Former Adelaide Captain and current Board Member Mark Ricciuto has paid tribute to South Australian football legend Neil Kerley.
Kerley, who was an influential figure across more than four decades as a player, coach, administrator and media commentator, died on Wednesday.
He was 88.
Kerley was one of the key people involved in the formation of the Crows and helped secure players for the Club’s inaugural list and training squad.
He was also instrumental in securing Ricciuto’s signature.
Ricciuto said he would cherish the fond memories he had of ‘Knuckles’ Kerley.
“On behalf of the Adelaide Football Club, I just want to pass on our condolences to the entire Kerley family,” Ricciuto said.
“He was a great story teller, a hell of a lot of fun and we’ll definitely miss him.
“You were just drawn to him.
“He was inspiring, he was positive and he knew what he was talking about.
“You just wanted to listen to him and I think that’s why people gravitated to him.
“He was just a good bloke, that’s what I liked about him.”
Originally from Barmera in the Riverland, Kerley was inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame in 1997 and was an inaugural inductee of the South Australian Football Hall of Fame in 2002.
Kerley was a champion player, having lined up in 276 games with West Adelaide, South Adelaide and Glenelg, and regularly starred for South Australia in 32 interstate contests.
As a league coach, he led five SANFL clubs and won four premierships and also coached his State in a number of games from 1967 through to 1984.
Ricciuto said he could still remember the day Kerley came to watch him play for Waikerie and credited ‘Knuckles’ for helping him realise his dream of playing AFL.
“It still feels like yesterday - that was back in 1991 when I was only 16,” Ricciuto said.
“He came up with an esky full of beer and parked on the side of the oval and watched me run around for Waikerie.
“I think him and Dad had a good afternoon on the sidelines and I ended up signing for West Adelaide and the Crows I think the next day, so he got the job done like he usually does.
“That was a great experience, playing under “Knuckles” (at West Adelaide).
“He was a tough character but he was also a really positive, inspirational coach that got the best out of me, that’s for sure.
“He inspired me to play AFL.”
Ricciuto said the impact Kerley had on the Adelaide Football Club, South Australian Football and the sport as a whole would never be forgotten.
“Obviously it’s a huge hole to fill,” Ricciuto said.
“Just the phone calls I’ve had from other players who have played under him - from everyone - from Graham Cornes to Grantley Fielke, Andrew Jarman.
“The same messages coming through about how he just inspired them and changed them and drove them to be the best they could be.
“He didn’t suffer any fools, he was tough, but it was sort of like he was from another lifetime ago with some of the stories he rolled out.
“I just loved him like I love my Dad, really.
“He just made so many people’s lives happier.”