Phil Walsh Condolence Speech

Chris spoke in Parliament on Thursday 30 July 2015 in a condolence speech for the passing of Phil Walsh

This is the first sitting of state parliament since the shocking and untimely death of the coach of the Adelaide Football Club, Phil Walsh, on the 3rd of this month. As this is the first sitting of our parliament since his passing, I thought it appropriate to make some comments of condolence at this time. Walsh's death has had a profound impact upon South Australians, given both the shock of the death and its circumstances as well as the stature and respect of the man. 

Walsh was born in Hamilton, Victoria, and played 122 games in the VFL for the clubs of Collingwood, Richmond and Brisbane. He was the inaugural winner of the Brisbane Bears best and fairest medal in 1987. Following his playing career, he started his off-field football career at Geelong, before being appointed assistant coach at Port Adelaide, where he was part of the successful 2004 premiership team. He later worked as an assistant at West Coast Eagles before returning once again to Port Adelaide. 

In October last year, the Adelaide Football Club appointed Walsh as its senior coach. That was to be the seventh club he had worked with in the AFL. After 20 years in coaching, and 32 years since he first pulled on the boots to play at Victoria Park, he finally received the call-up to lead the club himself. The reasons he was appointed were clear: the universal respect he had, as somebody who had a great strategic mind for football and someone who always put the team first in the search for success. Over the nine months working at the Crows, Walsh earned even more respect. On the field during the 12 games he coached, the team improved significantly and worked together in unison towards a shared strategy. Off the field, there was strong camaraderie amongst the players and excitement from the fans. 

When tragedy happened on the morning of 3 July, there was shock across the state. While most football fans, myself included, had never met Phil Walsh, we still felt profound grief given that he was a part of our daily lives through television, radio, newspapers and the internet. We saw that grief and respect for Phil Walsh displayed in some extraordinary ways in the days that followed. 

On that very morning, South Australians—whether they were Crows fans, Power fans, or some not fans of football at all—started arriving at the Adelaide Football Club headquarters at West Lakes with bouquets of flowers, cards, football scarves and jumpers to leave as a mark of respect. Within the week, thousands of people had visited leaving a huge shrine. 

Australians also left football scarves outside their homes, not just in the state but around the country. As I doorknocked my electorate in the coming weeks, I saw these on many streets throughout the south. There were some emotional tributes at football games held subsequently, not just at the AFL level but also amateur leagues, including junior football games. The silent tributes by both teams that started with the Hawthorn and Collingwood game will be forever remembered as one of the most emotional football moments ever. 

Tens of thousands of fans also flocked to Adelaide Oval at a time that the scheduled game against Geelong was due to happen; and when Adelaide played its first game back at Adelaide Oval since the tragedy—as it happened against Walsh's former club, Port Adelaide—it was a historic moment as both teams entered the stadium through the one joint banner. Of course, while the public felt and displayed this grief, it was his family and friends who were hit the hardest, and in this statement his family said: 

He was a devoted father, husband, son and brother. He was a much-loved uncle, brother ‑in ‑law and cousin, and a close friend, mentor and colleague to so many. 

We should never forget that the tragic events that happened to this well-known man could have been just as tragic if they happened to any other member of the community. One of our most senior police officers was the first to make a statement about the death, and his words were profound. Superintendent Des Bray said: 

It's not even just that he's a high profile person, it's just absolutely terrible when families are torn apart in such tragic circumstances. For any family, regardless of who it is, [this is] one of the worst things you could imagine that could happen to you. 

I am sure the thoughts of all members of parliament will be with Phil's wife Meredith, his family, friends and colleagues at this very difficult time. 

 

 

flowers

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