ASK Kevin Sheehan about any AFL player and he won't simply tell you which club he plays for or in which position he spends most of his time. Chances are he'll know which junior club he came from, what his parents' names are, how many possessions he averaged at the under-18 championships, what his best 20-metre sprint time is, and anything else you wish to know. There is no person more passionate about the AFL's emerging young players than Sheehan, the league's national talent manager of more than 30 years.
Sheehan played 102 games in nine seasons with Geelong, but it is off the field that he has helped grow the game. After starting out with the Cats, where he combined his football with a promotions role, he joined the then VFL as its first full-time development officer in 1983. Over the years he has played a key role in establishing and growing the national competition, helping set up VicKick (now Auskick) for youngsters, dismantle the 45-year-old club-based under-19 competition and establish its replacement, the TAC Cup junior league.
Sheehan also helped set up the national under-16 and under-18 championships, as well as the AIS-AFL Academy, a nine-month program for the country's most talented junior players. After the national player draft was introduced in 1986 he set up the draft camp, now called the Combine. International expansion is the next challenge.