John Kennedy Sr. was born on December 29, 1928. He was an Australian footballer who played for the Hawthorn Football Club and coached Hawthorn and North Melbourne Football Club in the Victorian Football League. By no means the most elegant or naturally skilled footballer, John Kennedy, however, possessed considerable football talent, and he applied it to excellent effect as a player and coach at Hawthorn between 1950 and 1976. John Kennedy Sr. is the Hawks’ first premiership coach. His son, John Kennedy Jr., would later be a multiple-premiership player with his father’s club. Josh Kennedy, would be the club’s first third-generation player. Hawthorn honoured their first premiership coach with a bronze statue in front of Waverley Park.
He was 91 years old.
Height & Weight
188 cm (6 ft 2 in), 89 kg (196 lb).
Early life / Career
Born in Camberwell, Kennedy’s professional career began as a school principal. In 1950, he joined the Hawthorn Football Club as a player. Over the next ten years, he played 169 games for Hawthorn, served as captain from 1955 until his retirement, and won the club’s best and fairest award four times (in 1950-1952 and 1954) respectively.
Kennedy received a hasty introduction to training in 1957 when regular coach Jack Hale was involved in a car accident on his way to Glenferrie Oval and missed the Round 11 game. Kennedy shortly addressed the players during game breaks and Hawthorn stayed close to Collingwood for much of the game, and ultimately lost by 19 points. For the 1960 season he took over permanently as Hawthorn’s coach, and led the team to his first position in 1961. After a grand finale in 1963, he resigned as coach, but Hawthorn’s poor performance on the field in the following years He saw he recalled the role in 1967. He trained Hawthorn for subsequent prime minister positions in 1971 and 1976, when he again resigned from office. In 1985 Kennedy became the coach of the North Melbourne Football Club, and coached the club until 1989. In all, he coached for 411 games, won 236, lost 170, and tied five. In all, Kennedy coached Hawthorn to 5 Grand Finals with 3 Premier League victories.
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.
Football Hall of Fame
On 1 June 2020, John Kennedy Sr. became the 29th legend of the Australian Football Hall of Fame. 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.”
In honor of his 80th birthday, a statue of him was discovered overlooking Waverley Park. The text on the plate reads John “Kanga” Kennedy played 164 games for the Hawthorn Football Club in 1950-1959, including his first appearance in the final in 1957. In 1960, at just 31 years old, Kennedy became a coach and transformed Hawthorn and led the club to his first three positions in 1961, 1971 and 1976. The Kennedy Hawthorn teams became known as the “Kennedy Commandos”. In his signature coat, booming voice, and soulful words, he inspired generations of Hawthorn players, taking them on easy beats to the most respected and revered club in the League. He embodied and taught all the values and attitudes that the Club appreciates. These were overwhelmingly a feeling 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.
There is no information about his personal life.
Death and Cause
He died on 25 June, 2020. The Hawks released a statement on Thursday confirming the news on behalf of the family, saying Kennedy had passed away peacefully.
Kennedy was described as a man of extraordinary humility and strong family values.
“It is with deep regret, that our great leader and contributor, John Kennedy Snr; player, coach and educator, has left us,” Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett said.
“John will live on within the Hawthorn Football Club forever. “He set and lived the standards that are the culture of the Family Club. “I extend the club’s and my condolences to his family.” Kennedy was a four-time best-and-fairest winner at Hawthorn between 1950-1959 and later coached the Hawks to their first three VFL premierships in 1961, 1971 and 1976. He also coached North Melbourne for five seasons, and died three days before both clubs are scheduled to meet at Marvel Stadium. A statue of Kennedy looking over the playing field at Hawthorn’s Waverley Park training base is a constant reminder of his impact on the club. “John’s impact on the Hawthorn Football Club will be eternal and his legacy will always live on at Hawthorn,” Kennett said. “So much of what Hawthorn is today, is because of the foundations John laid in yesteryears. “His booming voice will forever echo in the corridors of the football club and the legend of the man in the brown overcoat, with a heart of gold, will be passed down from generation to generation of the Hawthorn family.” North Melbourne chairman Ben Buckley, who played under Kennedy after the coaching great was lured out of retirement by the Kangaroos in 1985, echoed Kennett’s sentiments. “He was not only a coach to many of us, but a terrific mentor and teacher at Arden St,” Buckley said. “John always preached a team-first, club-first attitude and many of the values he established during his time at Arden St, we still hold dear as a club and as North people today.” Earlier in June, Kennedy became the 29th person elevated to official legend status in the Australian Football Hall of Fame. “John Kennedy was about service, about dedication, the importance of respect and the primary quality that you committed your actions to the words you spoke,” AFL Commission chairman Richard Goyder said. “He gave everything he possibly could to both Hawthorn and North Melbourne in the pursuit of success, but his approach to life, and how it should be lived, was imparted upon all who moved within his circle, be that as a player, a coach, a mentor to emerging leaders within the game or the head of the game itself when he was chair of the AFL Commission.