Sydney Swans assistant coach Tadhg Kennelly says he’s relishing working with “a really good blend” of midfielders in his newest role at the club.
The 2005 premiership star took up a role in development when he returned to the Swans ahead of season 2018, before overseeing defence in 2019 and taking charge of the midfield unit with Jarrad McVeigh for 2020.
As the Irishman nears the end of his first pre-season as midfield coach, he says he’s thriving off working with established stars and bright young footballers.
“It’s great, it’s exciting. You’re coaching some of the best players to have ever played the game, like Josh Kennedy who’s a great clearance player,” Kennelly told SwansTV.
“Then we have Luke Parker and George Hewett and our ruckmen are up and about. Sam Naismith is looking good and coming back into the fray, and Callum Sinclair is impressing.
“Then we’ve got the young boys – the young bulls – in Ollie Florent, James Rowbottom, Justin McInerney, James Bell and a host of others.
“There’s a really good blend of youth and some unbelievable experience.”
Kennedy and Parker will further decorate their careers this year when they reach their 250th and 200th AFL games respectively.
Kennedy is on track to join the 250-game club as Sydney meets Carlton at the SCG in Round 4, while Parker is set to notch a double ton when the Swans face the Giants in Sydney Derby XIX at the SCG in Round 5.
At the other end of the age spectrum, Florent, Rowbottom, McInerney, Bell and a number of other young Swans have been working tirelessly on their midfield craft during the pre-season sweat.
Rowbottom featured in 12 senior games in his debut 2019 season and is intent on playing a full season in the top league in 2020.
Kennelly has full faith in Sydney’s emerging band of midfielders.
“Yeah, 100 per cent (they’re set for big years),” Kennelly said.
“James Rowbottom has had a fantastic pre-season, as have James Bell and Justin McInerney. They’ve all tasted AFL football and Rowy got a good block of senior football in his first year last year. He’s a doer, he just wants to get things done and he gets it done. There’s not a lot of fuss with Rowy, Belly or Justin. They’re real workhorses. They’ve got endurance and a good ability to work up and down the ground, and we’ll definitely be looking for them to play some wing roles throughout the season.”
Kennelly played 197 AFL games with Sydney after crossing from Ireland’s county Kerry in the Gaelic Athletic Association ahead of season 2000.
He returned to Ireland to win a GAA title with Kerry in 2009, before playing another two seasons with Sydney in 2010 and 2011.
Before joining the Swans’ coaching panel ahead of season 2018, he had a job with the AFL in which he recruited talent from Ireland, the USA and New Zealand, while he also coached the NSW/ACT Rams’ under-16 and under-18 sides.
Kennelly sees his new role as Swans midfield coach as another opportunity for growth.
“It’s exciting for myself that I’m getting a taste of different lines and different areas of football,” Kennelly said.
“I’m consistently developing as a coach and as a person and it’s been great to taste a different role every year. It’s exciting, it’s refreshing and it keeps you invigorated every year.”