Farewell to former Eagles coach Ricky Graham

A RESPECTED and popular coach of the New Norfolk Eagles died in Queensland last month. Ricky Graham and his former wife Rhonda are fondly remembered in the Derwent Valley, where they still have many friends. Mr Graham, 77, died on November 16 from prostate cancer. His funeral was held on November 24.

His appointment as coach of the Eagles in 1970 was regarded as a coup for the New Norfolk District Football Club. He had been with the Geelong Football Club from 1965-69 and played briefly in the 1967 grand final against Richmond.

While coaching New Norfolk, he ran a shoe shop in High St and another at Claremont. Eagles stalwart Robin Nossiter recalls Mr Graham as a great coach who defied expectations. He confounded the pundits who predicted New Norfolk would go through the 1970 season without a win and instead took the team to the grand final against Clarence. A record crowd of 24,413 at North Hobart Oval saw the Roos emerge victorious over the Eagles.

Ricky Graham on a 1960s football card.

He won the William Leitch medal in 1972 and captained Tasmania at the 1972 Perth Carnival. His and Rhonda’s sons Simon and Christian were born at New Norfolk. Mr Nossiter said Mr Graham’s departure after the 1973 season was one of New Norfolk’s worst-ever losses. The club had set its sights on having Peter Hudson coach his home team.

That did not eventuate and Mr Graham took up a position at Ulverstone. He coached that team from 1973 to 1976 and led them to the 1976 Tasmanian State Premiership. He finished his coaching career in Queensland with Windsor-Zillmere and became involved in business and property development.

He came from a footballing family, with his father Jack and nephew Ben each playing more than 200 games in the VFL/AFL. The Geelong Football Club has paid tribute to Mr Graham who had made his debut in Round 5, 1965, against Melbourne at Kardinia Park and would go on to play 35 games over five seasons with the Cats. In 1967 he won the Gardiner Medal for the VFL Reserves competition’s best player.

New Norfolk District Football Club president Steve Balmforth said Mr Graham was fondly remembered and he offered his condolences to family and friends.

Top photo: Ricky Graham in Geelong colours in the 1967 VFL grand final.

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