The 300 gamer for Hawthorn, 3 time premiership player 2 of which as captain, inducted in AFL hall of fame, team of the century hawthorn fc and founder of the company operation payback which was instrumental in preventing Melbourne & hawthorn merging
- What successful leaders in the team should possess
- How he inspired footballers who looked up to him
- How he condition his mental side before the game
- Don’s challenges as a player
- Highlights of his career
- How he helped to prevent Hawthorn FC from merging to Melbourne FC in the ’90s
Jack: Welcome back to the ‘Prepare Like A Pro’ podcast. My name is Jack McLean. I’m the host and in today’s episode I interview Don Scott. Don played over 300 games for the Hawthorn Football Club; a three time premiership player, two of which he was captain; inducted in the AFL Hall of Fame; Team of the Century for the Hawthorn Football Club and the founder of the company Operation Payback, which was instrumental in preventing Melbourne and Hawthorn from merging.
Highlights from this episode: we talk about the importance of using constructive feedback from mentors to improve yourself in life, business and football; Don’s ABC strategy, which was developed from senior coach Kennedy for getting better as a player; Don’s experiences in media content and the Channel Seven games, business, and horse training; how his business managed to prevent the merge between the Melbourne Football Club and Hawthorn.
Before we start this episode, for those wanting to improve your 2K time and gain a competitive edge, hire a Prepare Like A Pro coach and join our individualized coaching program. You can join our email list to receive a two week free program and free master class presentation. All up valued at $99.
Let’s get into today’s episode. Thank you, Don, for coming onto today’s episode.
Don: Thank you, Jack.
Jack: It’s good to be back in the ‘You Cannot Be Serious’ studio.
Don: Yeah, this will make more sense than what that does. What we say half the time that’s the thing I forget. As soon as I walk out, that’s it.
Jack: You guys are smashing some content. I’ve just walked in guys to the studio and they’ve already had four episodes. So, if you’re not following the podcast, make sure to follow ‘You Cannot Be Serious’ with Sam and Don. And I’ve been lucky enough to have them on. But we’ll start at the very beginning of your story, mate. Where did you play your junior footy?
Don: Well, I played at school, but I wasn’t good enough. I tried at Blackburn Under 16s as a young boy and wasn’t good enough to make that team. I don’t know, probably in third form. What’s it? Year nine now. Then I went down to Box Hill Under 17s a year or two later.
They weren’t a good team. They played in the Melbourne Boys League against all the league teams. All the league teams back then had eight fourths, which was Under 17s, and Box Hill never won a game. We used to get fresh each week because all of these boys would go down to elite club, hoping that it’d be their entry through the seconds and the seniors.
But I got into a bit of trouble at home with my father. And he said, ‘You’re not playing football.’ So the only time I could play was at school, and back then school competition was much more organized. I went to a high school and we’d played all the various schools in the district. And I was lucky enough to be spotted by scouts from Hawthorn and also Richmond, while I was playing one of those games. So, I was just lucky that I was joining on the spot.
Jack: That’s interesting. Why didn’t your dad want you to play the game?
Don: Well, it was called punishment. I used to get into a bit of trouble at home. It’s a bit different nowadays, I don’t think fathers are doing that. Let’s just say, it was much different to what it is now and it was discipline for me. And there were many other types of discipline handed out and so that was the way of parenting in those days or his mode of parenting.
Jack: And on that note, I know from doing a little bit of research before doing this episode, you began your horse riding at a young age. I believe it’s seven years old, you rode a horse every day.
Don: Yeah, I did. And again, I suppose that’s the father’s influence. If you have horses, animals, you’ve got to look after them. And those horses were in a paddock and you just can’t leave them in the paddock, they’ve got to be exercised. And also the fact that we were competing, I was competing at shows and various events and whatever else. And so, just like any athletes, you had to keep them going.
You learn through your life and I do remember being very naive and competing in a one-day event at Flemington Racecourse, and my pony came in after the cross-country in a layer of sweat. Now, I was naïve, didn’t know their fitness. I was young a bit, twelve. And I got a serve from the steward, a real bite. And that helped me instead later on, especially with regard to football. If you’re going to do something, do it properly.
