Kevin Sheedy has an impressive record in Australian football as player and coach, but despite his epic achievements in these roles, his most profound influence may be the innovations he proposed and supported. He has left an indelible mark on the game.
Kevin Sheedy played 251 games with Richmond between 1967 and 1979. He was a member of three Premiership sides (1969, '73, '74) was club Best and Fairest in 1976 and captain in 1978. He was selected in eight Victorian state teams.
At his retirement some commentators observed that his considerable achievements were due not so much to abundant natural talent but to determination and the thoughtful application of his abilities.
This ability to analyse quickly became evident when he took over as coach of Essendon in 1981 and began building the sides that won Premierships in 1984 and 1985.
He went on to coach Essendon for 27 years, playing in the finals on 19 of those years, for seven Grand Final appearances and four Premierships ('84, '85, '93, 2000). His coaching record stands at 386 wins, 242 losses, and seven draws. He coached the Victorian side in 1986 and the Australian teams in the International Rules competitions of 2005 and 2006.
For many involved in Australian football however, Kevin Sheedy's most enduring legacy will be the changes that he promoted and supported. He was a proponent of the extended interchange bench (from two payers to four) which has eased the physical demands on players caused by the increasing speed of the game and of the creation of the annual Essendon-Collingwood ANZAC Day fixture. He was also, with Essendon committeeman Bill Kelty, an architect of AFL traineeships to provide career opportunities to footballers.
Kevin Sheedy has been a great promoter and supporter of indigenous players, developing initiatives to take the game to indigenous communities and to foster and develop promising players. He also promoted the creation of an annual Essendon-Richmond Dreamtime match to recognise their achievements. He has watched with pride as these and other initiatives have brought about a steady expansion of the number of indigenous players, the rewards they enjoy and the role models they provide. For all the Premiership trophies he has held aloft as player and coach, it is this legacy that may give him greatest satisfaction.
Kevin Sheedy is the co-author of eight books: (Slattery Media Group, 2013), Stand Your Ground (Pan MacMillan, 2008), The 500 Club (News Custom Publishing, 2004), Sheeds: Follow Your Dreams (Crown Content, 2001), Second Chance Winners (Wilkinson, 2000), Football’s Women: The forgotten Heroes (Penguin, 1998), Sheeds: Pockets of Greatness (Wilkinson Books, 1996) and Sheeds: A Touch of Cunning (Wilkinson Books, 1995).
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