Sheeds axed: He knew it was coming but is still surprised

By MIKE HEDGE

TWO in three days, three in nine and four for the month. AFL coaches are falling en masse, but none in the history of the game has been dropped from the height of Kevin Sheedy.

The man who has guided Essendon through 629 games over 27 years, who has won the club four premierships and who has been its heart and soul for a quarter of a century, has been axed.

Sheedy is the AFL's longest serving current coach. By a long way. But it mattered little yesterday as he became the latest casualty in one of the bloodiest football seasons ever.

Sheedy, 59, who coached his first game at Essendon before most of his current team was born, will go at the end of the season, joining the ranks of the already-sacked trio of Neale Daniher, Chris Connolly and Denis Pagan.

According to Sheedy and Bombers' chief executive Peter Jackson, the news they delivered yesterday was no surprise. It didn't make it any less momentous.

Sheedy said he and Jackson had spoken about his departure in January and again in May.

The official line was that they had agreed Sheedy's contract would not be renewed when it ran out at the end of this year.

But the arrangement doesn't seem to have been as cosy as that, with president Ray Horsburgh later admitting the club moved on Sheedy on Tuesday because they didn't want to be left behind while Melbourne, Fremantle and Carlton stepped up the search for new coaches.

"I don't think it's necessarily correct, or a mistake," Sheedy said of his sacking." I knew, but I would have stayed if I could."

Sheedy will finish his time at Essendon with a coaching record second only to Collingwood legend Jock McHale, who coached the Magpies in 714 games from 1912-49.

On July 14, Sheedy broke McHale's record for the most games as an AFL player and coach and has taken that figure to 880.

Sheedy pointed out yesterday that McHale died a few years after retiring. With that in mind, and because he loves the game, Sheedy will be looking for a new team.



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