The following year I remember that bike and that horse, we completed again in the same event, 12 months later, and that horse was jumping out of his skin because I took him up to the orchards in Don caster. I lived in Box Hill and I got him really fit, so fit that he was just bouncing. And he wouldn’t blow out a candle at the end of the cross-country. He did particularly well. So that I took as the lesson in life. And I remember that one indelibly, because he gave me this…
Jack: It was responding to feedback.
Don: Well, feedback. Negative reinforcement, I suppose. But again, that’s the way the society was. You weren’t complimented, you were told you did something wrong. Same with coaching or anything. It was just different. Everybody wants positive feedback now. Anyway, that is society.
And I think I’m at odds with it. Because I look at the negatives and try and fix the negatives. I can’t see what’s the point of looking at the positives. The positives are there and they seem to come along naturally. But you’ve got to look at the negatives to make yourself better. So, I’m more that way inclined.
Jack: It’s good for the athletes tuned in that want to get better, responding to negative feedback in that manner, where it’s, like you said, it was a shock to the system, but it put you on a good path.
Don: Well, we didn’t question either. And again, society was different then. We respected our peers and especially older people. And when an older person said something, you never questioned that. That was just the way we were brought up. But nowadays there seems to be this questioning all the time, whether it’s good or bad.
And I am still learning. Unfortunately, there are not enough people, especially with the horses, I’m involved with horses. I just hang on the words of all the people who had experience in work with horses in their life. And I still listen to some people who’ve had that connection. Because you can still learn. You don’t question, you learn. You should always be, I personally do that, taking stuff in from people that you respect.
Jack: And that have experience. It makes a lot of sense. And like you said, the things that are going well, whether because you’re talented in it, because you’ve found a good recipe, and success leaves clues, so you’re onto something. By focusing on the areas that aren’t going so well and putting energy into that, allows you to be great and successful in that.
Don: Well, you’ve got to be analytic and you’ve got to be very honest with yourself and know yourself as an athlete, if we’re talking about athletes. And I think even in business, you’ve got to complement yourself. I’ve been in business and self-employed in the age of 22. And so, you’ve got to know yourself and complement yourself, because there’s not that person around who was the perfect individual, perfect athlete. Perfect individual, perfect businessman. You’ve got to complement, know your strengths and then complement them, or back your weaknesses.
Jack: That’s great. For those tuned in there’s some gems to write down. It’s something that at Prepare Like A Pro we do, we have a get-better plan where you’ve got to focus on an area that you’re attacking and that’s a great way to go about it. And that’s actually something we had on the podcast yesterday. Talk about your limiting factor and attack that one limiting factor. What’s holding you back the most and top that up.
So, on that note of people that have experience and that you respect, that are either older than you, or they’ve just got more experience in that area, from a football point of view, did you have mentors or influences in your game early on? And who, if so?
Don: It depends on what area you’re talking about. If you give a specific area, because even in football you break it down. It’s not just one thing. There are many aspects to football and depending on where you want to start…
In my case I got it down to, I believe, ABC, and I based all mine around what is the game you’re playing? In football you’ve got to get the ball and you’ve got to do something with it. They’re pretty basic. So, all my training was around getting the ball, and there’s many different ways and you complement that by a lot of things: speed, strength and whatever else, to get the ball.
And then you’ve got to do something with it. So, it comes to skill or executing. You still need strength, you still need speed to do something with it. But also, you’ve got to recognize there’s an opponent, and he will get the ball and he will do something with it. So, you’ve got to limit that as well.
So, they are my three ABCs, but those ABCs also related to my training. How do I make myself better in getting the ball, doing something with it and restricting my opponents? So, they could come back to speed, endurance, strength. Or whatever, positioning on the ground. And so, that’s what it always came back to.
Jack: That’s great. For those listening in, so it’s ability to get the ball, ability to do something effective with it, for the team. And then what about the competitive side? Is that analyzing who you’re going to play?
Don: It goes across the whole thing, if you’re competitive in all of those things. Yes, you’ve got to be allied to that. If you’re playing against a team or an opponent, you’ve got to be able to break that opponent down. So, is he strong or whatever else? And then you’ve got to be able to counter that. Now, if he’s particularly strong in an area, you’ve got to offset that because that might be a weakness with you.
