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  • Rikki Lambert

Footy hall-of-famer Neil Kerley, 88, dies in Walker Flat car tragedy

Updated: Jun 30, 2022

South Australian football legend Neil Kerley has been remembered as a passionate and proud South Australian and fierce competitor after he tragically died in a motor vehicle accident on Wednesday evening.

Police report that just before 5.30pm on Wednesday 29 June, police and emergency services were called to Mallee Road after reports that a Toyota station wagon towing a trailer had left the road and crashed through a fence into a paddock.

Kerley was the driver and sole occupant and died at the scene.

Premier Peter Malinauskas said South Australia has lost an icon and football legend:

"Donald Neil Kerley AM made a huge contribution to not only SA footy but Australian football, on and off the field.
"He was a passionate and proud South Australian, the embodiment of state pride.
"His character and courage made him a legend among the South Australian public.
"He was a tough competitor on the field, an inspirational coach and a fantastic ambassador for football, especially State of Origin.

Kerley played 265 games with West Adelaide, South Adelaide and Glenelg and coached 628 games and represented South Australia 32 times including captaining SA to a famous win over Victoria at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in 1963.

Kerley was also the inaugural football manager at the fledgling Adelaide Crows, South Australia's first side to enter the AFL. The struggling Crows are due to host top team Melbourne at Adelaide Oval on Saturday, saying plans are being finalised to honour Kerley at the match.

In a Thursday morning statement, the Adelaide Football Club said 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 appointed as football manager to support inaugural coach Graham Cornes and led the football department during the 1991 season.

Originally from Barmera in the Riverland, he 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.

Adelaide Football Club chairman and former state premier John Olsen said:

“Neil’s contribution to the game is immeasurable and he embodied what it means to be a proud and passionate South Australian.
“As a player and coach, he was tough and uncompromising and he commanded respect, and he will be remembered as one of football’s great characters.
“In the context of his overall career, his time at the Crows was brief but his impact is best described as significant given he helped build the Club from the ground up.
“Our thoughts and deepest sympathies go to his wife Barbara and their family.”

He was inducted into the AFL Hall of Fame in 1997.

SANFL CEO Darren Chandler said it was a sad day for the League, the SANFL Clubs where Kerley played and coached and for many football supporters:

“Neil will be remembered for the enormous impact he had on all those who played alongside him and the fans who grew up watching him.
“He had a tough-as-nails approach to the game but was a loveable personality in football who became ‘Mr Football’ through all his humour and antics in the media."

The Port Adelaide Football Club expressed its condolences on Thursday morning, saying:

"Neil was always greatly respected as a fierce adversary of Port Adelaide as both a player and coach.
"He was the ultimate competitor who displayed skill and strength throughout the golden decades of South Australian football.
"Neil promoted the game like no other and his pride for South Australian football was legendary. He was a giant of the game."

Port Adelaide legend and sparring partner John 'Jack' Cahill paid tribute on Twitter:

Kerley's death is the 39th life lost on South Australian roads this year, compared with 52 at this time last year.


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