The Tamworth community is spoilt when comes to sport. You’re covered for most codes in this town. Depending on who you ask Aussie Rules might be the fourth-favourite football fraternity in Tamworth, and while it’s a microcosm in the region’s sporting menagerie, its custodians are no less passionate or driven. Tamworth man Gerry Griffiths was regarded as the patriarch of the AFL North West NSW, and its contemporary leaders say he was a driving force in growing the competition to what it is today.
The Tamworth and wider AFL community has been left shocked and devastated by the sudden passing of William Gerrard Griffiths.
Gerry, as he was better known, is regarded as the patriarch of the Tamworth Australian Football League.
He was one of the driving forces in establishing the competition, and, as Tamworth Swans president and Tamworth AFL treasurer Josh McKenzie expanded, “a driving force in the competition prospering and growing to what it is today”.
Griffiths suffered a heart attack last Sunday, followed by a stroke, and was flown to John Hunter Hospital where he underwent surgery to remove clots on his brain, but never regained consciousness.
“I can’t express how much I am in shock and how much we’re going to miss him,” Tamworth AFL president Adrian Walsh said.
“The league is going to be so much the poorer without him.”
He questioned whether the TAFL would actually exist without Griffiths, who was in 2008 inducted as the inaugural life member of the Tamworth AFL, and has served on the executive every one of the 20 years the competition has been running.
Thirteen of those he was president of the league.
He was also an active umpire, and had an annual award named in his honour, with the leading goalscorer for the season receiving the Gerry Griffiths award.
“He was tireless, he never grumbled and whatever job had to be done Gerry did it,” Walsh said.
“People like that are priceless.”
“I’m not sure what we’re going to do without him.”
His passion for the game developed growing up in Victoria, and he carried it with him when he moved to Tamworth.
“His primary focus was always on the league and ensuring it was successful,” McKenzie said.
He, like Walsh, was shocked when he learnt the news.
“It just came from nowhere, he was a very fit person for his age,” McKenzie said.
“To lose him so suddenly is devastating. He’ll leave a massive hole for us personally, as well as the competition.”
Those thoughts were echoed by Tamworth AFL secretary Rene Dasey.
“Gerry was a very special man who loved his family and loved his football, and his passing will be felt by many,” she said in a statement online.
“All who enjoy our fantastic game in the North West are incredibly indebted to the work Gerry has put into the sport.”
His wife Veronica is also a life member of the Tamworth Swans, while his son Evan was a member of of the Swans premiership-winning teams in 2006 and 2009.