If it’s a difference in height, you might use your mobility against his height. It’s a simple thing. You’re running him around, running around or make him run faster or quicker than what he is. But, for example, so he’s tall, he’s taking a mark. Well, you’ve got to be able to punch the ball away, you’ve got to limit him too. So you work on that, you don’t get caught behind. Those are the intricacies of the game.
Jack: And how did you come up with that ABC philosophy?
Don: Well, I suppose I learned it. Again, learned it. I had a coach in John Kennedy who was very basic in his training. And so, I learned those things from him. Then you have another coach that informs you with regard to skill and that, I suppose, that was Parkin to a degree, David Parkin.
But then you look and I listen to other athletes. I remember Geoff Hunt who was a world champion squash player. Won a lot of squash tournaments through the 70s. And he was talking about his training and how he went one year just too much strength as against the skill of squash or fitness as against the skill of playing the game. And again, I can relate that to. I ran, I concentrated too much on that. So, I was quick enough, but I didn’t have the strength.
It’s a matter of getting the balance, listening to people and taking a bit. You might only get one little thing and you take that and put it in. But it takes a while to accumulate all of this knowledge that you can learn off other people and put it together.
Jack: And that drive to get better and be your best, was that something that was instilled in you from a very young age?
Don: No, I think it depends on your circumstances. I saw this as my way out. You know my sport was football. And back in Melbourne, in those days, you had cricket in summer time and you had football in winter. Basketball wasn’t big, soccer wasn’t big, but those were the dominant sports. They were the dominant sports for men, football in winter. And the other sports didn’t receive much kudos, swimming or athletics, or whatever else.
And being a very small place, Melbourne, I could see what publicity it has attracted with regard to the television and the newspapers, the coverage it received. And I wasn’t particularly gifted at academics, as a scholar, so I could see that this could open up doors. And it certainly did. So, that was my way.
I was, I suppose, hungry, or I really did want football to open up my life and get me things that I couldn’t get in other way. Like academically, I couldn’t get it. But I could get things through football. I used it in my business because of the exposure that it received. But that’s what drove me to try and do the best I certainly could.
Jack: And for the young athletes listening in that are in that similar age, you mentioned you were playing a lower level than some of your other peers of your age at Blackburn, and then in the Box Hill. How did you turn that into then getting drafted?
Don: Again, and this was a problem and it still does exist. It’s a problem. And I see it with horses, animals, because I train horses. And some of them don’t mature at the same rate. As with other people.
And, unfortunately, we’ve got a system now, where boys are selected at 14. Now, we all mature at different levels. I certainly remember starting to get physically strong at 20, although I was pushing weights from the age of 18. I really started to get some bang when I was at the age of 20. So, that was just a logical physical progression and it got better up till the age of 30.
Now, boys, and I’ve seen it so many times. These good kids at 14, back in my time, they represent the state, they are playing, and you think, ‘Geez, what’s wrong with me?’ But if you just let it evolve and you’ve got to look at the parentage and the body shape and all of that stuff.
And, sadly, it still does exist that these boys get pigeonholed at 14, they go into these squads and they go to the Under 18s. And it’s not giving fellows that are playing elsewhere an opportunity. And the recruiting people and the football people are not willing, in a lot of cases, to take somebody on that is a late maturer.
Jack: Yeah. It’s such a good point. What do you think we could put in place to help accommodate these players? There would be some athletes listening that…
Don: Athletes or footballers?
Don: For footballers, I think I would certainly go back to a system where… You know, they’ve cut out the thirds and they’ve reduced the seconds at football clubs now. They got rid of the thirds back in the 90s because of the cost factor. Yet football clubs are now running women’s teams, disabled teams, as well as senior teams. And they’ve got a few blokes to go off and play second rate football and reserve great players.
The primary concern is the men’s team winning apprenticeship. So, consequently, I would get back to thirds, seconds and senior team. By doing that you can take a player up as I do with my horses. You put them in a competition. And it happened when I was at Hawthorn. You’d put a guy into the seconds. He’d perform well in the thirds for a couple of games, and let’s see what he can do in the seconds.
Put him up, let him get the exposure and then see if he can develop. He might have to go back. I’ll jump my horses over a certain height in a competition and then I’ll take them back. You extend them, but you don’t want to frighten them. So, you take them back again. Then you go again. It’s all how they are mentally, physically and whatever else. And it’s the same with footballers.
