Vale Keith Koehne – a personal reflection

Keith George Koehne (18/06/29 – 08/07/23)
Coach, Flinders University Football Club (1966 to 1971; and 1975)


By David Looker (BEc(Hons) ’70)
Flinders University 1966- 1969 | Treasurer Flinders University Football Club 1966- 1968; VP 1969


In 1966, Flinders University opened its doors to approximately 400 students, home to a small number of brand-new buildings and a muddy unsealed road into the campus.

Excellent playing fields were ready and early in the first semester Dr Barry Boettcher, known thereafter as ‘Doc’, called a meeting in the science block of students who might be interested in playing Aussie Rules Football. It was well attended, and a committee was formed to get the club going and help raise funds. Flinders University Football Club had been entered into Amateur League A4 and A5. Two teams were formed.

The position of Coach was advertised and Keith Koehne, who had played for both Norwood (in Colts and Seconds) and Payneham, was jointly chosen by the Doc, the newly-elected Captain Daryl Teague and President Rob Chesterfield. The latter thought Keith, at 36, was ‘pretty old’ – but of course the committee and players were 17 and 18-year-olds. We agreed to a starting fee of $250, covering the more than 20 games played per year, almost sixty training sessions, intervarsity and selection meetings.

In the first five years of the club, Keith melded a team that progressed though A4, A3, A2 and then into A1. The only pause was in 1967 as many key players had to continue medical studies at Adelaide University and Keith was stood down by the Amateur League for the balance of the season following an incident after a game. His absence was palpable. He returned the following year and progress resumed with premierships in 1968, 1969 and 1970. Keith remained coach until 1971, returning for a season in 1975.

Keith’s passion was infectious. He was committed to the task, ran training twice a week, coached skilfully on Saturdays, and became a mentor to hundreds of young men who never forgot the dedication and commitment he conveyed by example. He was a shrewd judge of character and tactics, was tough but very fair and clearly loved his players who equally respected and befriended him.

As Professor Bill Heddle observed of the first year in his eulogy at Keith’s memorial service, “every player had the same level of support and advice.”

Keith’s wife, Linda endured countless after game get togethers and selection nights in the kitchen. Their two children, Alison and Andrew to this day remember being kept awake by the celebrations in their home the night Flinders beat Adelaide University and won the (now vanished) Ligertwood Cup for the first time.

Over the years, many maintained contact with Keith. He remembered dozens of names and the roles they had played, even in specific games, and he followed their progress through their careers. At occasional reunions he could greet many from that era fifty years ago by name.

In his personal life, he and Linda brought up two highly accomplished children. He played golf and tennis very well, as well as bowls later in life, and was a competitive chess player. In 1981 he completed a Bachelor of Education and taught at Pulteney Grammar School for 21 years. He coached school sports and a number of other football clubs.

Keith died in the Flinders Hospice on 8 July 2023 after courageously refusing further treatment. At a meeting just two days before he died, he lucidly recalled these early years at Flinders and asked about the wellbeing of many players by name and recounted the specifics of a successful position change he made in the 1968 Grand Final to turn the game around.

Farewell Keith…. from all the ‘early days’ at Flinders University Football Club.

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