Posts in February

A Gillard, Rudd, Oakeshott, Windsor, Wilkie Leadership Group?
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A Gillard, Rudd, Oakeshott, Windsor, Wilkie Leadership Group?

I have a solution to the latest crisis engulfing the Australian Labour Party. It will avoid the rancour and retribution currently on show and which apparently will be settled today. As with any solution worth its salt it has evolved from our first and abiding love… sport.  As the various winter codes beat their chests and dive headlong into their seasons, a curious phenomenon has emerged. I say emerged but in truth it started its seductive invasion a while ago and is now engulfing sport, male and female, big and small. Who knows it may even have hit you at your local club. It is this weird concept of the ‘leadership group’. In the olden days a simple © beside a name in a team list sufficed. It signified authority, respect and leadership – this person was the captain, trusted and wizened and able to make unilateral, on field decisions for the good of the team. But the professionalised and commercialised world that sport now inhabits it is apparently no longer enough. AFL, ever at the forefront started it via their embracing of a ‘player empowerment leadership model’. Consequently St Kilda have eight players inhabiting their leadership group and the Sydney Swans recently announced the addition of two players, Ted Richards and Nick Smith to theirs. Ok I can cop, except for the fact that the group already had seven in it and now numbers nine! South Sydney, hardly seen as paragons of modern organisational theory have installed Michael Crocker, Roy Asotasi, Sam Burgess, Matt King and John Sutton to lead the Rabbitohs this year as (and I quote their website) “part of a leadership group which is charged with captaining the side week-in and week-out”. Part of the leadership group! Heavens above! Even in netball where there are only seven positions on court at any one time the Swifts have anointed Australian Diamond reps Mo’onia Gerrard and Kimberlee Green as co captains. So with sport showing us the path to true enlightenment I give you Gillard and Rudd as co captains! No wait, while we are at let’s throw in Wilkie, Oakeshott, Windsor and yes Therese too! You wouldn’t do it would you? So why do we do it in sport?

This post appeared originally as Monday’s Expert in the Northern Star on February 27th

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Gold Coast: United with Who?

You really have to wonder about Gold Coast United. Forget the ludicrous ‘captain on debut’ fiasco of the last few days, almost from the moment they came into existence in 2009 they have proved to be the most difficult child of a largely dysfunctional family. The family has sought much expensive counselling and is improving year on year but its cussed offspring has learned not a single lesson from the travails of its siblings and is now firmly rooted at the bottom of the table. For all the well-catalogued management misdemeanours and downright ridiculous decision-making, the most galling and glaring oversight is the total lack of engagement with, well, anybody! They seem at permanent loggerheads with the A League and a number of other stakeholders but it is with their local communities that the club has failed time and time again. In sport management 101 eager young minds are taught the benefits of what the modern lexicon refers to as ‘community engagement’. It is an ongoing but simple lesson of respect and realisation that the grass roots are largely responsible for the very existence of any franchise. Whilst community engagement is a many-headed monster it is far from rocket science! Yet those running GCU must have been either absent during that lecture or at least have been prevented from putting their knowledge into action? Despite finishing in the top four in both their debut and second seasons this is clearly illustrated by average crowds of around 5 500 and 3 300 respectively with the lowest figure a dismal 1 714 people for a game against the now departed NQ Fury. Membership levels are paltry. It’s not as though they don’t have shining examples all around them! The Gold Coast Titans are past masters at the medium and well prior to their debut season last year their AFL counterparts on the Coast were spruiking among kids and white shoed brigade alike. For both it is part of their core values and it shows! It’s not a money thing, it is a state of mind thing and it reeks of respect and responsibility. Reach out as the Reds, Suns, Titans have all done and you will reap the rewards.

This post appeared originally as Monday’s Expert in the Northern Star on February 20th

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Commission not a Magic Bullet

Well I guess it had to happen? After a prolonged and difficult gestation the Australian Rugby League Commission finally came into this world on Friday 10th of February. The passing of a ceremonial baton was a bit cheesy but nevertheless signified a significant advancement for what some call the ‘greatest game of all’. For my mind the sport was actually in a pretty healthy state before it adopted this particular system of governance, at least in comparison to a whole host of other sports in Australia. The challenges the game faces are very real however but the really big ones will come from within.  The broadcast deal will take care of itself and you can forget the so called war with AFL. Sure there is ebb and flow in numbers, minds and wallets but no one sport will ever dominate in our crowded sporting landscape. The real problems lie in the complacency that might accompany the birth of the Commission. Don’t for a minute believe that it is a magic bullet or some sort of panacea for the game. It ain’t! The Commission merely gives the game a much needed independence but little else. No the real battle will be in the clubs themselves. For some reason they think the Commission, once it lands the vaunted gargantuan tv deal will solve all their problems. That they will pocket more money is a lay down misere but with that will come increased conditions regarding the manner in which this largesse is spent as well as the governance of the clubs themselves. Quite simply they will be called to account.  The salary cap will be raised but the Commission will ensure that it doesn’t spiral endlessly upwards and that it is spent wisely.  The pursuit of success in sport is a heady mix of expectation, aspiration and greed as a quick look overseas quickly affirms. As more cash flows to them the clubs will be obliged to engage further with their lifeblood grassroots fans and not be permitted to devour themselves for the want of a premiership. The Commission is undoubtedly a boon for rugby league but it will demand the clubs play their part.

This post appeared originally as Monday’s Expert in the Northern Star on February 13th

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