And if you’ve got that third competition, where the clubs looking after it, they will go and look for boys that are playing in an underage competition Under 16s at the local club, and we’ll invite them down. That’s why I think it should be done instead of specializing and pulling these boys out, selecting boys and putting them into the Oakleigh Chargers or the Dandenong Stingrays or wherever that may be, the Western Jets. They’re pigeonholed.
Jack: There was the Development League a few years ago when I was working with Box Hill, which was great. And that easily could happen. So, you’ve got your Eastern Rangers, which are from that region, and then you’ve got your Box Hill senior men’s, then have relationships with…
Don: A lot of those boys that came from Eastern Rangers into the Development Team had already been tried. I’m talking about boys that might be playing at Mitchell or Donvale, that haven’t quite got through into the Eastern Rangers.
Jack: So, there’d be the Eastern Rangers and then there’d be a third team that’s part of Box Hill?
Don: I’d get rid of the Eastern Rangers full stop. I’d get rid of that and I’ll just wait and take it another, I’d say, Under 19s. Picking up boys at 17 or 16 is not… I’ve watched it when I was playing in the Under 19s, for example, and in six months boys that I played with one year, the next year they were no good. They went off because other boys had caught up. And it’s interesting how boys mature and change and in six months a player can go off. A player can come on in that six months over the season.
Jack: So, basically, play with your local club.
Don: Well, that’s what I think the structure should be.
Jack: And then that would be giving back to grassroots as well, because they’re not losing their talented players.
Don: All of that. And if a boy is any good, now I follow Sorrento. Now, if a boy is any good at 17, he’ll be playing in the senior term, in a men’s team. And he will learn more in that senior team than what he will playing in an Under 16 or 17 term. I’ve seen boys selected in these squads, that Stingrays or whatever, come back and play senior footy in the country. And they are good, if they were to learn. And then it’s much easier in selection. The AFL clubs come along. ‘Oh, this boy’s playing senior men’s football. Let’s give him a go.’
Jack: And you think that would help transition from an 18-year-old playing against 18-year-old boys?
Don: Oh, no, because you’ve got to move quicker. Everything’s got to be done a little bit quicker. Even the step from, I’d just say, you’re playing AFL football or VFL in my day, then you go and play state football. The tempo would up a little bit more from ordinary Home and Away games where the competition was pretty stiff amongst it. But then you’re playing against the elite, in the state football, where the tempo’s just increased, took another level.
And so, if you go back and you’re playing against them, you’ve got to increase, you’ve got to get rid of the ball quicker. You’ve got to be a little bit stronger. You’ve got to do everything just that little bit quicker. And so, that’s what I’m talking about, adjusting. Get a go there, come back, go again, see what happens.
Jack: That’s great. Good philosophy and really important for those listening in. The mental game. Like you talked about, get exposed, be stretched and be challenged, but then also the importance of having confidence as well. So, you might bring the horse back or the athlete back, get their confidence back up. It’s a process.
Don: In my case, I didn’t realize. And I was only 17, at my 17th birthday, the reserve grade coach Marie Considine, who coached me. I was a boy of 18 and I got into the seconds of Hawthorn. My first game was against Collingwood at Victoria Park. As an 18-year-old boy, straight out of school, never played against men.
And I was playing against a man called Ray Gambler, who’d played a lot of games and was a monster. He had to be 17 stone and I’m 13 and a half stone in the rough. Now he played with me. It was just like, he played me. And I didn’t understand. And I realized I’d played badly, but accept the fact that I’d have to go back into the Under 19s the following week.
But, the coach told me that, unbeknownst to me, my father had run the football club and said, ‘That boy is not allowed to play in the seconds again for the rest of the year.’ Now, he didn’t tell me this. And I went back to the Under 19s and I was doing pretty well. But the boys were being elevated from the Under 19s into the seconds, and I couldn’t understand why. I was always asked, ‘Ring your father up, so he could let you play in the seconds.’ Couldn’t understand why. So, I played Under 19s for one year. I didn’t play against men, but the following year I made the seniors.
Jack: From Under 19s, missed the seconds and went straight to the seniors?
Don: Yeah. So, when you’re physically capable of doing it, and some people are like that.
Jack: But that game where you did play against someone who was a man, and you were still a developing boy. Did you think you needed that experience? Like the woman that gave you that strong feedback, did you need it?
