The recent period in the AFL has seen almost an unprecedented number of “stars” being farewelled from the game.  There have been some extremely emotional press conferences and well-deserved accolades.

One who will leave with decidedly less fanfare is Zac Dawson from Fremantle Football Club.

Football followers may remember Zac as a young defender from Hawthorn who was exposed to a fiery initiation to AFL. He was then traded to St Kilda football club and then subsequently his football journey took him to Fremantle.

Leadership potential

Zac has often been a somewhat maligned player, by opposition or even his home club fans.

My view of Zac is very different.  I have worked at Fremantle FC for the last six years as a facilitator delivering the Leading Teams Performance Improvement Program.  A part of that program was to deliver an intensive emerging leadership program.  I saw something in Zac that you could work with.

Ray has been working with the Dockers for six years, attending training camps and helping the team work on their leadership skills

Clearly, like any other young player in the AFL system, Zac had some lessons to learn as he developed from a teenager joining the game to a mature age player.  But what I saw was a person who was committed to getting the best out of himself as a partner, father, student, footballer, and leader.  He put maximum effort into all that he did to be his best.

As a leader, he also had the capacity to quietly encourage others to do the same and at times to demand this effort from others.

Earning their respect

Zac has played the last period of his career in the WAFL with the Fremantle affiliate Peel Thunder.  If any player had an excuse to put the cue in the rack early it was Zac.  What we saw was in fact the opposite.  I was at the club two weeks ago and was observing the game review process.  Zac was awarded the best team player award for the third week running and many of his peers commented on the significant contribution he was making to continue to help coach and improve others in what we would call the reserve grade.

The senior review was also conducted in that meeting and the senior team had come off a poor performance.  However, I again observed how willing Zac was to give feedback to players who had represented at senior level, even though it would have been easy for him to say “well I played at Peel, so I don’t care!”

Zac won’t necessarily be trumpeted from the game and most importantly, he won’t want that.  He will leave knowing that he left no stone un-turned to be his best.  He will also know he made every effort to help his teammates to improve and that every time he entered the playing arena he left nothing in the tank.

What he will leave the game with is the utmost respect of his peers and coaches, none more so than Ross Lyon, senior coach at the Dockers.

Ray McLean has a lifetime of experience in team development in the AFL, elite sport and corporate industries. To book Ray as a speaker, contact our office on 03 9654 3744.


Ray McLean

Ray McLean

Ray founded Leading Teams in 1992 after working as a leadership officer with the Air Force. He has published two books, ‘Any Given Team’ and ‘Team Work’. Ray is based in Geelong.
Learn more about Ray.