Australian Football Hall of Fame member Neil Kerley has tragically died in a car crash, aged 88.

Kerley – a two-time SANFL premiership captain-coach – passed away when his vehicle crashed through a fence into a paddock while towing a trailer on Wednesday afternoon.

Becoming a South Australian legend from when he first started playing in 1952 for West Adelaide, ‘Knuckles’ forged an impressive reputation, tallying 265 playing games while coaching 628 matches.

Kerley was a four-time West Adelaide best-and-fairest winner (1958, 1959, 1961 and 1962), Glenelg best-and-fairest winner (1967) as a player.

The champion South Australian also coached Glenelg (1973) and West Adelaide (1983) to premierships.

When the Adelaide Crows entered the AFL in 1991, Kerley was appointed their inaugural football manager as a key support figure to first-year coach Graham Cornes.

Kerley was also famously known for his commentary at Football Park, being a boundary rider during the broadcasting for Channel 7 in the 1990s.

Adelaide Chairmen John Olsen recognised his contribution to the game and what Kerley meant to South Australians.

“Neil’s contribution to the game is immeasurable and he embodied what it means to be a proud and passionate South Australian,” Olsen said.

“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.”

AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan also paid a glowing tribute to the life of Kerley, stating his significance to the game.

“Neil Kerley was the embodiment of football in South Australia. He devoted his life to the game, brought improvement and success wherever he went across the SANFL competition and was absolutely driven in the cause of state football, and particularly putting a victory over the Big V,” Mr McLachlan said.

“Neil Kerley coached at five SANFL clubs and, at every one of those clubs, he immediately improved their stocks when he took the reins,” Mr McLachlan said.

“He was totally committed to state football as a measure of the very best players, and then was an inaugural member of the Adelaide Crows’ Football Department, upon their formation.

“In addition, he served as a member of the AFL’s All Australian selection panel from 1997-2005, being inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame in 1997 for his contribution to the game.

“The AFL extends its sincere condolences to Neil’s family and many hundreds of friends across the game in both South Australia, and nationally. Vale Neil Kerley,” Mr McLachlan said. 

Kerley also participated in State of Origin 32 times for South Australia as well as playing for Australian in 1968.

In 1997, the Barmera-product was inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame, while he followed that recognition by being apart of the inaugural inductees of the South Australian Football Hall of Fame (2002) and West Adelaide Football Club Hall of Fame (2005).

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