Phil Walsh Memorial
Within various communities, groups, organisations, be they large, small or anywhere in between, some dates in their history become not only memorable but also symbolic, never to be forgotten. Football clubs are no different – the date of joining the competition, its first game, the first premiership.
In the AFL family, July 3rd, 2015 will always be remembered as one of these but not as one of celebration. Described by the Adelaide Football Club as its saddest, most shocking it was the day senior coach Phil Walsh was killed.
Devastating as it was, it was also particularly significant in the way it united, not only our club, but also the whole football community. The aftermath was an extraordinary series of unforgettable events.
Within minutes of the terrible news, the first of hundreds of amazing tributes were left outside the Club offices and at Adelaide Oval.
That night the Collingwood and Hawthorn teams formed a respectful circle tribute of players and this was repeated across the AFL by all the AFL clubs. Particularly moving was that on the following weekend in Perth where Phil had been on the coaching staff, where a very emotional Adelaide, playing its first game after the event, were joined by the West Coast players and staff.
During the next two weeks thousands of tributes of all types – flowers, flags, caps, jumpers, scarves, mementos of many types, mostly with personal messages, were left at the Club and elsewhere. Amongst these, many were from supporters of rival clubs, significantly and particularly Port Adelaide, where Phil had spent a number of years as assistant coach prior to his appointment as senior coach of our Club.
Particularly poignant were those that referred to Phil’s interests and personality, in numerous cases relating to his passion for, and influence on, football and its people. It was well known that Phil was a lover of Chai Tea, so much so that his mug and bright red teapot were permanent fixtures on his desk. An avid reader and traveler, he had a wide range of interests. Just a week before his death, Phil had commented at a press conference relating his and fans frustration with the team to that of artist Vincent Van Gough’s frustration at the time of painting his famous picture of sunflowers. Admitting that while not an art critic he recognised how frustration had given rise to a thing of beauty. “So although our fans are frustrated, I am frustrated, we like to think there’s still some masterpieces to be painted this year”.
On 19th July, 2015 the Adelaide and Port Adelaide Football teams entered the Adelaide Oval, not through separate banners but as one through one baring a Phil Walsh message “GET THE JOB DONE” . It could well have added another Walshism as a prescript “GET ON WITH IT!”
At the end of a memorable SHOWDOWN XXXIX a one off, symbolic PHILLIP WALSH MEDAL was awarded to the player of the match
There were so many tributes 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. Clearly a number of 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 them. After discussion with his family and understanding what Phil himself would have wished, those items not having personal messages, such as jumpers, scarves, hats, balls were passed on to charities to share with those in need. Those from Port Adelaide supporters were passed over 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 Adelaide Oval and that suitable items such as the flower and paper tributes be treated and prepared to be used as part of the mulch nourishing it. This was done and the tree is adjacent a memorial walkway at the northern end of the oval. The remainder was incinerated with the ashes being placed in urns to be distributed where appropriate and meaningful. Such was one placed in the joint Adelaide and Port Adelaide display cabinet at the entrance to the Magery Room at the Adelaide Oval.