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Carji: Colin Carter speech

2018 Carji Greeves Medallist The winner of the 2018 Carji Greeves Medallist has been announced

Welcome to our Carji Greeves event. We don't get many chances to thank our supporters face-to-face but tonight is one of them.

Our Carji evening is our opportunity to take stock of the year. But we should start by acknowledging an extraordinary Grand Final and congratulate the Eagles and Collingwood.

It could have gone either way and the season again shows how even our competition is. This year’s grand finalists finished 8th and 13th in 2017. Last year’s premier, Richmond, finished 13th the previous year. A similar story involved the Bulldogs the year before.

Ours is indeed a strange industry – I heard Gerard Whateley having to argue on TV this week that Collingwood’s year was “successful”. They’ve had a great year – the runner up at Wimbledon is feted - as is the silver medallist at the Olympics. But coming runner-up in the AFL is often seen as failure which is incredible!

Premierships are VERY hard to win. On average, each club will win one every 18 years!

And so, I remind myself that our players, coaches and football department are working in the toughest industry imaginable – and they deserve all of the support we can muster.

I have been asked hundreds of times over the past few weeks for my view on how this year has gone. Some football journalists have even asked me whether I regard this year as a ‘failure”. On that, I find the answer easy. Of course it isn’t. We had three teams in competition – our AFL side and our VFL men’s and women’s teams - and all three teams made the Finals. And so, much at our club is working well

But if ‘failure’ is the wrong word, so would be ‘successful’. We are disappointed because we expected to push much further into September and even challenge for the Flag.

We believed that we had the work ethic and talent that would make us a serious contender for the Flag and I think that this is why all of us, particularly our players, our coaches and footy department, are particularly disappointed. Which means, of course, that we have work to do.

Football is an emotional business. I once heard a description of a good board of directors –that they provide ‘air cover’ to the executives while they thoughtfully work through what needs to be done – without giving in to the pressures that make them lose focus and make bad decisions.

Our own review in 2006 is still seen as a benchmark in our industry – when Brian steered us to a sensible set of changes rather than throwing everything out. Richmond held their nerve in 2016 and Collingwood did the same in 2017. We need to hold our nerve and give our people the room to work through how we can improve. This happens at the end of every season, whether we have won the premiership or not.

And while I know that this doesn’t satisfy our demands for success, let’s remember that we have made the Finals for 13 of the last 15 seasons. Every other club would love to have achieved this. And no other club has a better win/loss record over the last three Home & Away Seasons than us -and so we must be doing a lot of things really well.

All of this has been achieved in a competition where the AFL’s rules – with the player draft and the salary cap – are designed to stop teams staying around the top of the ladder. Our club, like Sydney and Hawthorn, has been largely excluded from top ten draft picks for the past ten years.

The AFL would love this even competition. They won’t say it but they would be very happy that Sydney, Hawthorn and Geelong weren’t playing at the weekend.

The year obviously had its challenges - lots of injuries, particularly in the first half of the year. We played 40 players throughout the season and at times played with 10 players who had played less than 50 games. We played 7 debutants in 2018.

But all of that said, our bottom line on 2018 is that while we made the Finals again, we fell short of our expectations. That is why we are disappointed – and determined to push back up the ladder in 2019. Wecommit to turning over every rock in search of the improvements that we need.

But we also acknowledge the hard work and professionalism of our football department – players and coaches, and everyone who supports them.  The result this year wasn’t because of the lack of hard work. We thank Chris Scott and Joel Selwood for their leadership – and all of our players and staff.

And, of course, we were very pleased to win a licence to play in the AFL Women’s competition in 2019 – and what are program we are building! Our VFLW team made the Grand Final this year which was a wonderful effort and it augurs well for what we can bring to the AFLW next year. We congratulate our captain, Bec Goring and her team-mates, and also our off-field leaders – Paul Hood and Simone Bellears …….  We know that there has been a lot of hard work and you guys have us in a very good place.

Off the field, we are making great strides as well.  

  • We had the first full year of our Charles Brownlow stand and the State Government has promised funding for Stage 5 – the completion of the stadium– if they are re-elected
  • We reached a record membership of over 65,000.
  • We finally persuaded the AFL to give us 9 home games in Geelong and none at Etihad.
  • We had 257,000 spectators at GMHBA stadium – more than any year in our history.
  • We continue to be proud of our ten flagship community programs. Also, our Deakin Cats Community Centre has been an astonishing success with around 95,000 persons and 130 different organisations engaged in programs inside the facility in its first five years of operation!
  • We raised $1m in 24 hours to support our community programs


But we have financial challenges as well.  Not only are consistently successful clubs handicapped on the field but we also face a new off-field challenge because the clubs that are playing at the MCG and Etihad will soon be given a big boost in their match returns. Meanwhile, we are paying increased rent at our stadium while also reducing our reliance on gaming as a source of income. One of our challenges over the next few years will be how to bridge this financial gap.

We have some important acknowledgements to make.

A number of past winners of the Carji Greeves medal are here tonight: Mark Bos, Ben Graham, Colin Rice, Alistair Lord, David Clarke, Corey Enright and Matthew Scarlett  – and of course current players Joel Selwood, Gary Ablett, Tom Hawkins, Mark Blicavs and Patrick Dangerfield.

These men are heroes of our club and we thank them again for their contribution.

Some of our players passed significant milestones or received big awards this year

  • Tom Stewart and Patrick Dangerfield made All Australian
  • Gary Ablett passed the All Time record holder for votes in the Brownlow Medal
  • Jack Henry was nominated for the Rising Star award and finished fifth
  • Tim Kelly was voted best first year player in the AFLPA awards
  • Scott Selwood was awarded the Tom Hafey Variety Heart of Football Award for his community service
  • Joel Selwood became the longest serving captain in our club’s long history

Inevitably, at the end of every season, there is change and we thank those who have served us so well as players, coaches and staff and who are leaving us and moving to new challenges. They include: Corey Gregson, Ryan Gardner, Aaron Black, Stewart Crameri, Timm House and Matthew Hayball.

And inevitably there will be others, both on and off the field, who will be moving to new endeavours. We thank you all for your efforts and contributions to our club.

Again, we thank our sponsors for their great support – and particularly Ford, our major sponsor, along with GMHBA, Momentum Energy, Simonds, Cotton On, Geelong Advertiser, Deakin University and our Carji event sponsor, Morris Finance.

We thank the families of our players and staff for their support. They put up with a lot. The news cycle and social media are intrusive. Most of their weekends are messed up. They can’t head for the sun in our winter. Thank you again

And talking of families, there are lots of future father-sons and father-daughters around….. too many to mention but they are all on our radar!

And then there is Brian Cook and his team. A lot of hard work has gone into our business over the past few years and we thank them for their efforts.

We thank our Number One Ticket Holder (Rebecca Maddern) and our Patron (Frank Costa) for their leadership.

And a big hug to our Cheer Squad who put in a lot of hard work and who represent our club so well.

And we thank all of you, our wonderful supporters, for your support. As we saw again during this season, the huge body of supporters is so important to our club.

I would like to leave us with one thought. We are in an industry where we lose quite often. That’s the nature of our business. The great LeBron James summed up the situation when he said:

“You have to be able to accept failure in order to get better”

We know that we fell short this year. We accept that and, like LeBron, we will use that to find the ways to get better.

Enjoy the night! And thank you again for your support

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs