A triple Premiership player and All-Australian on-field, the mark Bachar Houli’s has created with his football stretches long beyond the MCG and Punt Road.
A Vic Metro Under 16 and 18 representative, Houli was drafted by Essendon in the 2006 NAB AFL Draft at selection 42. Playing in a range of roles with the Bombers, Houli was nominated for the NAB Rising Star after an outstanding game in the opening round of 2008. After four years and 26 games at Essendon, the former Western Jet made the move to Richmond at the end of 2010 in search of greater opportunity.
Houli’s ability to mix the modern defensive traits of cover, rebound and provide attack for his team illustrates his versatility and flexibility. This was achieved over Houli’s first two years at Punt Road. A top five finish in the Best and Fairest in his first year at the Tigers as a running half-back or wing justified the move. Houli played a remarkable 111 games in his first five years with Richmond. A wrist injury limited Houli to 12 games in 2016, but his talent still shone through with five 30-plus possession games. 2017 was a stand-out year for Houli, playing 21 games across the year and averaging 23 disposals per game. He was an integral part in Richmond’s 2017 premiership success and was recognised as one of the best performers of the Grand Final. After an injury interrupted 2018, Houli produced a career best season in 2019, earning his first All-Australian blazer en route to a second Premiership medal. He was second in Norm Smith Medal voting to Dustin Martin – a winning formula for the Tigers as it was in 2017. At the end of a tumultuous 2020, Houli added a third Premiership medal in the Tigers win over Geelong, courageously playing out the decider after injuring a calf in the opening minutes of the game.
Off the field, Bachar is the AFL’s first devout muslim. He has helped bring to life a number of initiatives that have generated great community impact in a short time. The Bachar Houli Cup, an inter-Islamic schools football competition involving Islamic schools across Victoria, as well as the Bachar Houli Academy; established to nuture young Islamic footballers aspiring to follow in Houli’s footsteps as a footballer and person. The launch of the Bachar Houli Foundation will ensure these programs and newly created ones continue the legacy Houli and the Tigers have established. Houli’s footwear and apparel partner Puma have also provided good support for the Academy and it’s programs.
Houli’s love of the outdoors has been brought to life with his association with Victorian Fisheries Authority. As an ambassador for the VFA, the father of three is promoting, teaching and developing fishing right across the state. His autobiography “Faith, Football and Family” was released by Penguin Random House at the end of the 2020 season. Bachar’s story is brought to life by longtime friend and Tigers supporter Waleed Aly and charts his rise from humble beginnings in Melbourne’s west to triple Premiership player and community leader.
Football is very, very important, but giving back to these young men and women in our community is equally as important, if not more.