Dean Gale

“…if you want to be a heavyweight… you’ve got to be prepared to put up with some pain. Otherwise, (you) just float along…avoid massive disappointment…but never give yourselves the chance to genuinely compete, and find out about yourself.”- Alastair Clarkson, Hawthorn Football Club Coach, to his players immediately after losing the 2012 AFL Grand to the Sydney Swans.

As a huge Hawthorn Football Club fan, and having enjoyed sustained success over the last 10 years the last few weeks have been challenging.

Firstly, the team, having been a kick away from progressing closer to a record breaking 4th straight Premiership, instead proceeded to be bundled out of the finals in straight sets. Very un-Hawks like! Saying that, the writing, if truthful, was probably on the wall. The team had scraped into a coveted top 4 position on the ladder at the end of the season by virtue of its ability to win a series of incredibly tight games. Throughout the season, they won where just one goal the other way would have meant a very different win/loss record at the end of the year. These close wins were testament to the experience of a core group of senior players who kept finding a way to win games that many thought the team should have lost.

Which brings me to the second point. Having relied so heavily on those senior players the club then decided over the last couple of weeks to trade two of them – two of their most decorated players – to other clubs! Not only were both 4 time Premiership players, but they were also the Best and Fairest and runner up Best and Fairest in the 2016 season for the club!! And now the club was moving them on?!?!?! What the!!??

Alastair Clarkson is the senior coach who guided the team to Premierships in 2008, 13, 14 and 15 and has now made the tough calls that facilitated the trades. Whilst acknowledging the loss of these two great players, he is also very clear that his responsibility is to the club as a whole and as painful as it is to see them go it is for the long term good of the club, its culture and its future success. It’s part of a bigger plan that isn’t always clear to those on the outside and I’d guess not even to those on the inside other than maybe a small group that make up the Senior Leadership Team.

Now I don’t know Alastair Clarkson personally and doubt very much he would recall our chance meeting in Adelaide at the Tour Down Under where I bumped into him (some might say chased after him!) and got this photo with him under the guise it was for my Hawks loving son! What I do know though is how much respect I have for him as a leader of his organisation.

Everything I understand about him suggests he is incredibly passionate about the Football Club, his players and staff and he is always looking to evolve and grow. It’s no small thing either carrying the hopes and dreams of over 72,000 members of the club!

SO why am I telling you this? (Oh and just to be super clear – it’s not because we are letting any of our current crop of Phuel Champions go!!!)

Two Reasons:

Unbeknownst to me, LinkedIn had decided it was my 14 year anniversary at Phuel (which I thought had passed under the radar a couple of weeks ago). It has been a genuine delight to receive so many congrats messages from people I’ve met over the journey of that 14 years. Amongst them were messages from ex Phuel Champions reminiscing about “old times” and shared experiences. It made me realise that whilst at the time losing talented teammates, just as Hawthorn are doing right now, seemed far from ideal, it also meant bringing in new talent to Phuel, regeneration, new energy and passion, fresh ideas and thinking and new opportunities for all of our team and our clients. A valuable lesson for our business.

It also highlighted for me how, like Clarkson, I feel absolutely honoured to have had, and continue to have, the privilege of working with such a passionate and talented team at Phuel. As many of the messages I got acknowledged, 14 years is a reasonable stint in most people’s eyes and, a la the 2012 Hawks, rest assured it has had its ups and downs. But as Clarkson said to his players back then “you’ve got to put up with some pain to give yourselves the chance to genuinely compete and find out about yourself”. Planning for our continued growth and success – our next Premiership campaign – I love working with a team who aren’t prepared to “just float along”, want to compete and find out about themselves and one another. That’s where growth comes from.
Oh! And by the way – over the years I’ve found out plenty about myself..but that’s a story for another day.

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