The same culture and leadership expert who has been intimately involved in Richmond’s powerhouse men’s side guided a forensic review of the Tigers’ winless first AFL Women’s season.
Shane McCurry’s work with the AFLW outfit informed a 116-page document that has helped inform coaching - the Tigers have replaced inaugural AFLW head coach Tom Hunter and installed former men’s program development coach Ryan Ferguson for 2021 - and also recorded a strong sense of team connectedness.
AFLW program boss, Kate Sheahan, details some of the key findings of the review in the return episode of The Originals podcast.
The launch edition of the second series also features 2020 reflections and 2021 projections from AFLW captain Katie Brennan, Tigers president Peggy O’Neal and new coach Ferguson who played 47 games for Melbourne before cutting his teeth in South Australia in off-field mentoring while also completing teaching qualifications.
The Originals: Series 2, Episode 1 - Returning with a strong sense of connectedness, featuring Peggy O’Neal, Katie Brennan, Kate Sheahan and Ryan Ferguson
Written and presented by award-winning journalist and author, Sam Lane; subscribe and listen on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or Spotify
“We did a significant review of the entire department the players, staff ... with the help of Shane McCurry,” Sheahan says in the launch episode of The Originals second series.
“I think that was a very important exercise to go through - to allow the players to have their input, to allow the staff to have their input. And the great thing that came out of all of that was the level of care that was felt by everyone. Everyone knew that we’d set this up to genuinely care and look after our people.
“Maybe the results weren’t there. Maybe there was some change and some difficulties throughout the season - which every club experiences - but ultimately, deep down, [the sense from the feedback] it was [that] we’re here to insure the environment is one where you want to be and people feel loved and looked after.”
Asked about criticism documented in the surveying, Sheahan says: “the standards needed to improve. The training standards.
“It wasn’t that the players weren’t trying hard enough or not being professional, because they absolutely were. It [the feedback in the review] was more that ‘hey, we now know we can push them more. We now know their level of resilience and training abilities [so] that ... leading into next season ... we can run them a bit harder or put them in more combative situations and they’re not going to break.”
The broad-ranging internal review highlighted how the Tigers’ 2020 head AFLW coach Hunter required more mentoring.
“At the end of the day, after the review, we felt that Tom needed a lot more support around him and he needed probably a senior figure that could provide him with a bit of a shoulder to lean on and a bit of advice at times,” Sheahan says.
“And the situation was that we didn’t have the finances in the program to be able to put someone like that around Tom [full-time].
“So what we decided was we’re probably going to have to find someone who has got that level of experience.”
Tigers skipper Katie Brennan tells the podcast she has been particularly focused on enhancing cohesive culture in her team in the off-season.
“You can’t always expect the start of a journey to go completely smoothly,” Brennan tells the podcast.
“But I think we’re starting to develop a really great culture around the group and we’re starting to pull together a group of people that are really focused on heading in a similar direction. And that’s really what excites me about 2021.”
New coach Ferguson outlines key traits that he, and his team, hope will define them in their second AFLW season.
“We want to be a highly competitive, combative team,” he says in The Originals.
“We want to win. And every week I think we’re going to be at a level where we can aim to be highly competitive and there’s no reason why we aren’t aiming to win every game we play.”
The Originals is sponsored by WISE Employment, helping people who have employment barriers, including mental illness and disability, find meaningful work.
Find out more at wiseemployment.com.au or call 1800 685 105.