The football world is mourning the loss of Hawthorn legend John Kennedy snr, who died peacefully on Thursday morning aged 91.
Kennedy leaves a special memory among the Wimmera's footballing fraternity, having coached the Stawell Football Club for two years while working as a school principal in the region.
The three-time VFL premiership coach took the reins of a dogged Redlegs outfit in 1965 and led them to within inches of Wimmera Football League glory, going down to Warracknabeal in the 1966 grand final.
Ian 'Ernie' Brilliant was just a bright-eyed junior when Kennedy thrust him into Stawell's senior team for the 1966 season.
"He was a great man, a very great man. I was only 16 when I started and he took me under his wing. He told me things that I didn't realise would happen in footy and I can't speak highly enough of him," Mr Brilliant said.
"The first day I played I started on the bench and my father was on the bench with him. (Kennedy) just moved away and sat beside me and he was just teaching me. He'd say 'did you see the run here', he wasn't concentrating on the seniors he was just he was teaching me. I never forgot that."
Brutal training regimes became a hallmark of Kennedy's coaching career, turning an unremarkable Hawthorn unit into 'Kennedy's Commandoes'.
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Mr Brilliant remembers Kennedy as a "tough as nails" coach, who always had time for his playing group.
"His football brain was just phenomenal, he was just that far in front of everyone else, at least up this way anyhow," Mr Brilliant said.
"I can still remember the first night I went to preseason, we went on a six or seven kilometre run and he nearly beat everyone home. He was standing at the gate watching us all come in.
"Central Park was flooded one night and we were all in the sheds thinking 'oh we're not going out here'. He walked in he and just said 'what are you all sitting here for, get out there, take your boots off and off you go'. That was the way he was, tough as nails but he always spoke well."
Mr Brilliant forged a decorated career of his own, playing over 220 games at both the Stawell Football Club and Warriors Football Club and was made a legend of the club in 2015.
Kennedy returned to Hawthorn in 1967, but the pair stayed connected through football.
"I was coach of the Warriors (in 1980) and we won the first grand final and I didn't know what was going on and what I would do for the next year. I'd ask him things and he sent me up a couple of books. He got David Parkin (four-time premiership coach) to send me up a book too," Mr Brilliant said.
"That was just the type of bloke he was. He'd do anything for ya."
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