No doubt one of the main topics of conversation in workplaces this week will be footy, after week one of the AFL finals series. There were many memorable moments from the weekend’s matches. The one that stuck with me, however, had nothing to do with the action on the field.

It came from Thursday night’s game between Adelaide and GWS. For some context, Crows ruckman Sam Jacobs went into the game having recently experienced the tragedy of his brother dying, suddenly. The funeral would be the next day but ‘Sauce’ had made the brave call to play in the final.

During the first quarter of the game there was more heartache for the Crows as one of their pivotal defenders, Brodie Smith, injured his knee in what would later be diagnosed as a season-ending rupture to the anterior cruciate ligament.

Great teams have great team-mates

The moment came late in the last quarter. Jacobs came off the ground with just minutes left; he was visibly emotional, and broke down. Smith – despite clearly dealing with his own devastation and emotion – got up, hopped on his crutches through trainers and medicos around to Sauce, sat down next to him and the two hugged. The selflessness and genuine care shown in Brodie’s actions hit me immediately and I verged on tears myself.

Adelaide coach Don Pyke, speaking in his press conference post-match, struggled to hide his emotion when discussing the two lads. He spoke of the closeness of the group and how they would be there for each other and would get each other through.

Indeed, both players would later share messages on social media expressing their gratitude and appreciation for the love and support they had received from those inside and outside of the club.

The moment made me reflect on other work environments (after all, football is their job) and I wondered how many of them would share this level of care for work colleagues.

The driving force behind the relationships

‘But footy teams are different, they’ve always bonded,’ I hear you say. Well firstly, no doubt they’ve always bonded but historically it’s often involved alcohol, late nights and often trouble . And in the end, quite often this leads to no more than an artificial harmony anyway – rather than a deep and strong connection between teammates.

So how have Adelaide bucked the trend? Where is their emphasis on building and maintaining these genuine relationships come from? Why did Smith respond as he did to seeing his mate in such a vulnerable state?

The answer is perhaps best explained by Smith and Jacobs’s teammate, Josh Jenkins, who recently spoke on the topic with Michelangelo Rucci of the Adelaide Advertiser, attributing the focus on team-building to senior coach Don Pyke.

“Don has improved everyone’s relationships…that leads to a lot more trust. You can see in the way we have played that we have a lot more trust in each other.

“Don’s football prowess is well known,” he continues “unseen however, from the outside is how he has helped this player group improve relationships among ourselves – and be a closer unit. That puts us in good stead for finals football when you need to rely on the man beside you.”

We don’t play finals in the workplace. But we do find ourselves under pressure, weekly, even daily.

So how much are you doing to ensure that your work environment is one where relationships are strong enough that you can truly rely on the men and women beside you to get the job done?

Daniel Healy joined Leading Teams in 2013 after an AFL playing and coaching career where he had first-hand experience of our program. Daniel is a Facilitator/Partner based in Adelaide.

The Different Levels of Relationships