Don: I suppose, yes, I did. It showed me what I had to do if I was going to come up against men.
Jack: A wake-up call.
Don: Yeah. And they were mature, I was only 18, 19. I was nowhere near as strong as what those fellows were. It did make me go back and work harder. I wanted to do a journey.
Jack: It’s a good story. It can’t be easy early on, but you want to have big challenges.
Don: You’ve got to set steps. I also believe that you’ve got to set challenges for yourself that are attainable. It’s all very well aiming for the top, but to get there, there’s got to be steps. Don’t set ambitious steps, set targets or challenges or steps that you can achieve. And just keep working on that to get to the ultimate goal.
Jack: Yeah, get to the goal. Small goals are moving the line. And for those listening in, how would you set those? Do you write them down?
Don: No, I just keep it in my mind. I know exactly what I want. I’m not a person to sit down in the book and write things down, but I know exactly what I’m working on.
Jack: And then you mentioned that you’ve got into the Hawthorn team. At that time, how was the team going from performance point of view?
Don: We were on the bottom. I remember our last game, one game, first or second year. We were fighting Fitzroy for the bottom position on the ladder. We’ve done it. And we finished second last. So, I started in a team that was not the best and I think four or five years later we won a premiership.
And all teams, all good teams had an influx of good recruits. Now, we had a backbone of fellows that had suffered disappointment. And so, you get very hardened, and you become contemptuous of the opposition. When you continually lose and you just get a hard edge. Back in those days we had zones, and we were fortunate enough to get an influx of about five players. Young boys that were the icing on the cake.
So, you’ve got this hardness underneath. And you’ve got this youthful enthusiasm of young boys coming into the team. And it happened in about 1969–1970, even some were introduced in 1971, because we had a zone and we worked the zone. Just like I told you about, we’d bring boys up. They’d play in the Under 19s, from the local country team, and you go into the seconds and you see what you’ve got.
And we had a zone there, so Mornington Peninsula and Gippsland were the Hawthorm zone. So, you worked the zone and that’s how Hawthorn did it. And those boys, they accepted the opportunity, they went on in 1971. We won 19 games from a very ordinary team.
Jack: Because you pushed from the bottom and moved forward.
Don: We didn’t flip, we finished outside of what was called the fork, sixth or seventh. And the following year, we won 19 Home and Away games. Plus the games we played in the state and over in Perth. And I think we won about 25 games. Might’ve lost two for the season.
Jack: That’s incredible. What a turnaround. You talked about the hardness from the team from going through those experiences, and then the talent. So, the hardness was the most important element, that’s like the foundation?
Don: You need a combination of both. You need the flare, but you need the harness. So, the old guys kept the young ones in line, didn’t let them get above themselves because they were very, very good. Now, what you’d find in a lot of cases, it goes to the boys’ heads. You get exposure, you come down and all of a sudden you’re a star. Well, you’ve got to keep your feet on the ground.
The old boys have been through it and knocked the edges off them. And if you were getting out of line and a little bit ahead of yourself, you were pulled back into line. And so, that was that. And so much so, that the 71 team, the following year, they didn’t make the finals. And a number of those players, they were all boys, played in the reserve for premiership.
So, it’s an interesting lesson that you can get yourself up. It’s always been an interesting lesson to me. If you really want to achieve, especially in the game of football, which I played, you can achieve it if you really, really want it. Because they were not the most talented team and they couldn’t make the finals the following year.
Jack: It’s incredible. And what was John Kennedy like as a coach?
Don: He was very basic. But his philosophy didn’t change from when we were on the bottom to when we were a senior team right through. So, it really does come back to the players you’ve got. All coaches say the same thing, unless you’re not a creditable coach in your philosophy or it doesn’t make sense, you have got to have the players. You’ve got to have the talent. And that comes back to the players. So, the coaches are very, very dependent on the talent that they’ve got.
Jack: And you mentioned that want and desire to be successful. Did you guys do anything different in the off-season, pre-season as a playing group?
Don: Back then, you had to appreciate what Melbourne was like. It was a very insular place, Melbourne. I lived in the Eastern suburbs. I knew everything about the Eastern suburbs into the city because I’ve traveled to work. But I knew nothing about the Southern suburbs, Brighton, I’d get lost. And I still get lost down there. I don’t know anything about my little area.
