Eagles’ Kennedy ready to fire again

ALEX MASSEYNorth West Telegraph

Even in Port Hedland, Josh Kennedy can’t escape the intense scrutiny levelled at his approach to goal kicking.

Standing in front of a group of Pilbara high school students last week, the only questions which protruded from the audience were on the West Coast forward’s unorthodox “twinkle toes” method in front of the big sticks.

You know the one – it’s a wobbling, ungainly stutter which resembles the first few steps of a newborn giraffe.

Kennedy explained to the starry-eyed teens that they should stick to whatever felt comfortable, but later confessed he hoped the kids did not take his advice too seriously.

“I wouldn’t be teaching that run up,” he said, repressing a grin.

Team mates, coaching staff and the wider Eagles fan base will also struggle to hide their joy with news that Kennedy, after a 2012 that at times was as jagged and interrupted as his set shot, has never felt better.

The ankle injury which robbed the Geraldton native of all but nine games last year has been put to bed, and Kennedy is ready to re-create the form which saw him bag 59 majors in a break-out 2011 season.

“The ankle is all pain-free. I had six weeks off during the offseason and did absolutely nothing on it.

“I came back a little bit unfit but we’ve got to a point now where the fitness is back and the ankle is fine, I’ve got no troubles with it,” he said.

Turning 26 in August, Kennedy is adamant his best footy is yet to be played.

But with the departure of fellow tall and West Coast life member Quinten Lynch to Collingwood, Kennedy will be expected to handle an even greater offensive workload this season.

It’s a challenge the 196cm East Fremantle product said he wanted, and expected to be well-supported by partner in crime Jack Darling.

Rather than feel threatened by Darling’s superb 2012, in which the 20-year-old booted a club-leading 53 goals, Kennedy is anxious to renew their growing reputation as the AFL’s best one-two punch inside forward-50.

“Obviously losing Lynchy we lose a tall so Jack and I will have to rotate that high forward, but it’s not going to be a drama,” he said.

“The best thing about having Jack there is that he can play anywhere. He took it upon himself last year and he’s really grown as a player.

“He’s the up-and-coming young forward (of the competition) and he’s going to be a superstar and it’s exciting to play out there alongside him because of his speed and athleticism and his strength … you sometimes sit there in awe.”

Kennedy said the return of Mark LeCras and Mark Nicoski would further bolster a West Coast attack which, in the trio’s absence, still managed 2244 points last year – fifth best in the league.

He revealed 2012 draft pick Adam Carter had been a stand-out on the training track this preseason while Collingwood recruit Sharrod Wellingham would add an extra dimension to the Eagles midfield.

“For a young kid, (Carter’s) bodywork and fitness have been exceptional since rocking up,” he said. “Sharrod is a great player, he was at Collingwood and he will be here. He’s going to bring another flavour to our midfield, which is starting to get pretty potent.”

Kennedy, who is expected to line up in this weekend’s NAB Cup tripleheader against Fremantle and Geelong, said last year’s injury had given him some perspective. He realises footy won’t last forever.

Already an entrepreneur of sorts – Kennedy owns two businesses in Perth, mattress suppliers Sleepy’s and removal company Josh Kennedy's Small Moves – he is giving serious thought to life after of football. Just don’t expect it to be in coaching.

“Not with that run up,” he said.

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