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GRAHAM Arthur needs just one word to sum up John Kennedy Sr. - inspirational.
Arthur, a Bendigo Football-Netball League Hall of Fame member, will always hold a link to Kennedy for their involvement together in Hawthorn's first VFL premiership team of 1961.
Kennedy, the AFL legend who died on Thursday aged 91, was coach; Arthur was captain.
"The way John spoke... he was just so inspirational for our footy careers," Arthur recalled on Friday.
"And when John was captain he led the side in a very aggressive manner. In his playing days John was a fairly keen ruckman who gave it all every game."
Kennedy captained the Hawks from 1955 to 1959 before hanging up the boots to embark on his legendary coaching career.
Arthur, who had arrived at Hawthorn in 1955 from Sandhurst and won the first of his three best and fairests in his debut season, took over the captaincy from Kennedy in 1960.
As captain, Arthur was the playing leader of what became known as "Kennedy's Commandos" - the group put through rigorous training sessions that would pave the way for the premiership success in 1961, while Kennedy also coached Hawks' flags in 1971 and 1976.
"The main venue we'd go to for those training sessions was at the Yarra River down near Scotch College. We'd go swimming in the river and there was a rope course where we'd do a lot of rope work, which was good for building up strength in the arms and shoulders," Arthur said.
"It was very challenging and John certainly made sure it was competitive.
"I was very fortunate to have John as coach because he was very special.
"He was very direct and easy to understand with one thought in mind, and that was to win, and that was always brought out in his pre-match addresses where his voice would always be raised to the utmost.
He was very direct and easy to understand with one thought in mind, and that was to win, and that was always brought out in his pre-match addresses where his voice would always be raised to the utmostGraham Arthur
"That was part of his character and helped him to be a very successful coach."
With Kennedy as coach and Arthur as captain, Hawthorn defeated Footscray by 43 points in the 1961 grand final - 13.16 (94) to 7.9 (51).
"We still live off that one a bit... it was very special because the Hawks hadn't won a flag until that time," said Arthur, who kicked one goal in the grand final win.
"And having John as coach made it all the more special because he was such a dedicated person.
"He just loved Hawthorn and always set the example."
Arthur, now 84 and living in Kew, played 232 games for the Hawks, 103 of which were coached by Kennedy.
Arthur says it was a tough day on Thursday upon hearing of the death of Kennedy, who only last month was elevated to Legend status in the Australian Football Hall of Fame.
"It was a very sad day for all of us who played under John... it was hard to take," Arthur said.
As well as their bond together as captain/coach of the 1961 premiership team, in 2001 they had the same honour bestowed upon them when Hawthorn selected its Team of the Century.
Not surprisingly given he's revered as the godfather of Hawthorn, Kennedy was named coach, while Arthur, who was picked on a half-forward flank, was anointed as captain.
Arthur himself also had a stint as Hawthorn coach, leading the Hawks in 1964 and 1965, and three decades on in 1996 was one of the inaugural inductees into the AFL Hall of Fame.
Arthur was also an inaugural Bendigo Football League Hall of Fame inductee in 1986, while in 1970 after his VFL career had ended he coached Echuca to the BFL premiership against his original club, Sandhurst.
And it's at Sandhurst where some of the seeds that would lead to Kennedy becoming one of the game's all-time great coaches were helped to be sewn by the Dragons' own coaching godfather.
Back in 2012 Kennedy spoke to the Bendigo Advertiser about the influence Bob McCaskill had on him.
McCaskill is a legendary Bendigo league figure who coached Sandhurst to nine premierships between 1926 and 1940, including the record stretch of six in a row from 1929 to 1934.
After a coaching stint at North Melbourne following his Dragons' success, McCaskill was later appointed coach of Hawthorn in 1950 - also Kennedy's first season at the club.
"All young players, even now, are very impressed by their first coach at that level, and for me that was Bob McCaskill," Kennedy said.
"Bob made a big impression on me. He was such an outstanding personality that you just couldn't help but be affected by his life in general.
"He was way ahead of his time with his ideas on football. 'Kick it to the open spaces' he would always say.
"He was always wonderful in his talks to us because he really inspired his players with the way he put things.
"However, the results didn't give a great image of Bob because we didn't win a game in his first year at Hawthorn.
"But he had that great ability to have me and my team-mates thinking we were going to win every week.
"Even after we had lost 17 games and came to play Melbourne in the last match in 1950, he had us convinced we were going to beat Melbourne.
"We didn't win, but such was his personality, he had us all believing we would.
"He was a very hard taskmaster. We would have match practice that was sometimes tougher than the games we played.
"He had various drills out on the training track where we learned to go in hard and protect ourselves."
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Those sessions under "taskmaster" McCaskill certainly sound similar to what Kennedy's Comandos must have later gone through, too.
Known as one of football's great orators - his "Don't Think, Do" speech at half-time of the 1975 grand final is now an iconic part of the game's folklore - Kennedy's two years spent under McCaskill left an indelible mark throughout his 412-game coaching career.
"I used to quote Bob a lot because he said a lot of things that stayed in my mind," Kennedy said.
"I guess it was a combination of what he said, as well as being the person he was. He was a very big influence on me."
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