IN THE bowels of the Sydney Olympic stadium late last Friday night, a virtually anonymous former AFL player stood outside the raucous Sydney Swans dressing rooms and waited for his son to emerge, chuffed that he had qualified for his first grand final.
John Kennedy jnr is a four-time premiership player with Hawthorn and the son of Hawks father figure and legend John snr, but his loyalties were clear on this night.
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His son Josh, of course, plays with the Swans, somewhat painfully so for the Hawthorn faithful after the 2009 trade in which three draft selections fell Hawthorn's way in return for Kennedy and Hawk forward Ben McGlynn. Tonight, barnstorming Kennedy is perceived as having some chance to win a Brownlow Medal, Australian football's most famous individual honour. Next Saturday, he presents arguably the biggest single threat to Hawthorn's quest for an 11th premiership.
Such is the way of the modern game. Not even the fact he was the grandson of the definitive club legend, a man whose statue peers out over the club's headquarters at Waverley, changed Hawthorn's thinking at the time that it had too many of the same type of player.
Kennedy snr told AFL.com.au last night he could not wait for the game. ''As they say at every civil function, may the better team win.''
Asked who he was barracking for, or even who he'd be tipping for the season-ender, the 83-year-old avoided a direct answer. ''I don't barrack, I just explode,'' he joked. He then conceded: ''I'll be happy if Hawthorn win.''
But the Hawks' first premiership coach couldn't be more content. ''I'm happy all round, a very happy fella,'' Kennedy snr said.
He said he has no regrets about his grandson leaving Hawthorn, saying he has no right to interfere. ''That's his business. I'm happy that he's playing well and that he's keeping his head on his shoulders.
''I think that football's a game where everyone puts in for the team, and Josh has done that. He's been a team-oriented player.''
Josh, 24, will not be at the Brownlow Medal count at Crown; the Sydney players will remain in Sydney at a hastily organised club function tonight, to watch it on TV.
It is the grand final that is at the forefront of their minds, and the same goes for Hawthorn, whose players gathered at Waverley for a recovery session and media commitments yesterday.
''They've got some hard players, especially 'Joey' Kennedy,''
said Cyril Rioli, Hawthorn's dynamic forward, who represents a problem for Sydney.
Rioli said he expected some banter between Kennedy and his former teammates.
''There's a few guys here who are pretty close to Joey. I'm sure they'll talk, but it won't be too much.''
As much as Hawthorn squirms each time Kennedy manages a personal triumph, it can argue that movement between clubs is commonplace.
One of its own stars, Luke Breust, was a rookie-listed player with Sydney and part of the Swans' premiership in the reserves in 2007. Like Kennedy, he was the one who got away.
''I don't think I was ready back then,'' said Breust, who grew up in the New South Wales Riverina.
''I was probably good enough for that second-tier competition that I played in for Sydney. Even the first two years at Hawthorn, I was still very light. I got to the club at 70 kilos.
''I'm playing at 80 kilos now. It's a fair difference.''
Grand final week begins today with the usual scramble for tickets and the Brownlow count.
At Hawthorn yesterday there was no sign of Hawthorn captain Luke Hodge, who withdrew from the preliminary final against Adelaide, the club saying he had gastro.
Already there has been wild speculation as to whether he has another injury.
Hodge is expected back at the club today.