John Kennedy Sr. (footballer)

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John Kennedy Sr.
Kennedy hawthorn.jpg
Kennedy Sr. pictured for a series of
collectible cards in the 1950s
Personal information
Full name John Kennedy Sr.
Nickname(s) Kanga
Date of birth (1928-12-29)29 December 1928
Date of death 24 June 2020(2020-06-24) (aged 91)
Height 188 cm (6 ft 2 in)
Weight 89 kg (196 lb)
Playing career1
Years Club Games (Goals)
1950–1959 Hawthorn 164 (29)
Coaching career3
Years Club Games (W–L–D)
Hawthorn 299 (181–116–2)
1985–1989 North Melbourne 113 (55–55–3)
Total 412 (236–171–5)
1 Playing statistics correct to the end of 1959.
3 Coaching statistics correct as of 1989.
Career highlights
Sources: AFL Tables,

John Kennedy Sr. (29 December 1928 – 24 June 2020) was an Australian rules footballer who played for the Hawthorn Football Club and coached Hawthorn and the North Melbourne Football Club in the Victorian Football League (VFL). He coached Hawthorn to premierships in 1961, 1971 and 1976.

Early life/playing career[edit]

Kennedy was born in Camberwell, Victoria, on 29 December 1928. In 1950, he joined the Hawthorn Football Club as a ruckman. Over the next ten years, he played 164 games for Hawthorn, serving as captain from 1955 until his retirement in 1959, and winning the club's Best and Fairest award four times (in 1950–1952, and 1954) respectively.[1]

Coaching career[edit]

Kennedy received a rushed introduction to coaching in 1957 when regular coach Jack Hale was involved in a vehicle accident on the way to Glenferrie Oval and missed the Round 11 match.[2]

For the 1960 season he took over permanently as Hawthorn coach, and led the team to their first premiership in 1961. Following a Grand Final defeat to Geelong in 1963, he was forced to step down as coach when the Victorian Education Department offered him a job as a school principal in Stawell.[3] Hawthorn's poor on-field performance over the next few years saw him recalled to the role in 1967. He coached Hawthorn to premierships in 1971 and 1976, as well as a Grand Final loss in 1975. He stepped down as coach again in 1976, in all coaching Hawthorn to three premierships from five Grand Finals.[1]

In 1985, Kennedy became the coach of the North Melbourne Football Club, and coached the club until 1989; his best result with North Melbourne was fourth in 1985. In total he coached for 411 games, winning 236, losing 170 and drawing five.[1]


As a player, Kennedy was renowned for his toughness and skill. As a coach, he had a similar reputation for toughness, but also for oratory. He was notorious for borrowing ideas from any source he thought would inspire the players, but it was his passion rather than his quotations that he was best known for. In the 1975 VFL Grand Final against North Melbourne, his exhortation to the Hawthorn players at half time was: "At least DO SOMETHING! DO! Don't think, don't hope, do! At least you can come off and say 'I did this, I shepherded, I played on. At least I did something.'" Despite this, his team still lost convincingly.[4]

He was famous for his battered brown overcoat, which is now on display at the Hawthorn Football Club.[5]

He was an inaugural inductee into the Australian Football Hall of Fame and was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1999.[6]

His son John Kennedy Jr., also played for the Hawks, playing eight matches against Kangaroo teams coached by his father. Kennedy's grandson Josh Kennedy was recruited by Hawthorn under the father/son rule in the 2006 AFL Draft,[1] but played most of his career with the Sydney Swans.

On 1 June 2020, John Kennedy Sr. became the 29th legend of the Australian Football Hall of Fame.[7] AFL Commission Chairman Richard Goyder said: "In the Australian Football Hall of Fame, our Legends stand above our greats and, on behalf of the selectors, it is my great honour to declare John Kennedy was elected as a Legend, recognising his six-decade contribution to our game."[8]


Bronze statue of Kennedy in front of Waverley Park

In honour of Kennedy's 80th birthday, a statue of him overlooking the Hawthorns' Waverley Park stadium was unveiled. The text on the plaque reads:

John "Kanga" Kennedy played 164 games for the Hawthorn Football Club in 1950–59, including its first ever finals appearance in 1957. In 1960 aged just 31 Kennedy became coach and transformed Hawthorn and led the club to its first three premierships in 1961, 1971 and 1976.
Kennedy's Hawthorn teams became known as "Kennedy's Commandos". Wearing his trademark overcoat, his booming voice and stirring words inspired generations of Hawthorn players, taking them from easy beats to the most respected and revered club in the League.
He epitomised and taught all the values and attitudes that the Club cherishes. These were overwhelmingly a sense of TEAM, total DISCIPLINE, total INTEGRITY, and WILL to WIN at all costs. They are now core values, part of the club's character and as we compete in the 21st century this legacy as defined by John Kennedy will never be forgotten.[9]


Kennedy died at the age of 91, on 24 June 2020, the day before his grandson Josh Kennedy was to play his 250th AFL game.[10][11][12]


  1. ^ a b c d Colangelo, Anthony (25 June 2020). "AFL legend John Kennedy snr dies aged 91". The Age. Retrieved 25 June 2020.
  2. ^ "Clarko to equal Kennedy record". Hawthorn Football Club. Retrieved 25 June 2020.
  3. ^ Green, Warwick (22 July 2014). "Retrogram looks at 10 coaches who have had to combine their coaching duties with an unrelated day job". Herald Sun. Retrieved 26 June 2020.
  4. ^ John Kennedy – Do Something on YouTube
  5. ^ Lalor, Peter (27 May 2010). "Josh Kennedy's famous clan will need to find neutral seats at the MCG". The Australian.
  6. ^ "John Kennedy Snr". Sport Australia Hall of Fame. Retrieved 25 September 2020.
  7. ^ "Hawthorn's spiritual father John Kennedy snr is now a Hall of Fame Legend". Retrieved 1 June 2020.
  8. ^ "Kennedy now a Legend in Australian Football Hall of Fame". Hawthorn Football Club. Retrieved 25 June 2020.
  9. ^ "AFL 2020: Australian Football Hall of Fame, 29th legend, John Kennedy Senior elevated to Legend status, Hawthorn". Fox Sports. Retrieved 25 June 2020.
  10. ^ "Tributes flow after Australian rules football great John Kennedy Snr dies aged 91". The Guardian. 25 June 2020. Retrieved 26 June 2020.
  11. ^ Noakes, Cameron; McGowan, Marc (25 June 2020). "In the name of the grandfather: Joey set for emotional 250th". Retrieved 25 June 2020.
  12. ^ "Funeral notice for John Kennedy". Tobin Brothers Funerals. 2 July 2020. Retrieved 29 August 2020.

External links[edit]