He concluded his AFL coaching career in 1988 finishing up with the Sydney Swans and then established himself as an AFL radio commentator personality and various charity pursuits.
Hafey was an inaugural inductee into the Australian Football Hall of Fame in 1996, named coach of Richmond's team of the century in 1998, and given the AFL Coaches Association Coaching Legend Award in 2011. (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Hafey)
My interest in Tom Hafey was not his career as an AFL player or his career as an AFL coach. Rather in late 2005 I met with Tom Hafey introducing the idea chaplaincy for the Sydney Swans.
In 1982 I had founded and established under Heads of Churches the Sports and Leisure Ministry placing chaplains throughout Australia's professional sports. I served in this role through faith finance for 18 years to 2000 and likewise served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years.
Throughout 1982-83 the role involved developing a theology and a philosophy, meeting with Heads of Churches, holding introductory seminars for Christians leaders and ministers and establishing a foundation committee within the InterChurch Trade and Industry Mission (ITIM) as a housing.
In 1984 the Australian Cricket Board appointed me as their chaplain which was the first Australian professional sport to do so under this sophisticated program which led to me meeting with professional sport administrations / coaches across Australia promoting the benefits of chaplaincy for their organisations.
A busy period
1984–85 was a busy period which saw the development of chaplaincy in Australia's major big-money professional sports such as Yachting, Golf, Motor Racing, Tennis, Cricket, Rodeo along with the football codes, NRL, AFL, Soccer.
Welcomes responses like these colourful leaves
What was quickly realised was that each of these professional sport organisations were very different with people from varying backgrounds and expertise and they were all on the cusp of a new and fresh revelation of stepping up to the next level, closer to American baseball, football and basketball professionalism.
In this sense, as they were reaching for such heights, one of the aspects to which they had become aware was the place of Christian ministry in the American professional sport arena. It was neither hidden or advanced, rather it was part and parcel of the system.
In this context, as I met with their Australian counterparts it became obvious that the model of chaplaincy I was promoting fell in line with this new and fresh 'stepping up' professionalism.
It was the right time, the right place, the right pitch and what was more, as strange as this might seem, a stuttering cumbersome Baptist minister Australian cricket team chaplain – and on more than one occasion I heard it said during those discussions – only God can be in this!
In this column I have written previously in 2012 of my negotiations with the various professional sports in a series of articles on those generic sports and how chaplaincy was accepted and developed. I invite the reader to type into the Christian Today archive the specific sport and the article will come up.
So it was late in 1985 that I rang the Sydney Swans and made an appointment with Tom Hafey. The day came, Tom Hafey welcome me into the board room, I realise now that I must have been seen as a bit of a celebrity myself being the Australian cricket team chaplain.
My confession was that I had no idea of Tom Hafey's AFL pedigree. I was a hockey man, I'd already written by that time two books of my five books on hockey and was writing hockey for The Australian newspaper as a stringer including the LA 1984 Olympics. No other sport really interested me as a passion, I saw sports chaplaincy purely in terms of Christian witness and ministry. I quickly learnt professional sports did not want a second coach on board.
But as it turned out Tom Hafey warmed to me and we chatted for a good hour, nothing about sport, rather about the philosophy of pastoral care and our families and the nature of well-being for those under the care of a professional sporting organisation. This was right where he was. It was like a hand in glove.
Like these leaves, surprises happen
I never met Tom Hafey face to face again.
I rang him once to introduce the Reverend John Rees the first Sydney Swans Chaplain who served in that role for 18 months before John went to the mission field in Thailand. Another chaplain was subsequently appointed to fill that vacancy.
Several years later ABC radio Grandstand did a program on sport chaplaincy and Tom Hafey was one of the coaches interviewed. Tom Hafey: "Mark Tronson came and saw me and later I said to the players, if you have any questions talk to the chaplain, you just might get a good answer!"
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html