Inside story: How Main Groups helped form the face of soccer, from Sydney’s ‘Bloods Culture’ to Hawthorn beneath Alastair Clarkson

Alastair Clarkson tipped in a beer and poured out his soul.

At a Geelong pub early in his time at Hawthorn, Clarkson shed his hardened exterior and opened up as a susceptible husband, father and son.

He shared childhood tales about rising up in Kaniva, a distant city near the South Australian border, and plotted his teaching timeline to Waverley.

“That vulnerability certainly had an impact on the group,” twin premiership Hawk Brad Sewell mentioned.

“He advised us issues we hadn’t heard earlier than and, at that time, wouldn’t have been straightforward for him to discuss.

“You stroll away from a dialogue like that seeing a special aspect to the bloke. He’s not simply the coach, however he really does have a household.”





It was the primary of numerous instances that Clarkson was forward of his time.

How typically has Luke Beveridge’s emotional intelligence or Damien Hardwick’s heightened engagement been linked to their membership’s premierships?

Main Groups co-founder Kraig Grime, employed by Hawthorn when Clarkson arrived in 2005, laughs on the newest teaching fad.

“We’ve been doing that for 25 years,” Grime mentioned.

“Clarkson opened up and shared his journey — it was very emotional. It allowed the gamers to go, ‘He’s an actual man, how can I not assist him?’

“He’s really right here for the appropriate motives. It’s to not personal a vacation home and have a pleasant automotive.”

At his first Hawthorn session, Grime stood in entrance of 60 folks and requested: “What does the competition say about us?”

Digital camera IconMain Groups performed a job in serving to form Hawthorn’s period of success.Image: Information Corp Australia, Alex Coppel.

“We filled a whiteboard,” he mentioned.

“That’s what folks say of you, however what would you like them to say? Why would they are saying that?

“What behaviours can we at the moment show that will lead the competitors to suppose that we’re celebration boys? Or that we’re straightforward beats?”

In 2003, fellow Main Groups co-founder Ray McLean helped set up the famend “Bloods Culture” at Sydney.

McLean requested Swans gamers at a Coffs Harbour pre-season camp how they wished to be perceived.

“They spoke about the fact that in the 1940s and ’50s we were called ‘The Bloods’ and were a really hard, physical team,” McLean mentioned.

“That whole essence was really what they wanted to capture and they did. Then you go into the detail — you select your leaders around those behaviours.”

An open management vote put in Stuart Maxfield captain and he was the No. 1 driver of The Bloods.

Adam Goodes and Barry Corridor missed out. With out open suggestions, Goodes may need walked away grumpy and questioning why.

However his teammates advised him.

“Goodesy was probably the best professional preparer in the group,” McLean mentioned.

“But he didn’t bring others with him. Once he actually started to bring (young) players along and influence them, he quickly converted.”

Peer assessments generally contain gamers filling out three headings on a chunk of paper — one thing to cease doing, begin doing and preserve doing.

A Leading Teams session contributed to Jason Akermanis’ downfall at Western Bulldogs.
Digital camera IconA Main Groups session contributed to Jason Akermanis’ downfall at Western Bulldogs.Image: Information Restricted, Michael Klein.

Western Bulldog Jason Akermanis couldn’t take care of his suggestions — which focused his beard, hair and trademark handstand — likening it to office bullying as he was sacked in 2010.

Are there risks handing out what Sewell described as “really confronting feedback” in an open discussion board?

“They’re not dangers, they’re risks,” McLean mentioned.

“If it was dangerous you wouldn’t do it. The risks are it’s going to cause you to have some conversations.”

Grime insisted they had been solely carried out in secure environments.

Geelong introduced in Neil Balme after its failed 2006 season and he enlisted Main Groups. With an older listing and time working out, the peer assessments didn’t miss.

“You got put out the front and basically hit with a baseball bat from your teammates 25 times,” defender Matthew Scarlett mentioned.

“They tell you all the things you’re doing wrong. They nailed me, Moons (Cameron Mooney) and Gaz (Gary Ablett).”

Mooney and Ablett had been jolted when their self-discipline and coaching depth had been lashed respectively.

However Scarlett mentioned it had a “good impact” — and the Cats gained three out of the subsequent 5 flags.

LEADING Groups is about empowerment. That’s why Clarkson used to run coaching classes at which the coaches wouldn’t communicate.

The leaders needed to take cost.

Then, the subsequent week the coaches and the leaders had been silent. It compelled the core group to speak extra.

Sydney coach Paul Roos and his assistants used to watch coaching from the SCG company packing containers and watch as their player-led classes ran seamlessly.

