The South Australian football community is in mourning following the death of Australian Football Hall of Fame legend, Neil Kerley.
Kerley, 88, died when his vehicle left the road and crashed through a fence into a paddock on Wednesday, June 29. South Australia Police said, “the driver and sole occupant, an 88-year-old Walker Flat man died at the scene.”
“Major Crash officers attended the scene and are investigating the cause of the crash,” police said.
“His death is the 39th life lost on South Australian roads this year, compared with 52 at this time last year.”
Affectionately known as the ‘King of South Australian football’ and ‘Knuckles’, Kerley played 276 games for West Adelaide, South Adelaide and Glenelg, and represented his state an impressive 32 times.
He also secured a total of four premierships while coaching five South Australian National Football League (SANFL) clubs. He coached 628 games and won four best and fairest awards while at West Adelaide.
Following his impressive football career, Kerley 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.
Kerley was one of the key figures in the formation of the Adelaide Crows and also assisted in securing players for the Club’s inaugural list and training squad. He was appointed as football manager and led the football department during the 1991 season.
Adelaide Crows Chairman John Olsen said Kerley’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,” he said.
“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.”
Following the tragic news of Kerley’s passing, tributes poured in from fellow footy greats and public figures alike.
South Australian Premier Peter Malinauskas said “South Australia has lost an icon” while paying tribute to the football legend.
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 & off the field
He was a passionate & proud South Australian, the embodiment of state pride
Vale Neil Kerley pic.twitter.com/yAlAiZDjZZ
— Peter Malinauskas (@PMalinauskasMP) June 29, 2022
Port Adelaide Football Club called Kerley “the ultimate competitor”.
Vale Neil Kerley.
Forever respected as a fierce adversary of Port Adelaide and the ultimate competitor as both a player and coach.
— Port Adelaide FC (@PAFC) June 29, 2022
Glenelg Football Club was left “shocked and absolutely devastated” by Kerley’s passing.
The Glenelg Football Club is shocked and absolutely devastated to hear that Tiger legend Neil Kerley passed away late this afternoon.
Our hearts go out to his family, friends and the entire SA Football community during this time of mourning.
More to follow… pic.twitter.com/76t4FlPBle
— Glenelg FC (@GlenelgFC) June 29, 2022
He is survived by his wife Barb.