Sheedy first to 900 mark

KEVIN Sheedy has always been a man of vision.

It was 'Sheeds' who really pushed Aboriginal recruitment, the increase to the interchange bench and the introduction of the rookie list; was the driving force behind feature matches such as Anzac Day and Dreamtime at the 'G; and was the brains behind the AFL's SportsReady traineeship program - the feather in his cap, he says.

But even he probably didn't foresee himself ever coaching again after he was overlooked for the top jobs at Melbourne and then Richmond following Essendon's cutting of red and black ties with him in 2007, after a staggering 27 seasons in the job.

Just a couple of months after the Bombers announced they would not renew his contract, Sheeds applied for the Demons position made vacant by Neale Daniher's departure, only to be beaten by a then largely unknown Dean Bailey.

Almost a year on, Sheeds was keen on returning to the club where it all started for him as player in 1968, Richmond, when the writing began appearing on the walls at Punt Rd that Terry Wallace's time was almost up. He didn't get a look in, the Tigers board opting for fresh blood in Damien Hardwick, a premiership player under Sheeds.

After jet-setting to all corners of the globe as the sport's official ambassador, Sheeds was to return to the coaching coalface after all, hired by the AFL itself in 2009 to oversee the establishment of a second franchise in the toughest market in the land.

Whether the now 64-year-old is actually the nuts and bolts coach or more of Sir Alex Ferguson Manchester United-type face of the club means little when it comes to the record books.

And he goes down in history this Sunday as the first person to notch 900 VFL/AFL games as a player and coach.

For the record, he played 251 games for the Tigers, predominantly as the niggling back pocket, before crossing to Essendon in 1981 and coaching in 635 games, including 7 grand finals for four premierships (1984-85, 1993, 2000).

He will add a 14th game to that tally on Sunday when he takes charge of the GWS Giants in their clash with Hawthorn.

Third on the list of 'Most Games as Coach', there is no chance Sheeds will ever catch Jock McHale's record of 713, which includes almost 100 as playing-coach.

And though he has got at least another year left in him and is a mere 17 games behind, there is a chance he may not overtake his former Richmond teammate Mick Malthouse in second place either.

Malthouse, who began with Footscray in 1984, before winning premierships with West Coast (1992, '94) and Collingwood (2010), just might find himself back in the coaching ring next season, with Carlton.

Incumbent Blues coach Brett Ratten appears to be on borrowed time. On the eve of the season, the normally level-headed for club captain told the Carlton faithful his side was a certainty for the top four.

Big statement. Big mistake.

As usual, when coaches are in the gun, the words "at this stage" have been trotted out by Blues president Stephen Kernahan when asked if the board is backing 'Ratts'.

But looming large over him is the shadow of Malthouse, who 'only' turns 59 next month.

He clearly wasn't ready to relinquish the coaching reins at Collingwood last year and looks to still have that steely determination.

His manager, Peter Sidwell, said yesterday he wasn't interested in any coaching job ... "at the moment" and "at this point in time".

That "time" will probably be September.

There has rarely been a dull moment while Sheeds has been around, his gift of the gab first recognised by the Tigers early on when they made him full-time promotions officer - a first for the competition.

He looks like US actor/comedian Robin Williams and is probably more entertaining. At a press conference in 1993 he avoided being sanctioned by the AFL for criticising the umpires by referring to them as Martians, and then described Kangaroos executives Greg Miller and Mark Dawson as "marshmallows", because of how soft they were. He was subsequently pelted with actual marshmallows by Roos fans when their side played the Bombers later that year.

 

MOST VFL/AFL GAMES (player/coach)

  • Kevin Sheedy 899 (251/648)
  • Jock McHale 878 (261/713)*
  • Mick Malthouse 838 (174/663)
  • Leigh Matthews 793 (332/461)
  • David Parkin 729 (211/518)
  • Ron Barassi 718 (254/464)
  • Norm Smith 659 (227/432)
  • Allan Jeans 652 (77/575)
  • Robert Walls 606 (259/347)
  • Tom Hafey 589 (67/522)
  • *McHale had 100 games as player/coach

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