When Harry met Josh in Northampton
When Harry met Josh in Northampton

One-time Northampton under-12s coach Harry Taylor had a standard reply for enthusiastic parents who regularly inquired if he thought his son, another Harry, and a lanky young Northampton teammate named Josh Kennedy would make it to the AFL.

"They did stand out and a lot of people used to come up to me and ask if I thought Josh, Harry or both would make it and my comment always was the same," he recalled.

"I said I think they will both play WAFL. I would never have said AFL even if I thought it because you would never want to put pressure on young boys at that age.

"They got to WAFL and they have gone a lot further which is fantastic."

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The time was the mid-1990s, the place was the rich football breeding ground of the Great Northern Football League; more specifically the small town of Northampton which had just sent Daniel Chick to AFL ranks via East Fremantle and was in the process of producing Fremantle star Paul Hasleby, again via the Sharks.

Harry Taylor, the younger, was already one of Northampton's best players. Kennedy, the son of two accomplished basketballers, Jamie and Jenny, was just starting out in the sport.

Tonight, as he sits in the grandstand at Patersons Stadium to watch one of the biggest games of the year in which the former teammates will, in all probability line up on each other, Taylor Sr might allow himself a moment's reflection that West Coast's star forward and Geelong's star defender took their first football steps under his tutelage.

Not that he is taking any credit for it.

"I just tried to teach them the rules and let them enjoy themselves at that stage - enjoy their footy," he said.

"They will be playing on each other. I reckon they will be, for sure."

Taylor clearly remembers when Kennedy first joined his son in the Northampton juniors.

"I remember it plain as today. Josh came and his mum said he had only ever been involved in basketball and he didn't know too much about footy, but it probably only took him five or six games and he started to pick it up," he said.

"He just kept going from strength to strength. I think it was just the 12-and-unders at that stage.

"They were that good. They were the easiest two to coach that you could get. They could play all over the ground and sometimes they did, ranging from full-back to having a go in the ruck, full-forward, wherever - you could put them anywhere.

"Harry played most of his junior footy as a forward and even when he played seniors in his first year at Geraldton he played centre half- forward. I think he kicked five goals in a semifinal.


"Josh was pretty tall for his age and I used to ruck him. We won more than we lost but we didn't get to the finals as such. I think we finished about fourth or fifth.

"It was (a strong competition) and Northampton - we didn't have huge numbers, we had enough for a team and a couple to spare but we always filled a team and got on the field no worries."

Remarkably three of Australia's best young key-position prospects came from the same small area over a space of about three years.

Taylor is a year older than Kennedy, who in turn is a year older than Essendon's Paddy Ryder, another product of the Geraldton-East Fremantle football assembly line.

Kennedy and Taylor both won junior footballer of the year awards, but soon trod different paths.

Kennedy chose football over basketball and headed to East Fremantle to play colts and State 18s. Overlooked by East Fremantle's local recruiting net, the Shark pack, Taylor moved to Geraldton and played for Rovers, spending a year working after he left school - something his father still reckons helped strengthen his lanky frame.

"He worked at a place called Blockmakers who were making constituted limestone blocks and it was pretty physical," he said.

"The same place is still going now and they have spent a million dollars going automated, but back then it was all lifting, and him and a couple of young fellows that also played football for Rovers worked there.

"I think that actually helped to build Harry up a bit. It was pretty heavy work and the lifting probably helped to build his shoulders up a little bit even back then."

When he went to Perth to study, the Sharks soon realised they had a hidden gem in their ranks.

"We never pushed him with his footy at all," Taylor Sr said. "From what he told us, he just walked into East Fremantle one day and asked if he could have a training run with them.

"They watched him train a couple of times and then said 'you better join up with us'.

"By the end of the year at East Fremantle, he was all over the ground like he was back in his junior days. If the ruckman got injured, he rucked as well.

"He is very dedicated. He puts a lot into it in his own time. It is something he has always just done himself."

Taylor Sr will take an extra interest in one of the absorbing contests in tonight's clash. He stopped coaching local juniors when Harry started playing seniors at East Fremantle and now his main football involvement is making the odd trip to Victoria to watch Harry play.

"I am pretty chuffed that I was fortunate enough to be able to coach both of them in the same team at that early stage - that young junior age," he said.

The West Australian

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