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Gone but never to be forgotten: Fagan

Fagan & Chapman Presser Part 1 Andrew Fagan & Rob Chapman address the media in the wake of Phil Walsh's tragic passing.
The impact that Phil Walsh has had on this Club will be remembered forever. It won’t ever be lost.
Andrew Fagan

Phil Walsh’s time at the Adelaide Football Club was short, but his impact will be “remembered forever”, says Crows Chief Executive Andrew Fagan.

Walsh, 55, passed away in tragic circumstances on Friday morning.

A career assistant coach, Walsh accepted the challenge of becoming a senior coach for the first time in October last year, taking over at the helm of the Crows. He only coached the Club in 12 AFL games, but had an enormous influence on the Club with his mantra of elite standards and team first.

Fagan said Walsh’s legacy at West Lakes would be longer lasting than his coaching tenure would suggest.

“There will be a legacy … the impact that Phil Walsh has had on this Club will be remembered forever. It won’t ever be lost,” Fagan said in a press conference on Friday afternoon.

“There are plenty of stories about a guy who was in the industry for 32 years and worked across seven clubs, and was impactful as he was.

“It’s a great character trait when you can be so impactful to so many people in your time.”

Crows Chairman Rob Chapman was delivered the “devastating” news in a phone call from the South Australian Police at approximately 3:30am on Friday.

Chapman headed immediately to the Club’s offices at West Lakes, where he met Fagan and key personnel before holding a series of gut-wrenching meeting with players, coaches and staff. 

Fagan said it was difficult to come to terms with the shocking news.

“People are walking through the corridors of the Club here looking at each other and shaking their head,” Fagan said.

“It’s really hard to comprehend, but we’ve got to. It’s real. It hurts and we’ve got to deal with it. I can’t speak for tomorrow. We’ve just got to get through today.”

In consultation with both the Adelaide and Geelong Football Clubs, the AFL made the decision to cancel the scheduled match between the teams at Adelaide Oval on Sunday. Adelaide’s SANFL clash with South Adelaide planned for Saturday has been postponed until Round 17.

“I think it would be unfair and inappropriate to ask them (the players) to play and not just our Club. I think it would be unfair on the Geelong Football Club as well,” Fagan said.

“That position was certainly shared by the playing group and was communicated back to the AFL. We’re very supportive with the stance that they (the AFL) have taken.

“They (our players) will want to get out and play at some stage – the weekend was too soon. There are more questions than answers at the moment. We’ll have more answers over the coming days.”

Chapman said the Club’s focus was on the welfare of the Walsh family, and the players, coaches and staff of the Adelaide Football Club.

“Today’s been all about, and is going to be all about, wrapping our arms around the Adelaide Football Club community and, in particular, Phil’s wife Meredith,” Chapman said.

“To Phil’s extended family, our players, coaches, staff and indeed our members, supporters and sponsors … we’re making sure we’ve got all the right infrastructure around in terms of providing the necessary support they need. It won’t stop today. We’ll do it tomorrow and for however long it takes.

“We’re not going to get over it anytime soon, next week or the week after. But we’ve got to deal with what we’ve got to deal with and that’s the grief and the shock, the injustice. We’ll think about all the other things tomorrow.

“It’s tough for everybody, but wow … Meredith – that’s who I’m thinking of.”

Tributes have flowed for Walsh, who played 122 games for Collingwood, Brisbane and Richmond before turning his hand to coaching.

There has been an outpouring of emotion on social media, with football fans across the country offering their condolences and some even hanging their club scarves or jumpers in memory of the late coach.

Flowers were placed at the entrance of the Adelaide Football Club offices, as fans of both the Crows and Power, where Walsh played a key role in the club’s 2004 premiership as an assistant coach, paid their respects.

Fagan thanked the football and wider community for their support in a difficult time.

“It’s extraordinary the way in which a community, particularly a sporting community, rallies around individuals and clubs in times of tragedy,” he said.

“We’ve seen that in recent times in this city with Phil Hughes. We’re seeing it again today both here (at West Lakes) and at Adelaide Oval, and throughout social media and direct contact people have made with the Club. It’s those things that actually get you through.

“We’re appreciative of the support that’s coming. It’s overwhelming and extraordinary.”

Chapman said it was too soon to discuss the logistics of the remainder of the season, but vowed that the Club would carry on Walsh’s work.

“We started a journey, not that long ago, under Phil and his leadership. It’s a journey that the playing group and the Club are determined to see through,” Chapman said.

"It’s something we’ve already talked about, discussed and agreed upon. More of that will unfold.

“Phil was the coach of a football club that you want. He was a coach and a leader of men. He’s unambiguous, straight up and down. He had clear messaging and (was) inspiring.

“It’s probably why he had the longevity in the system and football community that he had – 30 years. Not a lot of people do that unless you genuinely care and are good at your craft.”