Came from: Geelong Went to:
First game: 11 April 1965 Last game: 28 June 1981
Appearances: 221 Goals: 192
League Rep: 16 Premiership: 1968
Other clubs played for: 1957-59 North Geelong, 1960-64 Geelong, 1970-71 Jerilderie (c-c).
"I was 21 years old and was told I was too young to coach the seniors. They (Griffith) offered me the Under 19s job but when Peter Morris decided not to renew his contract but buy a farm at Deniliquin, they changed their mind and appointed me their new coach." It was in this manner that Kevin Kirkpatrick, considered one of the toughest pound-for-pound footballers ever to play in the Riverina, left Geelong in 1965 after five seasons to start a playing stint with the Griffith Swans that lasted until he was 36.
Today, aged 46, Kirkpatrick is still associated with Griffith at a non-playing level as coach of the reserve grade. While Kirkpatrick gave Griffith his all on the field despite his lack of both weight and height, he came in a big king-size pack and was less favoured by the opposition.
"Billy Goggin taught me many of his tricks. He gave me back-handers in practice matches and at training. He'd kick the ball right out of your hands. "There was no kicking in danger rule then - that's how I learned my style of football - I had too if I wanted to stay around. "It probably made me a hard footballer - you had to learn to protect yourself," Kirkpatrick said.
Kevin wanted to get the record straight in relation to his robust style. "Everyone called me a kicker - but I was kicking at the ball ... you were allowed to in those days. "At Geelong we trained that way ... and my grounding was to play hard. "We had it grounded into us ... and we were judged on our vigour."
Kirkpatrick's football career began at North Geelong Primary School and later with the Under 15s at North Geelong Football Club. He was born in Ascot Vale in January, 1944, and the family moved a number of times between the country and city as his father sought work, before settling at North Geelong.
At 16, I was invited to join the Cats' Under 19s, in 1960. "We were runners-up to Collingwood for the premiership when Barry Rist was captain. (Rist later coached at Ardlethan and Ariah Park-Mirrool). After winning the Under 19s premiership the following season, Geelong moved Kirkpatrick to reserve grade where he played for two years, but not before he served a suspension - copping four weeks for abusing an umpire.
His two years in the lower grade earned him two senior matches - against Fitzroy and Essendon. "I played in the defensive pocket, picking up the rovers. "Against Fitzroy I had a god game and held them (rovers) goal-less. "When we played Essendon I had to cover Jackie Clarke and John Birt. "It was the days when you throw the ball in front of you as you were being tackled. "They Clarke and Birt would race down the flanks bouncing the ball. But they never had it when you grabbed them. They kicked five goals and that was the end of me. I realised I had a long way to go," Kirkpatrick said.
But while Kirkpatrick struggled to retain a place in the seniors, the Cats regarded him high enough to take him to America for the first historic overseas promotion of Australian Football, in 1963. "The game in San Francisco against Melbourne was one of the dirtiest I'd seen." Kirkpatrick failed to make the team but said that officials of both sides had built up a hate campaign against each other. Probably, the small American ground added to the tension of the game and the players reacted strongly.
In 1964, Kirkpatrick elected to train with South Melbourne, then based at Lake Oval. "I was unhappy about not getting regular games in the seniors with Geelong (VFL premiers in 1963 in both firsts and seconds with players such as Polly Farmer, Billy Goggin, Paul Vinar, John Yeates, Geoff Rosenow, John Sharrock, Doug Wade, Alister and Stewart Lord, John Devine, Fred Wooler, Tony Polinelli) but Geelong refused to clear me.
He told the seconds coach, Neil Tresize: "I won't be here next year."
Griffith's Bob Spears had seen Kirkpatrick play one of his senior VFL games. The Swans had been beaten in the 1964 South West League grand final by Ganmain, with a miracle goal on the siren from coach, Tom Carroll. Morris had left Richmond to coach at Griffith and could have had the job again in 1965. But when Morris decided to buy a rice farm at Deniliquin, the Swans changed their original offer to the 21-year-old Kirkpatrick.
"I was appointed the senior coach, probably one of the youngest ever to coach in the League. "Leeton were chasing me but when Griffith rang back with the senior job, I decided to take it." When asked why he decided to coach, Kirkpatrick said, "I thought I'd gone as far as I could in the VFL."
Griffith's president was Ian Salmon and when Kirkpatrick drove to Griffith for the interview, on a hot Saturday afternoon in January he was not impressed. "I had driven across the Jerilderie plains and didn't know what I was coming to," "There were a lot of good footballers in the South West. Barry Rist was at Ardlethan and Ray Dawson at Leeton; they were two of the best.
The Swans finished the 1965 season exactly the same as the result in 1964 - beaten by Ganmain in the grand final. Temperatures in the mid 90's Fahrenheit dehydrated players as a scorching westerly covered the ground with a dust haze and heralded the three-year drought that was to grip the country.
Again in 1966 the Swans wallowed in the misery of grand final defeat - this time at the hands of Narrandera with Noel Anderson as coach. In 1967, in Kirkpatrick's third year as leader, the Swans finished fourth, with Narrandera sealing back-to-back pennants with a win against Leeton.
"I was assistant coach to Ron "Peggy" O'Neill when we beat Ariah Park-Mirrool for the 1968 flag." And Kirkpatrick's recalls of the most sensational grand final of them all - in 1969 when Ganmain beat Griffith by two points, was just as stunning as the actual day. Kirkpatrick cited his reason why the game was turned around - O'Neill's continual abuse of the VFL umpire and the extra 25 free kicks awarded to Ganmain as a result.
Kirkpatrick explained his reasons why he decided to coach Jerilderie in 1970 and 1971. "I'd been king hit five times in the first half of the 1969 season. I told the committee I was going to move.
Agreeing that his reputation as a football toughman was overtaking him, Kirkpatrick said: "It's not a squeal as I was brought up on hard football - but I considered myself a hunted man." He said he was playing continually against a concentration of physical attention from opponents. "Everyone called me a kicker but they forgot I was kicking at the ball. "You were allowed in those days, it was my style of football," Kirkpatrick said.
He returned to Griffith in 1972 as assistant coach to Ron Russell. Kirkpatrick's return cemented his intention to live permanently in Griffith. He was a paid player until 1977 and coached the reserves and played seniors through 1978, 1979 and 1980.
Although non-playing senior coach in 1980 and 1981, due to the Swans basking on youth and local talent, he still played a number of games through the 1981 season. His long career had included about 15 representative matches and 10 grand finals, winning five flags. (Stars of the Past with Jack Luhrs - The Daily Advertiser, Thursday, February 22, 1990).