August 1977, Melbourne, Australia
My own association with John has now spanned 17 years – firstly as a player, then as a captain, then as his assistant coach for eight years, working for him on match committee, and it’s interesting to hear others talking about their association with him in other eras and in other capacities.
The effect that this man has had on so many people who were and still are Hawthorn, must be quite unique in the football world. It is not difficult to see why a man such as John is held in such high esteem (no it is more than that , revered) by those who made contact with him. This reverence comes about, not because of his physical achievements (numerous as they have been) but because of the respect of the qualities of the man himself.
Most of these personal qualities have been mentioned by previous speakers, but at the risk of duplication, I would like to speak briefly about some of them.
1. His tremendous sense of humour, (for example Bremner/Moore ‘dollars on your backs’)
2. His complete objectivity in decision making – I’ve met no other man in life in any situation who can make decisionswithout being influenced by personal feelings or relationships with others.
3. His absolute single-mindedness, where nothing superficial or extraneous ever interfered with the achievement of an objective.
4. His exceptional oratory ability, where players in particular, saw at its best the way in which the Queen’s English can be used to project the philosophy of Marx, the beauty of Shakespeare, and the passion of Churchill.
5. His complete and utter humility – where as tonight he is embarrassed by the accolades of others. Hawthorn’s success to him was due to the outward and visible signs, that is the players, nevber John Kennedy.
6. His ability to pass through the pain barrier was an example for us all to follow, eg The Walk for Want 18 miles, to be beaten by Des Meagher who took a short cut.
7. His ability to influence the character and lives of so many young men gave players purpose and meaning to what they were doing. There is no doubt, for this reason alone, all those who donned the brown and gold in the past 16 years have been better people, the Hawthorn influence through John for having passed this way .
When John sought leave of absence at the beginning of March this year, I called the senior players together at Scotch College – as they will recall. Immediately following John’s announcement, people close to the club and those not so close, were saying to me and the players, ‘we must forget John Kennedy and get on with the business of winning football matches’.
My response then, and still is now, is that I sincerely hope that John Kennedy is never forgotten at Hawthorn, by players, administrators and supporters too. For in being reminded of Kennedy is also being reminded of what Hawthorn is all about
The present Club, and the application of the present team, is, in my opinion , a direct reflection of Johnhimself. The qualities which he has instilled into all of us – aggression, self sacrifice, dedication, resolution, determination, personal accountability and emotional control – will be the very qualities that will enable a successful passage through September. If they are forgotten we will be losing the basic ingredients that have made our club an honest and respected power in the VFL.
Finally, if this is a testimonial dinner, then the greatest testimonial we can give John is surely the 1977 flag.