Has Essendon just become raging premiership favourite following the announcement that Kevin Sheedy, super-coach and AFL living legend, will not be coaching the club next year?

At a press conference called for midday, Essendon chief executive Peter Jackson announced the club would not be renewing Sheedy’s contract for 2008.

Speculation has surrounded Sheedy’s future since the start of the season, prompting the club to assure supporters that no decision would be made until season’s end.

But the departure of head coaches from Carton, Melbourne and Fremantle, and speculation about Geelong and the Kangaroos, has forced Essendon’s hand.

“We have to get in the game as far as a new coach is concerned,” Jackson said. “It’s been a very difficult decision, its been a challenging decision. He has had the most profound effect on the football club.”

The move brings to an end one of the greatest playing-coaching careers Australian football has seen. Sheedy played 251 premiership games for Richmond, including three premierships, and has coached Essendon in 629 games for four premierships. This year is his 27th as Essendon coach.

Sheedy’s Farewell Tour begins this Sunday against Adelaide at Docklands Stadium. Essendon needs to win four out of their last six games to earn a finals spot.