Rioli to be farewelled at state funeral - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Rioli to be farewelled at state funeral

07/01/2011 01:44:47 PM Comments (0)

Maurice Rioli paved the way for indigenous players in the AFL, the coach of Greater Western Sydney says.

Kevin Sheedy was speaking to journalists in Darwin before Rioli's funeral at St Mary's Cathedral on Friday.

Rioli, a former Richmond player, collapsed at a family barbecue in Darwin on Christmas Day after suffering an apparent heart attack.

Hundreds of people, including high profile footballing identities, gathered for the funeral to say goodbye to a man who "gave everything to the game".

Sheedy, accompanied by former Port Adelaide coach Mark Williams, said Rioli was very important in the establishment of nearly 100 indigenous players in the AFL.

He said Rioli, winning the Norm Smith Medal in a grand final losing Richmond side, showed Aborigines they too could play in the big league.

"We haven't even got our club up and running yet but we're here to show our appreciation to the people of Darwin and the Tiwi Islands for what they've done for the game," he told journalists outside the Smith Street church.

"We wouldn't have missed it."

Current Richmond captain Chris Newman said Rioli was one of the club legends.

"I wear No.17, he wore No.17, so I thought I'd come out of respect.

"He was pretty much a magician out on the field.

"There's a few of us here and it's a really good turnout."

A contingent of Tiwi Islanders led the hearse into the cathedral with a procession of traditional dance.

Mourners filled the cathedral and gathered on the street outside as well.

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