McLean as soon as requested a rival group what would occur if the coaches didn’t flip as much as coaching. He mentioned they’d most likely all go dwelling to mattress.

The primary empowerment instance got here from St Kilda’s Stan Alves in about 1995, when he stood to the aspect of coaching and let his gamers run a drill.

“And he was rebuked by a board member,” McLean mentioned.

“The perception was Stan should be in the middle yelling and roaring and blowing whistles. That’s fine, but on game day you can’t do that.”

Stan Alves was one of the first coaches to embrace empowerment with St Kilda.
Digital camera IconStan Alves was one of many first coaches to embrace empowerment with St Kilda.Image: Information Restricted

Alves was the primary to ask Main Groups into the AFL and was broadly criticised when he broke custom by naming a management group, as a substitute of a sole skipper.

Then, he despatched the soccer world into frenzy by naming Stewart Loewe and Nathan Burke co-captains in 1996.

“It was just too far before its time, really,” McLean mentioned.

“The last word a part of our work is when you’ve got the gamers educated sufficient they behave extra autonomously on the sector.

“You have a look at Luke Hodge and Sam Mitchell and so they’re all giving course on the sector and (waving their arms). Effectively, that wasn’t an accident.

“That was six to eight years within the making, as a result of they didn’t come to the membership like that.”

LEADING Groups then unfold like wildfire.

Tony Shaw launched it at Collingwood after which his assistant, Danny Frawley, took it to Richmond in 2000.

Tigers captain Wayne Campbell ultimately took it to the AFL umpires whereas Clarkson first noticed it at St Kilda, when he was Tim Watson’s assistant in 1999, after which at SANFL membership Central District, which signed up again in 1992.

The one golf equipment that haven’t engaged are West Coast and Higher Western Sydney, though coaches Adam Simpson and Leon Cameron witnessed it as assistants to Clarkson.

Geelong, Hawthorn and Sydney personal 36 out of the 88 seasons Main Groups has run, and so they shared 9 premierships from 2005-15.

Leading Teams helped bring the historic Bloods culture back to Sydney which led to the end of the club’s premiership drought.
Digital camera IconMain Groups helped carry the historic Bloods tradition again to Sydney which led to the tip of the membership’s premiership drought.Image: Information Corp Australia

“Wayne Campbell once said when Richmond finished with us that it was the dumbest thing they ever did,” Grime mentioned.

It was an analogous story at Hawthorn, which dumped Main Groups in 2011. Then, after the 2012 Grand Remaining loss, chief government Mark Evans known as McLean in for an audit.

It led to an explosive pre-season camp in the summertime of 2013.

“There were certain things that happened throughout 2012 that you couldn’t shy away from,” Sewell mentioned.

“A couple of guys we hadn’t heard from put their hands up and told a few home truths. It was things that needed to be said and things that needed to be heard.”

Luke Lowden, who was then 22 and but to play a sport, led the dialog because the membership’s leaders had been advised they had been saying one factor and doing one other, particularly in huge video games.

The behavioural framework agreed on, again when Clarkson was spinning yarns on the pub, was crumbling.

Alastair Clarkson opened up to his Hawthorn players in a Leading Teams session.
Digital camera IconAlastair Clarkson opened as much as his Hawthorn gamers in a Main Groups session.Image: Information Corp Australia, Wayne Ludbey.

“If you’re walking around thinking you’re a superstar and those behaviours translate on-field and you’re taking shots from the boundary line, you’ve built this misconception of how you’re perceived,” Sewell mentioned.

“That’s when things start to break down. You can see certain passages throughout the (2012) Grand Final where that becomes evident.”

So, what kind of suggestions was given on the camp?

“Anything raging from selfish to arrogant to being a pig to poor behaviour,” Sewell mentioned, and it left gamers “shattered”.

A younger group may’ve cracked. However the mature Hawks “copped it between the eyes” and gained the subsequent three premierships.

“Everyone was pulling in the same direction and it’s very rare to see the power or capacity of a group of guys with total buy in for three or four years,” Sewell mentioned.

“That’s essentially what Hawthorn had. That’s what you could argue Richmond had for 12-18 months, it remains to be seen where they sit at the moment, and the Bulldogs arguably for two months.”

Clarkson wasn’t resistant to suggestions and Sewell admitted there have been durations when Main Groups didn’t work. However was it worthwhile?

“Hawthorn without a shadow of a doubt wouldn’t have had the success that we had without them,” he mentioned. “And I’d be surprised if anyone suggested otherwise.”

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