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Remembering Phil Walsh

The footy world was left shocked when it woke up to the new of the devastating death of Adelaide Crows coach Phil Walsh. Four years on, Tom Staggard reflects on Walsh’s impact on the Adelaide Crows and the entire South Australian footballing community.

PHOTO: Adelaide Football Club

I’ve always found it interesting how the human psyche can forget so many tiny facets of one’s life, but when something major happens, you remember every little detail like it was yesterday.

I didn’t know Phil Walsh.

Truth be told, I didn’t know much about him at all when he was announced at the new Adelaide Crows coach at the start of the 2015 AFL season.

All I knew was that he’d come from the old enemy Port Adelaide and the West Coast Eagles and was highly regarded by both clubs.

But the morning of his death is something I remember so vividly.

I woke up in a hostel in Singapore completely unaware of what was going on back home and the heartache which was being felt across the AFL community.

I was on day one of a lengthy international adventure which I had been looking forward to for so long.

I reached for my phone early in the morning only to see a text message from my dad, a lifelong Adelaide Crows member, which shook me to my core.

“Hi Tom, I hope you’re well. I just wanted to let you know as you may not have heard, but Phil Walsh was killed in his home last night. They’re saying it was his son. It doesn’t look like the Geelong game will go ahead.”

I couldn’t even believe what I was reading.

Never had I ever heard of anything even remotely similar happening in any other sport, let alone the AFL.

A quick Google search soon made me realised that it was all true.

You immediately start thinking of your own family in times of great tragedy, particularly in my case when you’re a day away from heading over to the other side of the world.

From a footy point of view, selfishly I felt quite numb.

Where does a club go when your top dog is taken down in such a cruel and savage way?

You could just start to feel the wheels turning at Adelaide in the first half of 2015 and that had a direct correlation to Walsh’s involvement.

The record will forever show seven wins and five losses from 12 games, but there was something bigger brewing at Adelaide under Walshy.

The 5-2 start and three consecutive victories to start his coaching career, the Crows were transforming in front of the supporters’ eyes and you knew he was the right man for the job.

PHOTO: Michael Willson/AFL Media

Walsh’s surprise decision to give the club captaincy to Taylor Walker was vindicated almost immediately as Tex flourished as a leader.

He took dealing with the impending departure of Patrick Dangerfield like a champ and always reiterated the importance of sticking together as a team and getting results on the field.

He was much loved by the fans and everything you could have wanted out of a first year coach.

You only have to look at the 56-point defeat to West Coast the week after Walsh’s passing to know just how much he meant to that playing group.

Grown men brought to tears because they lost their coach, their mentor, their mate.

The Phil Walsh Showdown which followed two weeks after his passing was one of the most exciting and tough games of footy I can recall ever being played at the Adelaide Oval.

Scott Thompson was the star on the day with 36 possessions, 13 clearances and the worthy winner of the only ever Phil Walsh Showdown Medal.

Walsh’s impact on South Australia football cannot be overstated and he certainly won’t be forgotten any time soon.

Adelaide chairman Rob Chapman said it best in the aftermath of Walsh’s passing that the club would do all it can to help the entire Crows community recover from the loss.

“Today, frankly, has been all about and is going to be all about wrapping our arms around the Adelaide Football Club community, in particular Meredith (Phil’s wife) and his family,” he said.

“To the extended Phil family, the players, coaches, staff, and indeed the fans, the members, sponsors, supporters.

“We’ll do that today, and we’ll do it tomorrow and we’ll do it for however long it takes.”

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Tom grew up in Adelaide’s northern suburbs and is our resident North American sports expert. Tom has experience as a working journalist and has a keen interest in basketball, ice hockey and American football, as well as cricket, soccer and football. He spent his junior cricket career at East Torrens District and has played for a number of football clubs across Adelaide’s north.