Friday night’s clash against Hawthorn might just be another game for the young Sydney Swans to tick off in their quest to return to finals action for the first time since 2018.
But given the recent history between these two clubs in the past decade, there is that extra dose of significance attached.
Particularly for co-captain Josh Kennedy.
Fresh after signing a new one-year contract extending his illustrious AFL career into a 15th season and 13th in the harbour city, the 32-year-old’s stature and legacy in Sydney in the sport of Australian Rules Football continues to grow.
Speaking exclusively to The Inner Sanctum, Kennedy is grateful for the opportunities the club and the city have provided him in his life.
“It’s something I’m immensely grateful for I think. Obviously proud, just grateful for the opportunity many years ago. Grateful for how much the club has impacted my life, in all facets,” Kennedy told The Inner Sanctum.
The Grandson of Hawthorn royalty, Kennedy arrived in Sydney via a trade at the end of 2009 at a time where the Swans were beginning to transition their list to the next generation of Bloods.
Having served as captain of the Swans now for five years, on top of a Premiership medallion and three All-Australian blazers, Kennedy is writing his own chapter of his family’s remarkable footballing story.
Kennedy doesn’t think about it too often though.
While Friday night is just another game of footy for the 270-game veteran, family ties are still strong as ever.
“Obviously, my family ties down in Melbourne with connections to Hawthorn and more importantly the AFL, it’s just been a great support for me over my journey. And, just being up here, as I said, I’ve just been grateful for my time here so far, and hopefully, there’s a few more celebrations left,” he said.
The Swans are well entrenched in the top eight heading into the mid-season bye – well ahead of many pundits expectations leading into the season.
Over Kennedy’s time up in Sydney, he has witnessed first hand the growth of the game in the state and has very much contributed to the current growth and development of the Swans.
Compared to when he first arrived, the differences and perceptions of the Swans have changed so much.
“It’s been incredible to witness the change,” Kennedy said.
“When I first came up, I was a pretty ignorant young kid from Melbourne and just assumed that AFL was pretty big up here as it was down there and it was a shock to the system when you’d go to a school clinic and no one would even know who the Swans were.
“They may have known Adam Goodes and that was about it.”
Being a father himself, Kennedy has seen the growth first-hand in his own kids and among young families in the community.
“My son’s just started school now in Sydney. He’s started Auskick but more importantly school and I dropped him off a couple of weeks ago in his first week of school and they were kicking a footy around the playground, its something you wouldn’t have seen 12 years ago. It’s been pretty incredible to witness the growth of AFL up in Sydney.”
Moving into the final stages of his career, Kennedy is still regarded as one of the best contested ball midfielders in the competition.
Despite not missing a game yet this season, this season has seen Kennedy’s role shift a little bit, starting some games on the wing and even on the bench to provide opportunities to his younger teammates.
The young group that is taking the competition by storm and propelling the Swans toward their first finals appearance since 2018.
“We’re certainly not handing them out,” Kennedy said on the midfield opportunities.
“They’ve earnt them.”
“It’s a show of confidence as a team as a whole. When my turn comes, I go in there and play my role and vice versa with anyone else.”
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Kennedy though is having fun being the older Swan among the young Cygnets.
“They keep me up to date, I wouldn’t say on my toes, but they keep me up to date with the latest fads and tunes and all that.
“It’s the beauty of being involved at a footy club.
“When you first come into the club, especially coming up to Sydney from interstate, you’re forced to grow up pretty quickly and fend for yourself a little bit and learn what it takes to be a professional athlete and make a lot of sacrifices.
“When you get to the end that I’m at now, you sort have to try to keep up with all the new fads and phases which has been fun too.
“I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s a great group of guys who just enjoy each others company.”
Like many in the city, and it’s shown by the strong crowd support the Swans are receiving with the SCG open to a full house every week, Kennedy is bullish and strongly believes his side’s chances at contending this year.
With the growth of the group, the extra motivating factor to stick around for another season and have a crack at the big prize.
“I think undoubtedly, we’ve taken some big steps and taken a lot of confidence from some early games in the year,” he said.
“It’s the biggest motivating factor trying to work our way up to the pointy end of the ladder and taste that success.
“We’ve shown throughout the course of the year that our best footy can match it with anyone, but to be able to do that, week in week out, quarter after quarter, that’s what the best sides do and we still have a gap to make up there.”
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