By Ollie Nash
There weren’t many better people in footy than Shane Tuck. One of the most genuine, humble and nice guys off the field and a hard-nosed, courageous, team-first player on it. No matter who you supported, you knew about the scraggy haired fella from Richmond who plugged away in the midfield game in and game out during one of the Tigers most difficult periods. Yesterday was a tough day for all footy fans.
The social media posts from ex-teammates, ex-opponents, coaches and commentators said a lot about the person he was. They all mentioned his inspiring on-field actions but will remember him by the way he impacted them off the field. You can do so much in your career and other parts in your life but ultimately people will remember you by the person you were and how you treated others. Tuck never changed who he was and took an interest in everyone he came across. My family is one of the many that he impacted, so if the posts didn’t do the mans’ character justice, then I hope this story can shed some light on the man he was.
The year was 2005 and Richmond held a pre-season camp in my home-town of Ballarat ahead of the 2006 season. We’d just come off a 12th placed finish the year before but I was so excited to see my heroes up close.
We attended their open training session and Dad bought a ticket to a function while they were there. Three or four players would sit on every table and spend the night with the supporters while items were auctioned off and guest speakers addressed the room. Dad was lucky enough to be seated next to Tuck.
He took a genuine interest in Dad, what he did for a living, our family and the fact that he had my brother and myself at home, who were die-hard Richmond. He asked my old man for his number and said he’d give him a call during the year.
We never expected anything. As a full-time footballer at a big club like the Tigers, it’s easy to forget about the fan you spoke to in Ballarat six months earlier. But sure enough, ahead of round eight against the red-hot Crows, Dad got a call.
At first Dad assumed a friend was playing a trick on him, but it was Tuck, who had a big chat to him and even asked to have a chat to me, a seven-year-old in awe that an AFL footballer was talking to me on the phone. He asked if we were free to come to the game that Saturday afternoon, which we of course were.
He rang Dad that Friday and said he’d organised some tickets to the game as well as passes down to the rooms pre and post-game. We couldn’t believe our luck. As the game was at the Telstra Dome, now Marvel Stadium, instead of the MCG, he wasn’t sure where to leave the tickets or how to get them to us. He casually suggested we call past his house just near the G’ and get the tickets from his girlfriend who wasn’t attending the game that day. Imagine that in the modern day game, it’s unheard of.
As a young family driving down from an hour-and-a-half away, we were running late and missed the rooms pre-game, but we were treated to one of the games of the season. Adelaide sat on top of the AFL ladder entering the game while Richmond were outside the top eight with just three wins from seven games. We led at every change and in true early 2000s Richmond fashion, almost gave supporters a heart attack as we just held on for a three point win, 69-66. Tuck had 16 disposals, four tackles and a goal that day.
Post-game we enjoyed the song in the rooms and met and took photos with all our favourite players. We of course didn’t miss a chance to get a photo with the man who set it all up for us, out of the goodness of his own heart.
I’ve never forgotten that week and never will. I can still remember the house we were living in, the exact spot I stood in the living room as I spoke to him on the phone and his big hands gripping my shoulder as Dad took our picture in the rooms. There’s been so many similar stories floating around on social media about the man and this is just another great one to add the list. The AFL world mourns the loss of one of the great blokes of footy, RIP.
Cover Photo: Getty Images