13/04/2024

Josh Kennedy has played 290 AFL career games. (Photo: Sydney Swans)

Sydney Swans Premiership player Josh Kennedy announced he will retire at the end of the season on Tuesday morning. The Swans legend has played 290 AFL career games and is a three-time All-Australian.

Picked up at pick 40 in the 2006 AFL Draft, Kennedy was drafted by Hawthorn under the father-son rule. Following his father and grandfather’s legacy, he was promised to lead the team in the future.

Unfortunately, after two years things didn’t work out for him and he was traded to the Swans for three draft picks. Looking back the Hawks have regretted making this decision, especially when he came up against them in the 2012 Grand Final.

At the Swans, he has gone on to become a club icon. Captaining the side from 2017 to 2021, Kennedy reached the peak of his career during the middle of the 2010s. Here, he helped lead the Swans to the 2012 premiership.

He achieved All-Australian honours in 2012, 2014, and 2016 making him a three-time honouree. Continuing his form, he was awarded the Bob Skilton Medal (Swans Best and Fairest) three different times in 2012, 2015, and 2016.

The 34-year-old’s retirement comes after he injured his hamstring playing in the VFL. In his 16 years playing AFL, he will finish with a career average of 25.4 disposals, 5.1 tackles and 2.7 marks.

This year he has been far from his best only averaging 12.1 disposals and 1.7 tackles. Instead, he has helped mentor the next breed of players coming through at the Swans.

“It’s been a little bit frustrating on a personal level, but to be honest, the joy of having been in contention again because when I arrived, we were there, we’re on our way up and we were in contention,” Kennedy said about his lack of availability this season.

“It’s exciting. I’m as excited as anyone. I’m still part of it.

“Whether I’m pulling on the boots or not, I still very much feel part of it and take as much joy out of seeing the happiness on the young players’ faces.”

The Swans sit fourth on the ladder with a blockbuster clash against the Magpies this week. Both teams will be aiming to win to stay inside the top four.

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Family History

Hailing from Victoria, football has always been in Kennedy’s blood. His two grandfathers both played AFL, alongside his father, uncles and first cousins. The hardest thing Josh had to do in his career was to tell his grandfather he would be leaving the Hawks.

“It was certainly harder for John Sr., that was the hardest part of telling him. He’s always been a bit torn,” Kennedy said.

Grandfather John Kennedy Sr. coached Hawthorn to three premierships in the 1960s and 70s after finishing his playing career with 164 games. Honoured in the Australian Football Hall of Fame, he was chosen to become the coach in the Hawthorn Team of the Century.

His father John Kennedy Jr. was a four-time premiership player with the Hawks and would go on to make the Hawthorn Hall of Fame. Playing 241 games for the Hawks, he was integral not only on the field but off it. During the 1980s, he helped guide the Hawks to the premiership in 1983, 1985, 1988, and 1989.

His cousins include Box Hill Hawks 2003 best and fairest winner Matthew Ball and 2010 premiership player Luke Ball. Matthew had a sporadic career playing 17 games for Hawthorn between 2004 and 2006. Consistently good in the VFL, he was unable to deliver the same form in the AFL.

Picked with pick two in the 2001 AFL National Draft, Luke would receive many career honours. This included being a part of the All-Australian team in 2005, winning the Trevor Barker Award the same year and winning the premiership with Collingwood in 2010.

Playing 142 games for St Kilda between 2003 and 2009, he was one of the key players in the midfield alongside Lenny Hayes. Ball had a late revival in his career joining Collingwood.

His uncles are Felix and Peter Russo, both of who have played at AFL level. Felix could only salvage a few games with St Kilda, while Peter continued the legacy with the Hawthorn Football Club. A member of the 1978 premiership side, he represented the Hawks 162 times from 1978-1988.

“The Kennedy family are just unbelievable. They’re so humble and they’d be so proud of what Josh has been able to do for the footy club,” John Longmire said.

What the future holds?

Josh Kennedy was asked whether he sees himself in a coaching role with the Swans or a role in the media. His grandfather John Sr. became a legendary coach after his playing career.

John Kennedy Sr. had more than a 50 per cent win rate, winning 236 games out of 412. Through his coaching period, he guided the Hawks to premierships in 1961, 1971, and 1976.

Already a leader at the Swans, Josh could easily fit on the Swans coaching staff. A role model to the younger generation, coach John Longmire said the door is always open.

“He got a bit of a taste of it this year when he was able to help us out, when he was injured and, did a really good job,” Longmire said.

“The boys will sort of back me up there that having him on the bench or in the box and his ability to be able to communicate his knowledge to the younger players is really valuable.”

However, Kennedy had different thoughts on his life after playing footy.

“I don’t know. As much as I’ve sort of known that this day was coming, I haven’t really considered it until I said it out loud. It’s all been pretty overwhelming,” he said.

