Kevin Sheedy – A (brief) World View

When given 10 minutes to interview the great AFL legend, Kevin Sheedy, as an Essendon supporter the temptation is great to blow it all on talking about the premiership years, the North Melbourne “Marshmallow Incident”, the West Coast “Jacket Waving” or a thousand other personal interests.

In Cairns for last year’s Gold Coast Suns v Western Bulldogs clash, talk could have drifted to that topic, or the injury to Gary Ablett, or just about anything to do with football in North Queensland. But true to the occasion I was restrained enough to keep the conversation in the domain of international football and was rewarded with a brief but fascinating point of view from one of the most creative and successful people in the history of the AFL.

The initial question was very broad. When asked about his opinion of international footy he responded “It’s great. We have the best game in the world and we have do develop it and encourage it. We have to give it lots of encouragement for it to succeed overseas. It is important for the future of the game that we develop it in markets everywhere.”

“The thing is we have to adjust it. We just can’t expect to take the game to other countries that don’t play it as widely as here and expect them to just change everything there to accommodate it. We have to change the product if necessary to make it fit there. Not all countries have the grounds to support 18 a side. So we modify it. I don’t care how. Just do it.”

I told him of the work being done in Croatia to have a full size field in use at the University of Zagreb. “That’s fantastic!” he said.

As with everything that Kevin has done before, he takes a lateral view towards what can be done to make the change. Totally aware of the nine per side format, he is still an advocate for changing numbers to suit. “I don’t care if we play 14 a side and drop the whole midfield. Look back at the old VFA in its heyday. They played without wings. Just 16 per side. That worked, and I have been trying to get the AFL to look at that through the NAB Cup. We need to adjust our thinking each year and make allowances for change. We need to look at ways to make the game better. Always looking at what our markets want.”

Kevin agreed that for the growth of the game overall the game had to be fluid and ever changing. He also believes that the conventional 18 per side playing format adopted in Australia is unique to our country and not necessarily the format needed everywhere.

On the subject of taking the game overseas, Kevin sees that “one day we will be playing matches for points in bigger locations that New Zealand. This was not a knock on the recent matches, but a warning to the world that New Zealand was the first step and bigger ones are to follow.

“More people watch our game in the U.S.A than here in Australia. That’s a fact. Mind you, they have over 300 million people over there, and just five percent of their market is 15 million people. That’s more than here, as we only have 23 million. But it’s a fact that there is a market overseas. They will come if we take the product there.”

On this he alluded to the idea that by taking the big AFL games to international centres, likely the centres that already have a healthy Australian Rules following, it will generate the enthusiasm to grow the game in that location.

He continued by saying that he went to Disneyland to see first-hand how to market, as part of his annual learning. He was studying lateral thinking and also employing De Bono’s “Six Hats” theory (processes, facts, feelings, creativity, benefits, cautions) and admitted to be given a task by the AFL to fill the MCG. As he says “we don’t need State Of Origin matches to sell out the MCG. Look what happens – all that does is put Penrith on top of the ladder. We have ANZAC Day, we now have “Dreamtime at the G” and I’m working on another one now.” It is that kind of thinking, if applied to the concept of growing the game internationally, which could herald a new era of overseas development.

Maybe the message here isn’t to wait for the AFL powers here in Australia to be the winds of change. Let’s lobby to get one Kevin Sheedy on the case.

I did manage to get time to talk with him about issues which would benefit my own team and club, particularly working to develop further local indigenous talent and how to get my own team to win their next three games against top sides to reach the finals…well, I was with Kevin Sheedy. Who better to help me?

But the overwhelming success of the interview was his genuine belief that the game needs to be developed further internationally for the growth of the game.

And as long as people like Kevin Sheedy are around, I am pretty confident that one day the world of international Australian Rules will be even bigger and better than it is now.

Adapted from original article published by World Footy News.

About Wesley Hull

Passionate lover of Australian Rules football. Have played and coached the game and now spend my time writing about the game I love and introducing young people to the game through school coaching. Will try and give back to the game what it has given me for more that 40 years.


  1. Great read Wes,
    I’m not a big wrap on Sheeds but acknowledge that he been good for football even if most of his push sought to benefit the clubs he coached which is fair enough. That said, without the Sheedy’s of the world it would be a dull game indeed.

  2. G’day Wesley,

    It’s interesting to read and I feel how Sheedy is passion on spreading the Australian footy. I admire him what he has been doing and having flexible ideas.

    But I wonder if he can work hard to establish a footy club for Tasmania. Even Tasmanians barrack for various AFL clubs, I think they want their own club. I hope it happens soon.

    Happy New Year to you!


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