The game of Australian football has today lost one of its greatest contributors with the passing of Hall of Fame Legend John Kennedy senior.

AFL Commission Chairman Richard Goyder said Kennedy's contribution to the growth and success of the game went far beyond his efforts as a player for Hawthorn and coach for Hawthorn and North Melbourne. He was a leader for the game across more than half a century.

HAWTHORN'S GREATEST FIGURE John Kennedy snr passes away

While Kennedy was a four-time best and fairest winner with the Hawks during his playing career in the 1950s and then coached the club to its first three premiership in 1961, 1971 and 1976, Mr Goyder said Kennedy's greatest legacy would be the values that drove him, and that he imparted upon all those who came under his direction.

The Kennedy family continues to leave an enormous mark on our game's history and we are thankful we had the privilege of John being involved in our game

- Gillon McLachlan

"John Kennedy was about service, about dedication, the importance of respect and the primary quality that you committed your actions to the words you spoke," Mr Goyder said.

"He gave everything he possibly could to both Hawthorn and North Melbourne in the pursuit of success, but his approach to life, and how it should be lived, was imparted upon all who moved within his circle, be that as a player, a coach, a mentor to emerging leaders within the game or the head of the game itself when he was chair of the AFL Commission.

"He was rightly named a Legend of the Game earlier this year and, on behalf of the wider game, we are delighted that he was able to receive this honour and be celebrated for his contribution. Our sincere condolences are with children Maureen, John, Bernard and Patrick and their families.

03:42 Mins
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Hall of Fame Legend: John Kennedy snr

Hawthorn's spiritual father John Kennedy becomes the 29th Hall of Fame Legend

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AFL Chief Executive Gillon McLachlan said Kennedy remained an example in all his dealings with him, and it was his privilege to personally tell him of his Hall of Fame elevation earlier this year in March.

"My first dealings with John Kennedy, as Chief Executive when I came into this role, were as part of the AFL Life Members' Nomination group, in which John's knowledge and breadth of relationships across our game were vital in determining who would receive the honour of Life Membership.

"He was always fair, but strong and direct in his assessment of people and their qualities and contribution, while remaining modest around his own vast contribution to the game.

"When I visited him at his home earlier this year to talk about Legend status, he listened politely for a few minutes to my attempts to eulogise his career and time in the game, but he couldn't wait to turn the conversation away from himself and to how Hawthorn might go this year, and his thoughts on what 'Clarko' would do next to surprise the competition and lift the Hawks back up the ladder.

"The Kennedy family continues to leave an enormous mark on our game's history and we are thankful we had the privilege of John being involved in our game," he said.

In the lead-up to this year's Hall of Fame induction, the Kennedy family assisted the AFL with arranging a long-form interview with Mr Kennedy to cover his time in the game.

A long-form story on Kennedy's time in the game, from that interview as part of the Hall of Fame, can be accessed here 

John Kennedy Career Record:

  • Played 164 games and scored 29 goals for Hawthorn: 1950-59
  • Club Captain: 1955 - 1959
  • Club Best & Fairest: 1950, 1951, 1952, 1954
  • State Captain of Victoria: 1957
  • Played 4 State games for Victoria
  • Coached 412 games for Hawthorn and North Melbourne: 1957, 1960-63, 1967-76, 1985-89
  • Three-time VFL Premiership coach: 1961, 1971, 1976
  • Two-Time Night Premiership coach: 1968, 1969
  • Coach of Victoria: 1973
  • Hawthorn Team of the Century: 2001 (Coach)
  • Inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame in 1996 (Coach)
  • Inducted into the Hawthorn Hall of Fame as a Legend in 2003
  • Chair, AFL Commission: 1993 – 1997