In 1966, Kevin received a letter inviting him to train with Richmond in the old VFL. He had to look twice at the letter.
At the top it said Richmond Football Club. At the bottom the word Richmond also appeared, under the signature of the author. That was Graeme Richmond, one of the greatest football administrators in the history of Australian football. He was ruthless, and he taught his players to be ruthless. If players didn’t perform, they just disappeared.
Kevin reckoned Graeme had a trap door in his office. During his time at Richmond, Kevin was known for his ruthless behaviour, things that would probably get you a long suspension in this day and age.
“If Graeme told you to go out there and get somebody, you knew what you had to do,” Kevin says.
“You also knew if you didn’t you might find yourself standing on that trap door.”
After suffering a knee injury in his first full season at Richmond, Kevin showed his usual determination to get back to full fitness. Then in 1969, came a moment he still cherishes as if it was yesterday – the premiership in the year of the Tiger. The Balmain Tigers won the rugby league in Sydney, the Claremont Tigers won the WAFL, the Glenelg Tigers won the S.A.N.F.L. and Richmond won the VFL.
Kevin’s celebrations were short-lived however. His number had come out of the barrel and he was called up to do National Service. On Saturday, he played in front of a packed MCG. On Monday, he fronted up to have his hair cut and become Sapper Sheedy. He remembers his time in the Army with as much affection as he does the days at Punt Road. He helped the Puckapunyal Australian football team to two premierships. He also won two more premierships with Richmond.
But when the Tigers sacked Tommy Hafey, some of the spark went out of Kevin’s game. Hafey was more than a coach to Kevin; he was a great friend, even a surrogate father after his own Dad.
As Kevin puts it: “As one Tom left my life, another one came into it.”
But with Tom Hafey no longer a part of Richmond, Kevin soon found himself in Graeme Richmond’s office, edging towards that infamous trapdoor. In 1979, he decided it was time to retire. In 1980, he was an assistant coach to Tony Jewell when Richmond won the last of its premierships. He then convinced Essendon he should be the first full time coach in the history of the game.
How much did his years at Richmond influence his early days at Essendon?
“He took everything that wasn’t nailed down,” Tommy Hafey said.
Tommy is always full of praise for Kevin the footballer.
“He wasn’t the greatest of footballers, but he got everything out of himself that he could,” Tommy says whenever he’s asked about Kevin, which is quite often.
“In the end we could even put him in the centre.”
Now that’s a rap for a back pocket, if ever there was one.