Hawthorn coaching icon John Kennedy Snr has become the 29th Australian Football Hall of Fame member to be elevated to legend status.
The man who led the Hawks to their first three premierships, Kennedy was bestowed with the honour on TV due to the COVID-19 pandemic preventing the traditional formal gala event.
Earlier, former St Kilda champion Lenny Hayes was the first of the 2020 intake inducted into the Hall of Fame following a brilliant 297-game career with the Saints.
Kennedy won four best-and-fairests during his 164-match playing career for Hawthorn between 1950 and 1959, but it was the off the field where the man known as ‘Kanga’ created his mark as one of the game’s most brilliant individuals.
Following years as a struggling club after entering the VFL in 1925, the Hawks emerged as a genuine powerhouse under Kennedy’s tutelage.
With Kennedy’s health failing at 91 years old, others spoke on his behalf about joining the likes of Leigh Matthews, Kevin Sheedy and Ron Barassi as Hall of Fame legends.
“John is a modest man of great character, who has positively enhanced the lives of thousands who have been lucky enough to cross his path,” David Parkin, who took over as Hawks coach following Kennedy’s departure in 1976, said.
“His most famous quote of ‘Don’t think, do’, probably best sums up the man. He commanded respect, taught us how to overcome the fear of failure and asked nothing of us that he wouldn’t do himself.”
Hayes became the Saints’ 19th Hall of Fame player, joining club legends Trevor Barker, Tony Lockett and Darrel Baldock.
The courageous midfielder carved out an outstanding career for the Saints between 1999 and 2014 and won the Norm Smith Medal in the famous 2010 drawn AFL grand final.
Hayes says St Kilda’s missed opportunities in 2009 and 2010 to add to the club’s sole 1966 premiership still burn.
“I think any player that’s played in a grand final where they didn’t get the result they wanted, they’re probably the moments you think of,” Hayes said.
“It wasn’t meant to be, and probably the most disappointing thing is the amount of joy that it could have brought to St Kilda supporters, but also my teammates who had been through so much.”
Crunched by a brutal hit from North Melbourne hard man Glenn Archer in his AFL debut, Hayes recovered from an inglorious start to his career to play a crucial role in St Kilda rising up the ladder in the mid-2000s.
Now an assistant coach at GWS, the 40-year-old was a four-time All-Australian and took out the Saints’ best-and-fairest in 2003, 2010 and 2012.
Hayes grew up outside of AFL heartland in NSW, but cemented himself as one of the game’s most popular players.
“He was the teammate you’d want to go to war with, the teammate you’d call in a crisis,” former St Kilda captain Nick Riewoldt said.
Six more members will be inducted into the Hall of Fame from June 2 to 4 with the newest additions to be announced on Fox Footy.