Mark Duffield: Why Josh Kennedy deserves his place among West Coast Eagles’ five best-ever players
Wiser journalists always told me not to bury the lead to a story so here it is: Josh Kennedy is one of the five greatest players ever to play for West Coast.
Here is how I arrived at that conclusion.
There have been three premiership eras at the Eagles, each of them boasting very good teams with a string of very good players.
Mick Malthouse’s team of the 1990s played in three grand finals, won two flags and made finals 10 years in a row.
John Worsfold’s team played in six consecutive finals series, including back-to-back grand finals for one flag.
And Adam Simpson’s team that played finals from 2015-2020 made two grand finals and won the 2018 flag.
There are six players from the first era worthy of consideration for the top five: Peter Matera, Glen Jakovich, Dean Kemp, Peter Sumich, Guy McKenna and Worsfold.
There are four from the second: Chris Judd, Ben Cousins, Dean Cox and Darren Glass.
There are five from the third: Kennedy, Jeremy McGovern, Nic Naitanui, Elliot Yeo and Luke Shuey.
The tough part of this exercise is not including players, it is excluding them. They are all great players from their own time. There are others who I haven’t named, such as Shannon Hurn from the current era or Ashley McIntosh from the Malthouse era, who come perilously close.
How do I get from 15 down to five? I have picked Matera and Jakovich from the first era, Judd and Cox from the second and Kennedy from the third.
Here are the reasons.
1. CHRIS JUDD
Put simply, he is the best player ever to have pulled on a West Coast jumper. He played 134 of his 279 games for the Eagles before the shift to Carlton. He won the first of his two Brownlows at the Eagles, played the best football of his career there and while West Coast have produced many great players, Judd was head and shoulders above all of them at his best.
I would put the other four in no particular order. Let’s go through them in chronological order.
2. PETER MATERA
He played in a great midfield but was the X factor in that midfield. How many blokes do you know have kicked five goals off a wing in an AFL grand final? And even if you could find another one, how many of them would have booted three in the elimination final and two along with 35 disposals in the second semi final of the same year? He was brilliant and devastating and the best of his type – that puts him just ahead of Cousins and a little way ahead of Yeo and Shuey.
3. GLEN JAKOVICH
Sometimes you are ultimately defined by who you have played on. A list like this has to have at least one defender in it and Jakovich shades McGovern and Glass. He played the key-position role which puts him ahead of McKenna. He also played successfully on Wayne Carey, not to mention Chris Grant. As scalps go these are as good to have on your resume as you can possibly have. Worsfold is slightly different – there for leadership and standards as well as ability – but his ability should not be underestimated that he was an All-Australian in two of his first four seasons. That’s big but not quite big enough to put him ahead of Jako.
4. DEAN COX
He played 290 games and while he is not as good a tap ruckman as Naitanui, he brought so much more. He re-defined the ruck role with his ability to gather big possession tallies and use the ball like a midfielder. Later in his career when it was suggested he did too much of this, he reverted to a more traditional ruckman, took critical contested marks and played as well as at any time in his career. He played at such a high level for so long he picks himself on this list.
5. JOSH KENNEDY
There has to be a forward on this list and once you accept that, Kennedy has to be it. Peter Sumich was very good and great in finals series from 1990 to 1994. Kennedy became a very good player in 2010, his third season at the Eagles and has been a great player since then. He is the perfect power forward for the modern era of press and team defences when big forwards have to be prepared to operate in traffic and shoot from wider angles. He always provided an option, always gave a contest and kicked more goals from tough angles then mere mortals.
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