“My focus has just been to try and get back to play and finish the year strong.

“Never say never, but I think I’ll take the time just to sit back and reflect and see what’s out there. I’m excited for that for the next chapter.”

Josh Kennedy won a Grand Final with the Swans in 2012. (Photo: Sydney Swans)

A trip down memory line

Toughest opponent

During his retirement press conference, Kennedy had a trip down memory lane sharing iconic memories from his years playing footy. Being an essential part of the Swans midfield since 2010 he has come against some tough opponents in the course of his career.

Brownlow medallists Chris Judd and Nathan Fyfe were the first two that came to his mind. This was followed by a range of players from some of the biggest AFL clubs.

“Chris Judd was out here at the (SCG) when it was really wet. We had about three players try and tag him and couldn’t stop him,” the 2012 premiership winner explained.

“I remember in 2015, round four, because it was after Amelia was born I went over to Perth and Nathan Fyfe was just unstoppable.”

Joel Selwood, Ben Cunnington, Scott Pendlebury, Sam Mitchell, and Luke Hodge were other names Kennedy mentioned.

Players who Kennedy loved to play with

While Kennedy could easily name his toughest opponents, he had a hard time describing who is the best player he has played with. At the Hawks, he played with legends such as Luke Hodge, Sam Mitchell and Lance Franklin, who would later join him at the Swans.

After his move to Sydney, he has played with players from different generations. At the beginning of his career, he played next to club legends Adam Goodes, Jude Bolton, and Jarrad McVeigh.

During his prime, when he was an All-Australian, he led the team alongside Kieran Jack, Luke Parker, and Heath Grundy. Now in the later years of his career, he has played with upcoming stars such as Callum Mills, Errol Gulden, and Chad Warner.

As his teammates filled the function room where he held his retirement speech, Kennedy held back laughter when asked who he loved playing with. Not wanting to name a single person he finally shared his thoughts.

“That’s a slippery slope. I mean, all the individual accolades certainly weren’t possible without amazing teammates, and I’m acutely aware of that and probably more so that later in my career,” he said.

“At Hawthorn, Sam (Mitchell) and Luke (Hodge) and Jordan (Lewis) and Buddy [Lance Franklin].

“In Sydney, the leaders that I’ve had over that time, ‘Kizer’ (Kieran Jack) and Jarrad (McVeigh) and ‘Hannas’ (Dan Hannebery).

“If you’re lucky enough to play in a premiership, the players that you play with, hold a special place in your heart for the rest of your life. Every one of those players certainly does and will. I wouldn’t have been half the player without them, that’s for sure.”

Kennedy was awarded AFL Life Membership. (Photo: Sydney Swans)

His thoughts on how the game has changed in Sydney

Kennedy moved from Hawthorn to Sydney in 2010. Coming from a fanatic AFL state he came to New South Wales which is dominated by rugby league and the NRL competition. The Sydney Swans fan base was quite little but has since transitioned into something bigger.

He believes that AFL will continue to grow in Sydney, especially with the arrival of the GWS Giants in 2012. Both teams have made grand final appearances while getting more fans each year.

“It’s been incredible. You know, as an ignorant Melbournian coming up to Sydney, 21 years of age, thinking that AFL ruled the world and that it was a bigger sport here like it was in Melbourne,” Kennedy said.

“It was a rude shock when I arrived, you’d go to a school visit and no one knew who the Sydney Swans were or you’d walk around and wouldn’t get hassled. It was incredible.

“But to see it grow now. I remember dropping my son off on his first day of school last year and the kids have got an AFL ball and kicking around before school.

“It’s all the people in the street that are repping the red and white and now the AFL and the women’s team and seeing that grow. It’s only just going to get better and better.”

Complete Statement from Josh Kennedy

“It is with a heavy heart but a whole lot of gratitude that I make this announcement today,” Kennedy said.

“I want to take the opportunity to thank everyone at the club. The overarching sentiment I want to leave is one of gratitude – I am grateful to Alistair Clarkson and Hawthorn for the opportunity, and to the Sydney Swans for believing in me.

“I’m eternally grateful to the football club, the players past and present, the support staff that make the club great from the board level down, and of course all the fans and supporters over the journey who have supported me and the team and made me feel very special to belong to such a great club.”

Complete Statement from John Longmire

“On behalf of the footy club, I just want to thank Josh for what he has contributed to this place over the past 13 years. He’s been a significant contributor for such a long period of time,” Longmire said.

“One of the things we said to the players was you probably don’t understand how much of a champion has been running beside you at training, preparing in the gym and sitting next to you in meetings, because he’s so humble. That’s just who he is.

“But it really hits you when you see how many times he has finished in the top three in our Club Champion … he has sat comfortably among some of the all-time greats throughout his career. He’s been a great player, a great confidant, a great friend and a terrific captain.”

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