IN a footy sense, Richmond means far more than just a small inner suburb on the eastern fringe of the Melbourne CBD.Tiger tragics are everywhere. For a club that has been the worst performed in the past 25 years, it is remarkable how many Richmond supporters there are across the breadth of the country.Many of those Richmond fans became rusted on during or just after the golden era at Punt Road, when “tee-shirt” Tom Hafey was coach and the Tigers were a colossus of the competition. Ballarat writer Elliot Cartledge was one of them. For two years, Cartledge has researched the Tom Hafey era at Richmond, culminating in the publication of a 400-page book The Hafey Years - Reliving a golden era at Tigerland this year. The 40-year-old writer, who has had stints in Mexico, Argentina and England before shifting to Soldiers Hill two years ago, lived in Richmond once but that, he says, was in the dim dark past. His passion for the Tigers transcends that. “The Richmond Football Club is an identity, a passion and a tradition. It is something you lose yourself in,” he explains.“I attended my first game in 1979. Tom Hafey was no longer the coach but his mark was on that side. A dozen players – Francis Bourke, Kevin Sheedy, Bryan Wood, Kevin Bartlett and others – they were still Hafey disciples.”Cartledge has written predominantly on sport and music, both locally and overseas: soccer in Latin America, cricket in England.The Hafey Years was a chance document a period of success for his chosen club that predates the current era of failure.“It was a labour of love and a joy to research. In that sense it was easy to write,” Cartledge says.“The research took two years but the writing took just four weeks.“The most enjoyable aspect was documenting the exploits of not just the most famous names, like Hafey, (Kevin) Sheedy, (Neil) Balme, Ian Stewart, but also gathering the thoughts of those who have never been asked before.” Hafey has resisted all offers of a biography for 30 years. Cartledge guesses the 80-year-old supported the project because The Hafey Years is not a biography but a chronicle of an era.“I’m not alone in finding Tommy an inspiration,” he says. “He has endeared himself to a generation of supporters and inspired loyalty and love from some of the most famous names to ever play our wonderful game.”Cartledge gained first hand experience of that yesterday at a joint book signing session at Southland in Cheltenham. “There was a queue half a mile long,” he says. “They were far more interested in getting Tommy’s signature than mine, of course. Everyone wanted to get a glimpse and have a chat with him. He has such a wonderful manner with dealing with people that the signing was a delight.” * The Hafey Years - Reliving a Golden Era at Tigerland by Elliot Cartledge is available at bookshops for $39.95.