John Kennedy Sr. (footballer)

John Kennedy Sr. (born 29 December 1928) is a former 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).

John Kennedy Sr.
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
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,

Early life/playing 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, serving as captain from 1955 until his retirement, and winning the club's Best and Fairest award four times (in 1950, 51, 52 and 54).

Coaching career

Kennedy received a rushed introduction to coaching in 1957 when regular coach Jack Hale was involved in an automobile accident on the way to Glenferrie Oval and missed the Round 11 match. Kennedy at short notice addressed the players during the game breaks and Hawthorn stayed close to Collingwood for much of the game, eventually losing by 19 points.

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 thrashing in 1963, he stepped down as coach, but Hawthorn's poor on-field performance over the next few years saw him recalled to the role in 1967. He coached Hawthorn to subsequent premierships in 1971 and 1976, when he again stepped down from the role.

In 1985, Kennedy became the coach of the North Melbourne Football Club, and coached the club until 1989. In total he coached for 411 games, winning 236, losing 170 and drawing five. In all, Kennedy coached Hawthorn to 5 Grand Finals with 3 Premiership wins.


As a player, Kennedy was renowned for his toughness and skill.

As a coach, Kennedy has a similar reputation for toughness, but also for oratory. Kennedy is notorious for borrowing ideas from any source he thinks will inspire the players, but it is his passion rather than his quotations that he is 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.[1]

He is famous for his battered brown overcoat, which is now on display at the Hawthorn Football Club.[2]

He was an inaugural induction into the Australian Football Hall of Fame and was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1999.[3]

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.


In honor of his 80th birthday, a statue of him overlooking Waverley Park 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.


  1. John Kennedy – Do Something on YouTube
  2. Lalor, Peter (27 May 2010). "Josh Kennedy's famous clan will need to find neutral seats at the MCG". The Australian.
  3. "John Kennedy". Sport Australia Hall of Fame. Retrieved 27 September 2013.
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