond Media is running a series of historical articles about some top Tiger performers on the interstate football stage. We focus today on Richmond ‘Immortal’ Tommy Hafey’s crowning coaching achievements with the Victorian team.

Tommy Hafey had a perfect record as coach of the Victorian team throughout his illustrious coaching career at the game’s highest level – eight wins from eight matches.

Hafey guided the Big V to four victories over West Australia – 1971, 1976 and 1980 (twice) – South Australia in 1971 and 1980 (the State-of-Origin carnival final), Tasmania in 1978 and Queensland in 1981.

Three of those wins came while Hafey was coaching Richmond (the two in ’71 and then in ’76) and five during his stint at Collingwood (’78, ’80 and ’81).

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The Tigers, however, faltered badly in the two games Hafey had to relinquish duties due to his Victorian coaching commitment on the same day.

Assistant coach and former St Kilda star Verdun Howell filled in for the Round 16 match of the ’71 season against Footscray at the Western Oval, with the home side scoring a 35-point win. The absence of champion centre half-forward Royce Hart, who had joined Hafey in Perth for the clash with WA, also proved extremely costly for Richmond.

Five years later, assistant coach Barry Richardson took the reins when Hafey again was coaching the Big V against the Sandgropers in Perth. The Tigers made the trek out to Victoria Park to play the winless, bottom-of-the-ladder Collingwood that day as hot favorites, but suffered a 15-point loss.

Fortunately, when Tommy Hafey made his Big V coaching debut against South Australia at the MCG on Saturday, June 12, 1971, it didn’t impact Richmond. The Tigers played Geelong at Kardinia Park on the Queen’s Birthday, Monday, with Hafey leading them to a 50-point win.

Two days earlier, the Victorians had accounted for SA by 30 points in front of an MCG crowd of 66,893. Kevin Bartlett and Ian Stewart (in his debut season at Tigerland) were Richmond’s representatives for the Big V, with ‘Stewie’ listed as the team’s second-best player behind Collingwood’s star spearhead Peter McKenna, who kicked seven goals.

Up the other end of the ground, Malcolm Greenslade, who had played two games for the Tigers under Hafey earlier in that ’71 season, booted six goals for the Croweaters.

In the July ’71 match against WA at Subiaco, Hart kicked two goals in Victoria’s 38-point win, while talented Footscray centreman David Thorpe, who would later team up with Tommy at Tigerland and become a premiership player (1974), was listed as second best for the Big V.

When Victoria beat WA by 57 points at Subi in 1976 (Hafey’s last year as Richmond’s coach), their leading goalkicker was Croweater-turned-Tiger Neville Roberts, who produced an impressive, six-goal performance, while the great Francis Bourke was one of the side’s best performers. Future Richmond premiership player (1980) Robert Wiley finished with three goals for the Sandgropers.

The highlight of Tommy Hafey’s time as coach of the Big V came in 1980, just a couple of weeks after suffering a huge disappointment.

On Saturday, September 27, 1980, Hafey had watched on helplessly as his Collingwood charges were crushed by his old team Richmond in the 1980 Grand Final.

Post-season, Hafey renewed acquaintances with Tiger stars Kevin Bartlett, Geoff Raines, Jimmy Jess and Mark Lee in his capacity as Victoria’s coach for the State-of-Origin carnival.

The Big V had a comfortable 35-point victory over WA in the semi-final and then downed home side SA by 17 points in the final at Adelaide’s Football Park. Bartlett, the Vics captain, was their equal leading goalkicker with three, Jess booted two goals, while Raines and Lee were named in the best players’ list.

Raines, Lee and Jess subsequently gained All-Australian selection. Hafey, unsurprisingly, got the nod as the All-Australian coach.

Hafey instilled his highly-successful coaching characteristics into all the Big V sides he was in charge of – long kicking, no aggression, no finessing, and a heavy emphasis on attacking football.

In each of the eight Victorians wins he coached, the team kicked more than 100 points, and once more than 200 points.

Here are the results of those games . . .

- June 12, 1971 – Victoria 16.18 (114) defeated South Australia 12.12 (84), MCG.
- July 17, 1971 – Victoria 18.16 (124) defeated West Australia 13.8 (86), Subiaco Oval.
- April 24, 1976 – Victoria 21.18 (144) defeated West Australia 11.21 (87), Subiaco Oval.
- June 10, 1978 – Victoria 25.11 (161) defeated Tasmania 18.6 (114), North Hobart Oval.
- July 5, 1980 – Victoria 18.15 (123) defeated West Australia 15.12 (102), VFL Park.
- October 11, 1980 – Victoria 14.20 (104) defeated West Australia 9.15 (69), Football Park.
- October 13, 1980 – Victoria 15.12 (102) defeated South Australia 12.13 (85), Football Park.
- July 12, 1981 – Victoria 32.29 (221) defeated Queensland 12.18 (90), Gabba.