Is Josh Kennedy really finished?
West Coast’s all-time greatest goalkicker still has plenty of petrol in his tank. His stunning eight-goal display against Adelaide in his final game on Sunday proved it.
And let’s not hear that his knees can’t work through another pre-season and beyond. The same was said of Norm Smith Medallist Andrew McLeod for the last 200 of his 340 AFL games.
Shaun Burgoyne was not supposed to get through two seasons at Hawthorn after leaving Port Adelaide. He joined the 400 Club on wobbly knees.
So why can’t Josh Kennedy have history repeat, just as unfolded in 1977 when Peter McKenna — after a year out of VFL football — moved across the great divide to join Carlton from Collingwood?
Fremantle needs Kennedy. The Dockers must pitch him an offer he cannot refuse so that he ignores the option of retirement to become a critical part of Fremantle’s premiership push.
The Dockers officially qualified for their first top-eight finals series since 2015 by chalking up their 13th win of the season on Saturday against the Western Bulldogs — in Melbourne.
Fremantle has put together an impressive season full of resilience and character. Winning a final would have their year judged as a raging success.
A premiership would complete the circuit of “expansion” teams from South Australia and Western Australia all having AFL premierships.
Unfortunately, Fremantle is not good enough to win this year’s flag.
However, the Dockers are capable of saluting next season if they address the big, critical need to find a match-winning forward.
Rory Lobb again proved why he is Fremantle’s most potent key forward with a four-goal haul against the Bulldogs. He has kicked a team-high 34 goals. He also leads the team in contested marks and marks inside-50.
Lobb will not be at Fremantle next season. He is joining the Western Bulldogs. Dockers fans should savour his final games, he is soon to set sail for another AFL club — his third.
The club’s second-best tall forward, Matt Taberner, fell to another soft-tissue injury during the first half on Saturday. There is doubt whether he will return for the finals series.
Taberner has already missed seven games this season. He has struggled to impact games when he has played. He turns 30 next year — and the club must have doubts on whether he has the athleticism and durability to lead the attack.
Captain Nat Fyfe is the third-best forward target. He remains on the sidelines where he has spent a large chunk of the past five seasons. Any time Fyfe takes the field again will be a bonus.
If it is not Lobb, Taberner or Fyfe, who will kick the bulk of Fremantle’s goals next season?
It will not be Melbourne ruckman Luke Jackson, who is sure to sign with Fremantle during the upcoming trade window.
Despite spending a large portion of his playing minutes resting as a forward, Jackson has kicked just five goals from his past 14 games. He will not help the Dockers end their forward woes. His is not the answer, not one bit the answer.
So, Fremantle must make Kennedy a compelling offer. He is the obvious short-term solution on the doorstep.
West Coast finishes 2022 as one of the worst teams in AFL history. The club has won only two games and is shamed by a percentage of just 61 per cent. The Eagles have lost nine games by 50 points or more.
Despite this, Kennedy has kicked 37 goals in 15 games, three more than Lobb at the Dockers. He has kicked multiple goals in a game 11 times.
Fremantle coach Justin Longmuir spent seven seasons at the Eagles as an assistant coach. During that time, he developed a strong relationship with Kennedy. They describe themselves as “great mates”.
Kennedy also lives in Fremantle.
Fremantle’s offer for Kennedy should involve attractive financial terms and security. A four-year contract (two years as a player and two years as an assistant coach) valued at $1.6 million would be hard for him to pass up.
Also, the guarantee that he would not have to present for pre-season training until January and a commitment to rest him periodically throughout the home-and-away season, particularly from some of the club’s arduous away fixtures.
Upon retirement, Kennedy has no regrets.
“Look, I think they’d be pretty silly to offer me something,” he told 6PR. “You kind of drive home after the game as I have done many times going ‘I could still play, I should go round again’, and then you wake up Monday morning, and you start to hobble around and go ‘that’s the reason why I’m not playing footy anymore’.”
This should not deter Longmuir and the Dockers. Kennedy will be feeling refreshed and rejuvenated after a four-month holiday.
If the Dockers do not act quickly to entice Kennedy, rival clubs that are desperate to strengthen their key forward posts, such as Melbourne and Collingwood, will swoop.
The advances in medical techniques and recovery methods will help to manage his troublesome knee — as Adelaide discovered with Andrew McLeod and Hawthorn with Burgoyne.
Luring Kennedy out of retirement is a long shot. The thought of him crossing to Fremantle would have seemed fanciful one. But who ever thought we would see Hawthorn legends Sam Mitchell and Luke Hodge finish their careers away from the Hawks?
Likewise, Lance Franklin is considering leaving Sydney for Brisbane to play for a third club at the age of 37, once his grand nine-year contract expires at the end of this season.
Kennedy’s playing record is already superb. He is West Coast’s greatest player, but his legend would grow further if he were a driving force behind the Dockers’ first premiership.
Fremantle has a problem. It must be bold and creative to solve it. The answer is before the Dockers’ eyes. They cannot afford to blink.