Footy in Melbourne: A Business Parable

AFL game in Melbourne

Most of Melbourne is well and truly in the grips of another dramatic footy season, replete with exhilarating triumphs and gutting losses, brilliant stars and formidable teams. At Talent, this is the sixth year I have organised our contractor and client footy tipping competition, and we are thrilled to have 530+ participants this season.

Footy in Melbourne is more than just a game of sport, it is a common ground to engage with people and get to know them, often it is a conduit for our shared values of hard work and respect for courage. In a world built by teams of people working together in business, government, and all industries from construction to healthcare, footy represents the pinnacle of high performance teamwork. While only the rare talented few become professional sportspeople, we can all relate to what makes a team achieve mastery.  The key elements of footy: bringing people together, true grit and teamwork are also important to business success.


Business Relationship Building      

Footy is regularly the go-to subject for small talk in business. It provides a narrative structure for people to reveal much about themselves – showing knowledge of and being generous about the performance and prospects of the team supported by the person you’re talking to shows them you are a considerate and decent person. From this position if you lightly tease their team later they know it’s in good spirits, and that you’ll accept some sledging back. From here you have the foundation for a business relationship that goes beyond transactions and it creates a mutual understanding, some shared values, a sense of humour and the beginnings of trust. 

In Melbourne, I know from experience that building long term success in business requires strong long term relationships. Footy is often an easy foundation to starting and maintaining business relationships, whether you take clients to the footy and celebrate/commiserate with a few beers together or just chat about it as small talk at the start of a meeting. Footy also provides a social structure for people at different levels in business to interact, from graduates to senior executives; footy banter allows people to drop formality and embrace the egalitarian nature of Aussie society and enjoy each other’s company.  



Footy fans admire courage in the face of adversity, and the shared experience of adversity often brings people closer together. For those who have played, or been the parents of young players, in a team that won a grand final, the shared joy of 150+ people hugging each other in the change rooms after the game is something you will never forget. 

This team camaraderie, optimism and a shared sense of fighting spirit builds resilience that overcomes the harsh conditions, injuries and gutting losses. Fans also know the pain of watching their AFL team endure shocking losses, and we’ve all witnessed AFL fairy tales where the underdog has fought hard for years to eventually claim glory. The resilience of players in teams to keep training hard after innumerable losses and the mental strength to keep fighting to turn around a losing game is essential to success. This is similar in business – it’s a cliché for a reason, an overnight success is really the result of 10+ years of hard work, and many successful business leaders will highlight the importance of consistency in hard work regardless of the ups and downs in order to achieve long term success.


High Performance Team Culture

High performing teams are essential to long term business success. From my experience at Talent and recruiting people for my clients, I know that high performing teams will always beat a group with a few brilliant individuals. This truism applies to a recruitment company, a large technology division within a corporate company, a start-up tech business, or a footy team. For a footy example look at Chris Judd at Carlton, a brilliant individual who won two Brownlow medals, but the team was not great, so success was not realised (I am a long-suffering Carlton member by the way). The opposite is the modern fairy tale of the Western Bulldogs – a team of arguably mediocre players, but together as a team they played out of their skins and for each other, and they won a flag against the odds. This high performing team spirit and culture is the Holy Grail in business just as much as it is in footy.

Facing a challenge together as a team, overcoming the odds to achieve a great result and then celebrating your success is the hallmark of a good business culture. Whether it is a large complex IT projects with a tough deadline, a business integration or transformation, or a business growth target for a consultancy or recruitment agency. Being in a team with a shared goal affords the opportunity for everyone to feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves, it offers a sense of belonging and provides everyone with an important part to play.


I hope you enjoy the rest of the footy season, and your footy and business team achieve that high performance culture that allows them to excel. If you are looking to hire the next talented person for your team, or looking to join a high performing team, please feel very welcome to contact me or the team today.