AFL world in mourning after legend's devastating death in crash

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Neil Kerley, pictured here with his wife at the AFL Hall of Fame ceremony in 2019.
Neil Kerley with his wife at the AFL Hall of Fame ceremony in 2019. Image: Getty

The AFL world is mourning the tragic death of Hall of Fame legend Neil Kerley after he was killed in an accident in South Australia on Wednesday afternoon.

The 88-year-old died when his vehicle crashed through a fence into a paddock while towing a trailer at Walker Flat.

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Affectionately known as the 'King of South Australian football', Kerley was a two-time premiership coach and two-time premiership captain-coach, playing 265 games in the SANFL (South Australian National Football League).

He also coached 628 games and won four best and fairest awards at West Adelaide.

He made 32 appearances for South Australia, captaining his state six times.

After his distinguished career finished he was inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame, as well as the South Australian Football Hall of Fame.

In 1991 he became the Adelaide Crows' inaugural football manager, assisting his former player Graham Cornes, while he also served as a selector for the All Australian team.

"Neil's contribution to the game is immeasurable and he embodied what it means to be a proud and passionate South Australian," Crows chairman John Olsen said in a statement.

"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."

On Wednesday night, Crows great Mark Ricciuto recalled how Kerley recruited him.

“Neil Kerley came up to Waikerie,” Ricciuto said on Triple M.

“I‘d just turned 16 and my best mate ran into the change rooms and said ‘Neil Kerley’s here to watch ya!’

“Curls rocks up, he’s got an esky full of beers, said to Dad: ‘Where’s the lad playing today?’

“I was playing forward pocket and Kerls said, ‘I didn’t drive all this way to watch him play forward pocket, put him in the middle’.

“So I played forward pocket and they got stuck into the beers, and after I kicked my 10th Kerls said to Dad, ‘Bring him to down to Adelaide next year, I think he’ll be alright’.”

AFL world in shock over Neil Kerley's death

Tributes have been flooding in on social media after Kerley's death.

South Australian Premier Peter Malinauskas wrote: "South Australia has lost an icon. Australia has lost a 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. Vale Neil Kerley."

Commentator John Casey wrote: "So sad to hear of the passing of football legend Neil Kerley in a car accident near his Riverland home. Condolences to his family and many friends."

Jouranlist Deanna Williams added: "Not just footy but sporting fans across the state are mourning the tragic death of legend Neil Kerley. VALE."

While Glenelg Football Club said they were "shocked and absolutely devastated to hear that Tiger legend Neil Kerley passed away.

"Our hearts go out to his family, friends and the entire SA Football community during this time of mourning."

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