Rochester’s Shane McCurry played a pivotal role behind the scenes in Richmond’s drought-breaking AFL premiership.
McCurry started work with the Tigers last year as a leadership consultant and he helped to build upon a resolve he detected in the group.
McCurry said all the players had a willingness to improve and create a successful club, which resulted in them being crowned premiers.
‘‘I was very excited and happy for the group (on grand final day), it was really terrific to see them not just get that far, but get rewarded for their effort over a terrific 12 months, but obviously the group, players and staff have been on the journey for a lot longer,’’ he said.
‘‘It was great to see the emotion on their faces and one of the more enduring images was of the whole group of 44 players in front of the crowd, it’s been a big focus all year not just on the AFL program, but the VFL program has been a big part of the overall program.’’
While working heavily with Richmond captain Trent Cotchin, as well as vice-captains Alex Rance and Jack Riewoldt, McCurry’s influence spread across the group.
He implemented a trust exercise where each player spoke in front of the group and discussed hardships in their life, with coach Damien Hardwick the first to speak.
The sessions began during summer and finished just a week before the group would go on to secure the Tigers’ first premiership since 1980.
The connections the side has built have grown from last year’s underwhelming season and McCurry said the players were major instigators.
‘‘They’re a special group, no doubt about that, and I could sense that very early on that they were a special team, not just the players, but the new coaches, the new staff and those that had been there previously, and special things come to special teams,’’ he said.
‘‘I think it’s a trusting group and that trust has been built over a long period of time and the club had a disappointing 2016 season and an important part of the journey was their sense of determination not to have that ever again.
‘‘It’s easier to work with a group with that sense of determination and from early on there was a big focus on story telling and being yourself.’’
McCurry has an impressive resume, working across most clubs during his time at the AFL, as well as six years specifically at North Melbourne.
He has also done leadership coaching at NRL clubs as well as across the business sector.
But McCurry said his own home club in Rochester had a positive culture that continued to be evident.
‘‘I played most of my football at Rochester, I was a fairly ordinary player, but I was always involved in footy and it was never about being the best player, but about being part of the environment,’’ he said.
‘‘I played under some terrific coaches there and got to know great players and the three retired guys, Heath Aitken, Sam Brennan and Elliot Bowen are good friends of mine and they’re the sort of blokes that make up the fabric of the side.
‘‘Whether it’s AFL or GVL footy, the good culture is still the same, it’s just that the AFL is a big industry with a lot of money involved.’’
With an affinity for the yellow and black, McCurry will again head Richmond’s leadership program next year.