And so, when we played against other teams in the VFL, as a learned academic said to me, it was like we were going to war every Saturday. So, when you go to war every Saturday, it’s them against us. And so, your comradery is built up amongst your teammates. Away from playing football, we’d mix socially. So, you build up a comradery as well as having this football ability. And each team was basically the same. We never mixed or talked with other teams. We stayed in ours. This was very insular.
Jack: Yes. And that helped drive, so the social element’s really important for the season?
Don: Well, I think so. I see, quite amazingly now, guys coming off the ground they’re all having a chat to the opposition. Maybe they played together in the Under 18s somewhere, or they’ve been at that club, and they all have a hug and a kiss. Geez, we never did that. It was war when we went out. You’re going out there to basically hurt somebody, whether it’d be physically or not. And so, it’s very hard to do that if you’re friendly with somebody. But this is what it was like, and that’s the way society was.
Jack: And then you were a leader in your playing career as well. Was that something that you worked towards? You talked about your mindset with things that you were focusing on and how you would get better in that space. Or did it come to you, like the players voted you as captain?
Don: No, players never voted me as captain. That decision was made by the committee of the football club. And no, players never voted on that. The administration voted the captain.
Jack: And why do you think they selected yourself?
Don: I think it was just because I was the oldest player. I’ve come through the system and I was vice-captain. And as time rolled I finished up being the oldest. That’s how it was passed on, I think.
Jack: And then for captains that you’d had in previous years, whether you were supporting them as vice-captain or before being a vice-captain, what do you think successful leadership is about for team success?
Don: Well, it depends on the area you’re in, whether it’d be football or business, or whatever. I think you’ve got to have credibility. I think you’ve really got to have credibility. And each role in leadership is different depending on the sphere that you’re in. And just to say this is the way leaders should be, I don’t think that’s the case. Different things for different situations.
Maybe a classic, and I don’t know too much about history, but it fascinated me. That’s for example, Winston Churchill was a leader as the prime minister of England through the Second World War. Now, I don’t know how good a leader he was, but he was certainly inspirational the way he spoke to the English population when they were facing the German army and being invaded. As soon as the war was over, and he took over as prime minister. That fascinates me. So, from that I think different leaders for different situations.
Jack: And when you were appointed captain, did you lean on mentors on how to take on that role? Or did you just go your own way?
Don: No, I just did my own thing. And I think you mightn’t be a leader. You be yourself, and you mightn’t measure up. Well, you’re not a leader. And I think a lot of people, whatever the job may be, whether you’re in media or whether you’re in your own job, you be yourself. And if you’re not good enough, go find something you’re good enough at and pursue that. Don’t try and achieve something you’re not. And don’t try and be somebody else that you’re not. You’re not true to yourself.
Jack: And then feedback, like you mentioned, how you would take on feedback as it was constructive and then you would use that from people that you respected to get better. How would you give feedback to players that were looking up to you and that sort of thing?
Don: I think in my case, well, if you’re talking about football, for football I trained hard, harder than anyone else. I tried to cover all aspects. And I wasn’t the best at everything, like endurance, running, sprinting. But I was certainly up in the top group. Strength wise, I did all of that stuff and I really did work on my skill.
So, I believe in that way you set the example for the others. I’m not one to sit down and talk and encourage. Because I think, once you’ve got to start and talk and encourage people, you’ve got a weakness in their character, anyway. In a game of football, you’ve got to win your stripes in a football team as I had to, and you’ve got to be accepted by the group.
That’s only done by your performances and you as an individual have got to come to terms with it yourself. Then you’re accepted by the group and you’re accepted by playing games regularly and whatever else. But it’s a unique thing, unless you’ve experienced it, but there is a kind of alienation by the group until you prove yourself to the group, then they accept you. And that initiation is then passed on. It was certainly in my time.
Jack: That makes a lot of sense. And like you said, that’s what builds credibility, isn’t it? The fact that you will lead by example. What about in terms of team success? When could you get a sense that you were going to win a premiership that year?
Don: We couldn’t win. Now, you only look to the following week. That’s the way I was brought up. It was interesting, when Allan James came to the club and he said, ‘Oh, we’ve got to win 13 games.’ I just couldn’t relate to that. ‘13 games will get us into the finals.’ ‘We’re going to lose this game,’ or ‘I think we can win these games.’
