Aussie Rules thrown into shock as four-time premiership-winning footy legend dies in car crash just 4km from his home
- Footy legend Neil Kerley, 88, died in a car crash on Wednesday in South Australia
- Player turned coach won four premierships, is a revered figure in his home state
- SA Premier Peter Malinauskas labelled Kerley ‘the embodiment of state pride’
Aussie Rules is in mourning after a legend of the sport died in a car crash on Wednesday.
One of South Australian football’s most influential figures, Neil Kerley – a four-time premiership winner – smashed through a fence into a paddock at Walker Flat in the Murraylands region when driving about 4km from his home at around 5.30pm.
He was 88.
Born Donald Neil Kerley in Barmera, Riverland in 1934, he was affectionately known as ‘Knuckles’ due to his reputation as one of the SANFL’s leading and toughest players.
On the field, he first won a flag with West Adelaide in 1961 before defecting to rivals South Adelaide as captain-coach three years later.
In his maiden season with the club, he snared another title and a legend was born.
Aussie Rules is in mourning after legendary player turned coach Neil Kerley died in a car crash on Wednesday (pictured, playing for his beloved state, South Australia)
Neil Kerley (pictured with wife Barbara) smashed through a fence into a paddock at Walker Flat in the SA Murraylands region around 5.30pm on Wednesday and died at the scene
Kerley also represented his state on 32 occasions before turning his attention to coaching, clocking up 628 senior games in charge.
Kerley steered the Glenelg Tigers to the 1973 flag – ending a 39-year drought – then a decade on, after returning to West Adelaide, was the mastermind behind the Bloods hoisting the 1983 premiership trophy.
For his football exploits, Kerley was inducted into the SA Football Hall of Fame in 2002 and was elevated into the South Australian Sport Hall of Fame in 2019.
He also received an Order of Australia Medal in 2007.
Following his induction into the SA Sport Hall of Fame, Kerley said it was a great thrill.
‘For a kid from the bush, from the scrub, who didn’t start with much and began playing footy for a bit of fun, it’s something I feel very good about,’ he said at the time.
SA Premier Peter Malinauskas has paid tribute to Kerley, who he described as ‘the embodiment of state pride’ (pictured, police at the scene of the crash on Wednesday)
SA Premier Peter Malinauskas has paid tribute to Kerley, who he described as ‘the embodiment of state pride’.
‘South Australia has lost an icon. Australia has lost a football legend,’ Mr Malinauskas tweeted on Thursday.
He also revealed a state funeral is being considered – after consulting with Kerley’s loved ones at the ‘appropriate time’.
Port Adelaide Football Club labelled Kerley a ‘giant of the game’.
‘Neil was always greatly respected as a fierce adversary of Port Adelaide as both a player and coach,’ the AFL club said in a statement.
‘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.’