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Richmond Players

Tigers players celebrating their amazing win on the weekend

After their first foray into the AFL finals in many years in 2013, the Richmond Football Club had big, bold plans for 2014.

The team had improved every year under coach Damien Hardwick and were ready to launch themselves at the top of the ladder in his fifth season at the helm.

But the start of the year didn’t go according to plan, with key injuries, poor performances and confidence dropping by the week, resulting in a 3-10 start to the season.  This placed the Tigers equal bottom of the ladder with nine games to go.

They were written off by everyone else, as finals seemed a mathematical impossibility.  No team had ever recovered from such a shambolic start and the underachieving Tigers didn’t seem like the kind of club that could beat the odds.

But they dared to dream.

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One of the books that I’m reading at the moment is “The Hoops Whisperer” by Idan Ravin.  In it, I found this fantastic quote.

“Life boils down to a series of jump shots:

Some you make, some you miss, some you wish you’d taken, some you wish you hadn’t.

Great players move on, looking forward to the next possession.”

I love this reminder that when we live life to the full, some things will work and some won’t.

And I know that there are a lot of things over my journey that I wish I had done, or done sooner, or done differently, or not done at all.

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Steve Way leading the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games at the one mile mark

Steve Way leading the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games at the one mile mark

Seven years ago, Steve Way was sitting on his couch at home, smoking 20 cigarettes per day and eating take-away curry every night.

He weighed 16 and a half stone (102 kg), which when combined with his smoking habit, led to breathing issues that kept him awake at night.

So, at the age of 33, Steve got off the couch and started running.  He hasn’t looked back since.

As his stamina improved, he started to enter himself into longer races, eventually running marathons.

He got to a point where at the 2014 London Marathon, he finished 15th and was the third fastest Englishman.  He didn’t realise this at the time, but the London Marathon was the qualifier for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and with the two Englishmen ahead of his running other events, at the age of 40 he was selected to represent his country.

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Life doesn’t always go according to plan.

Just ask Isaiah Austin.

A 7 foot 1 centre from Baylor University, Austin was a talented basketball player who had already overcome a significant eye injury that required a prosthetic eye to produce a remarkable season and place himself in contention to be drafted to the NBA.

However in the days leading up to the draft, a routine physical revealed that he has a rare genetic condition known as Marfan’s syndrome, which placed his heart at risk of rupturing if he was to play professional sport.  This meant that Austin had to retire at the age of 20 before his career even had a chance to start.

It wasn’t his fault.

He had no say in it.

His dreams and everything that he had worked hard to achieve were destroyed just days before they were to be realised.

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World CupJoga bonito is the Portuguese phrase that the Brazilians often use to describe football.

It literally means, “play beautifully” and is a wonderful way of describing their philosophy towards the sport.

To Brazilians, football isn’t just about kicking a ball, it’s about playing with creativity, flair and technical brilliance.

It’s not about 0-0 draws, it’s about flamboyant stars such as Pele, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and their current genius, Neymar.

Even their defenders aren’t best known for their dour tackling, but for their fearless, precocious dribbling, powerful shooting and constant attacking threat.

And it’s not just about winning, it’s about winning beautifully and providing entertainment to their adoring fans.

With the World Cup kicking off today in Brazil, my question is, does joga bonito just apply to football, or can it apply to the rest of our lives as well?

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The legendary Tommy Hafey, still rocking a t-shirt in his late 70's

The legendary Tommy Hafey, still rocking a t-shirt in his late 70’s

The Richmond Football Club and AFL community lost a legend this week with the sad passing of the seemingly indestructible Tommy Hafey.

“T-shirt” Tommy as he was affectionately known was a remarkably successful coach who was renowned for not only creating better sporting teams, but for positively influencing people on and off the field.

As a coach, he took an interest in every player on his list, from the superstars to the fresh-faced rookies and found a way to inspire them to reach their full potential as athletes and citizens.

He was an amazing leader and one of his greatest legacies is that 18 of his ex-players went on to become senior coaches in their own right.

His personal creed was Desire plus Dedication plus Discipline plus Determination equals your Destination” and he lived this out for his entire life.

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In the lead-up to game 7 of the NBA Playoff series between the Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs, future Hall of Famer and Mavericks’ forward Dirk Nowitzki said,

“It’s the ultimate thrill.  It’s win or go home… You’ve got to love it.  You’ve got to embrace it.”

I love Nowitzki’s mindset.

Here is a star athlete, going into a sudden death game, under massive scrutiny, against a fantastic opponent and his advice is to love it.

It’s easy to be intimidated and fearful of high pressure situations.

Public speaking, job interviews, sales pitches and other stressful activities are often avoided by people who can’t handle the pressure.

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A young runner was very excited.

After months of intense training, he was running in his very first marathon.

After the starter’s gun went off, he started with great enthusiasm, taking great strides and building a strong rhythm.

However, after a few miles, he began to tire and he felt like stopping.

“Don’t stop!  If you can’t run, at least you can jog,” said a small voice in his head.

So, he slowed to a jog and was able to continue along the road, if a little slower than before.

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Jerry Sloan was the no-nonsense, hard-nosed coach of the Utah Jazz from 1988 to 2011  and he was honoured last weekend by the team with a banner raised with the number 1223 on it, representing the number of wins that he had as coach.

It was a fitting tribute to a great and widely admired servant of the game who achieved consistent success over the course of his long tenure.  If it wasn’t for some guy named Michael Jordan, he most likely would have won a couple of championships which is probably the only achievement missing from his coaching resume.

During the celebration of his career, one of his start players, John Stockton was asked what he had learned from Coach Sloan.

Stockton replied:

“The game is pretty simple; it doesn’t need to have a lot of nonsense in it. You come to practice, you bring your lunch pail and you go to work. … Whether it’s a win or a loss, you keep that even keel and you get ready to go again the next day.”

These are great principles that can be applied to most aspects of life.

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Denis Istomin

Denis Istomin

I was watching the Australian Open during the week and caught some of 3-time champion Novak Djokovic’s third round match.

However, as the match went on, I became more fascinated by the back story of his opponent, little known Uzbek, 27 year-old Denis Istomin.

When he was 14, Istomin was in a horrific car accident on the way to a junior tournament, resulting in a severely broken leg.  After 80 stitches and three and a half months in hospital, doctors said that he would never hold a tennis racquet again.

Normally, that would result in the end of someone’s professional tennis aspirations, but not for Denis.

This is where his mother, Klaudiya, enters the story.

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