Swans, Eagles enjoying the Kennedy years

Number one: The Swans’ Josh Kennedy celebrates last year’s premiership triumph over Hawthorn. Photo: Paul RovereIf you could have one name playing for your club it would likely be Josh Kennedy.
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Even before Josh Kennedy headed home the winning goal that sent the Socceroos to the World Cup, his AFL namesakes had already gone a long way to ensuring 2013 would be a memorable year for the name with their efforts for their respective clubs.

Sunday’s clash between their teams is shaping as an occupational hazard for broadcasters as they are likely to spend much of the game having to differentiate between the pair.

Both are integral members of their teams and will have major, but very different, roles to play.

Sydney’s Kennedy will be in the engine room winning the hard ball for the Swans’ band of runners while the Eagles’ Kennedy will be catching the eye in the forward 50, not least for his comical, yet effective, goal-kicking technique.

The Swan is one of the leading possession-winners in the competition while the Eagle is sharing the lead in the Coleman Medal race. But which Josh Kennedy would you rather have at your club?

Both players are on track for All Australian selection this year. Should it happen it would be the first time since a pair of Jack Clarkes from Essendon and East Fremantle achieved such an honour in 1958.

Former Geelong premiership captain Tom Harley is a fan of both Kennedys but would happily take the Swans No.12.

Based in Sydney through his role with AFL NSW, Harley has seen the Swans play more often than the Eagles but it’s what the Kennedy wearing red and white does in big games that pushes him over the line. Not only did Kennedy star in Sydney’s September campaign last year, he was a runaway best-and-fairest winner in a premiership season.

”There are so many individual awards in the AFL, whether it’s media, Brownlows or MVPs, but if you want a true gauge on how good an individual year is I think best and fairest in a premiership year is about as good as it gets,” Harley said.

”Given it’s a premiership year you’ve played in a lot of big games and more often than not contributed significantly. On that basis I’d say [that I’d take] Josh from the Swans again.”

He rates the Eagles’ Kennedy highly and believes he is well placed to collect his first All Australian jumper at the end of the season but stops short of describing him as a ”dominant key forward” just yet.

”That’s not downplaying his influence on the comp but I think Josh Kennedy from the Swans can mount a case he’s in the top half a dozen players in the comp and top two, three or four midfielders in the competition,” Harley said.

What Harley admires most about Kennedy is his consistency – a trait upon which Swans coach John Longmire recently remarked.

The Sydney ball magnet leads the league for contested possessions, is second for clearances, averages 27 disposals a game this year and has had fewer than 20 possessions in just two of his past 43 games.

”If you put his form line on a graph it would be flat line with the occasional earthquake tremor heading north but he’s been a phenomenal player,” Harley said.

”He never loses his feet. He’s a classic big-bodied midfielder who a lot of clubs would love. Sure key forwards are a point of difference but how many clubs have a six-foot-three, 94-kilogram midfielder who can run all day, use the ball well and move forward and kick goals?

”I put him in the class of Jobe Watson, Ryan Griffen. Once you throw out those names it reinforces his standing in the game.”

Harley can remember playing on West Coast’s Kennedy before he was traded to the Eagles in the deal that netted Carlton Chris Judd and it did not take long for him to identify the then Blue as a player worth keeping an eye on.

”He had unbelievable athletic ability,” he said.

”You think people would be foolish to judge Josh Kennedy and make comment on him purely on his goal-kicking technique because it’s become a bit of a comedy. But he’s deadly accurate and takes contested marks and kicks goals. When I played on him you got the sense of his athletic ability but didn’t get the sense of the fact he’d dominate the competition or be an extremely good key forward in the competition because he was so young.”

The Swans, with their depth of tall stocks being tested, would dearly love a forward of Kennedy’s calibre but not at the expense of their reigning club champion.

”I’m happy with ours but I like the other bloke, too. Can I have two?” Longmire said. ”I’m sure both coaches are happy with their Josh Kennedys.”

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

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