Club culture – how does your club stand up?

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Brett Connell – VAFA CEO

What do the following have in common?

Dustin Martin (Richmond), Sam Reid (Sydney), Jack Redpath (Western Bulldogs), Jacob Hopper (GWS Giants), Levi Casboult (Carlton), David Zaharakis (Essendon), Eric Hipwood & Cedric Cox (Brisbane Lions) & Brodie Grundy (Collingwood).

They all have recently re-signed with their existing clubs and in many cases after much media hype as to which club they would end up at and inevitably for how much.

For me it ponders the question just how much was each player’s decision made around the culture of their club, that intangible “feeling” that people get, as opposed to the financial rewards.

I’m not silly enough to think the financial rewards were not an enticing incentive; however, all of the players named above could have received far greater financial rewards on the AFL open market, in my view.

So how do you measure club culture and where is the relevance to the VAFA community?

There is no magical formula and there will be other components to measuring club culture; however, in my view the following are great starting points and conversation starters for your club in the next 4-6 weeks.

Club culture is the reflection of the attitude and feeling that members have about their club. A successful club is dependent on the quality of the leadership of the club and the example leadership sets, and in turn members must know and share the same values of acceptable behaviour.

  • Quality off-field structures (governance) – leadership is the key. What example are you setting as a leader of your club right now, what is your succession plan for key leaders in your club, what planning is taking place now for 2018 and beyond, both on and off-field the field? Were you working from a plan for this season, if not why not? Failing to plan is planning to fail!


  • Consistently high standards of on-field expectations – success is not always measured by premierships, let’s be honest they are terribly hard to win. What were your club’s expectations at the beginning of the season? To field a women’s team, a Thirds, Club XVII or U19 team(s) – these are all measurable outcomes. So is meeting your financial goals, is your club in a positive financial position, if not how will you turn this around, what support will you require?


  • Welcoming inclusive environments – clubs can increase their memberships and, more importantly, their social standing in their respective communities by creating such environments. Just look at the rise of Women’s Football in the VAFA this year, albeit one example and there are others, linkages with junior clubs, your school or other associated player pathways, with people with disabilities or varying cultures or ethnicities. Has your club connected to its “community” or others this season, and if you have how will you build on that for the coming season(s)?

Appreciating the power of work volunteer club leaders and committees do, the above is not a criticism, it is merely a prompt to get clubs thinking, discussing and, most importantly, planning for next season and beyond.

VAFA footy is strong footy, umpired in a welcoming and inclusive environment where umpires, players, coaches, officials and spectators alike can enjoy everything that is great about our game.

So in my mind while the financial returns were a key consideration for the AFL players to re-sign, there is no doubt that the club’s culture is also a vital component of any decision.

In terms of your VAFA club how are you placed to retain your current list or attract new players, what is your club’s culture, what are you doing to maintain or improve it and above all else does your club have a plan?

We all are a part of this planning process and the VAFA Administration is here to assist and support as required, so please keep us in mind when you move into planning for next year and beyond.

On another note congratulations to St. Mary’s/Salesian (Division 1), Prahran Assumption (Division 2), UHS-VU (Division 3) and Aquinas (Division 4) who after wins last weekend in their respective semi-finals gain promotion to the higher section in 2018.

Of particular note is the St Mary’s/Salesian AFC club who will for the first time in their individual or collective histories compete in Premier C in the VAFA.

See you @ the footy.