Vale Phil Walsh
Some moments in the history of a football club will never be forgotten.
July 3, 2015 is one such day for the Adelaide Football Club.
The devastating news of the death of Crows senior coach Phil Walsh stunned the Club, football fraternity and wider community.
The aftermath was an extraordinary series of unforgettable events.
Within minutes of the terrible news being confirmed, the first of hundreds of amazing tributes were left outside the Adelaide Football Club offices and at Adelaide Oval.
That night the Collingwood and Hawthorn teams formed a respectful circle of players and coaches after their game at the MCG to pay tribute and this was repeated across the AFL by all the competing AFL clubs, and hundreds of other clubs at other levels of various codes.
Thousands of fans gathered at Adelaide Oval on Sunday, July 5, to honour the coach at the same time as Adelaide had been scheduled to play Geelong before the match was cancelled by the AFL.
Then, the following weekend, Adelaide travelled to Perth to play West Coast and the football world watched young men play through unimaginable grief before walking off the ground to a standing ovation.
During the next two weeks thousands of tributes of all types – flowers, flags, caps, jumpers, scarves, mementos of many types – were left at the Club and elsewhere. Many were from supporters of rival clubs, particularly Port Adelaide, where Phil had spent a decade as an assistant coach.
Particularly poignant were those that referred to Phil’s interests and personality. Just a week before his death, Phil mentioned artist Vincent van Gogh’s frustration at the time of painting his famous Sunflowers. Admitting that he was not an art critic, he recognised how frustration had given rise to a thing of beauty. “So although our fans are frustrated, we are frustrated, we like to think there’s still some masterpieces to be painted this year,” Walsh said at the press conference.
On July 19, the Adelaide and Port Adelaide football teams entered the Adelaide Oval through one banner, featuring one of Walsh’s favourite sayings, “Get the job done”. At the end of the memorable Showdown, a one-off Phillip Walsh Medal was awarded to the player of the match, Adelaide’s Scott Thompson.
There were so many tributes left by supporters that the Club was not sure what to do with them. Above all it wished to respect the feelings and messages of those thousands who had given them. Some specific and personal items were to be retained by the Walsh family and the Club.
A team of Club stalwarts and volunteers took two weeks to collect, sort, catalogue and pack all the items. After discussion with his family, those items not having personal messages, such as jumpers, scarves, hats and footballs, were donated to charities to share with those in need. Those from Port Adelaide supporters were passed to their club.
It was agreed, in conjunction with the Adelaide Oval authorities, that Phil would be honored by the planting of a tree in his memory at the northern end of Adelaide Oval and that suitable items such as the flower and paper tributes be treated and used as part of the mulch.
The remainder was incinerated and the ashes placed in urns to be distributed where appropriate and meaningful. One urn was placed in the joint Adelaide and Port Adelaide display cabinet at the entrance to the Magarey Room at the Adelaide Oval.
1983: Collingwood, 22 games
1984-86: Richmond, 40 games
1987-1990: Brisbane Bears, 60 games
1995-1998: Geelong, fitness coach and runner
1999-2008: Port Adelaide assistant coach
2009-2013: West Coast, innovations coach
2014: Port Adelaide: midfield manager
2015: Adelaide, senior coach