Whereas prior to that, 15 or 16 or whatever period it was, we just looked at the next week, next week. We won next week, let’s look at the next week. Let’s look at next Tuesday’s training. We’ve got Wednesday night training. Let’s not get above ourselves. We’ve got next week’s game which is on Saturday. That’s what we’re aiming for.
Just look at what you could control, which is this coming week and this game that’s here. Let’s try and win that game. So, that’s the way we’d look at. Just building block on building block and slowly you hope to get to the top.
Jack: Till you’re literally in the week of grand final, you wouldn’t spend too much of your time and energy on?
Don: Not at all. Not at all. Having won and lost grand finals, no, you can’t come stay to the back of the day. That’s a cliché, you’re sore and you don’t know when you’ve won a grand final. In my experience there have been blowouts, but in my experience, there’s never been a blow edge. You don’t know until right at the end.
Jack: And we’ve talked about the physical side in terms of your strength training, your tactical and skill, and craft, speed, endurance, and, obviously, football demands it all. What about the mental side? What type of work would you do to get yourself prepared for a game?
Don: I think, as I mentioned earlier, you condition to those in a bottom team and you become contemptuous of the opposition, because of the fact that they are winning. And then you start to win and start to climb that sand castle when you get to the king of the castle and then they’re coming at you. And I used to love it when you were at the top of the castle and they were coming at you, and you’d build them down again.
Jack: Give it back.
Don: Give it back.
Jack: And ruck was your main position, primary position as a player? Was that your favorite position?
Don: I would have liked to have been a center half-back in an exhibition game. The MCG is a drawn grand final, and I think in 1977 Hawthorn played Richmond in a curtain-raiser. That was, I think, 1977, and I’d played center half-back in that game. And I would’ve liked to play center half-back.
I would’ve liked to play there. It was a very easy position to me, very easy position to play because the ball just comes funneling in. I was tall enough, strong enough and quick enough to play center half-forwards. And I just found that a very easy position to play.
Jack: And that didn’t eventuate because you were so good at ruck?
Don: I wasn’t so good at the ruck, but you get pigeonholed. Occasionally I would go to center half-forward and Alan Martello would go into the ruck from again center half-forward on occasion.
Jack: And what about your biggest challenges as a player? And what did you learn from them?
Don: Biggest challenges as a player? Well, when you’re not gifted and you’re working all the time, everything’s a challenge. To me, I didn’t see any funny side of football. There was nothing humorous about football at all. I certainly steeled myself for every game that I played because I had to perform. And I didn’t find them very enjoyable at all. You probably look back and the only thing you look at now is your achievements. And we did achieve, so that’s all I get satisfaction out of is that we did achieve. And so, that’s what I take out of it.
Jack: So, there were always challenges in front of you. There’s not one that stands out and you just constantly worked on getting better? And as long as you were getting success, then you just stayed on that path?
Don: Yes, but you’ll tweak, you’re a tweaker. You might be having success, but how can I do this better? What can I do? So, you’re constantly analyzing and looking.
Jack: And as an individual, you’ve had a lot of accolades with awards and then also team success. What would be your main highlight, when you look back at your career?
Don: See, this is where we’re wrong with regard that it’s not an individual sport, football, and I’d never subscribed to individual success. The media or the club they have Best and Fairest and all that. You’re starting to break the team, the self-standard culture down. It’s what the team does achieve. And to share that with a group of fellows and to achieve, there is, I can tell you, there’s just brutal honesty amongst the group. Real brutal honesty that we can take out.
We don’t see one another for a period of time. The only common factor is we were good at football or this particular sport. We come from diverse lives and in our life outside of football we’re all different. But when we get together, especially the successful teams, not the ones that weren’t successful, but there is real, real honesty. And we just take off and it’s closer than family in a lot of cases.
Jack: With winning premierships as a team.
Don: Winning premierships, to achieve that, it’s got to be a real basic honesty amongst the group. And you’ve got to take what they tell you. It’s not nice laying that out on the ground if you do. And we’re playing for sheep stations. And so, it’s pretty brutal what’s said amongst the group, and you’ve got to take it. If you were wrong and you get a serve from your teammate, not the coach, the teammate, you’ve got to take it and you get on with it.
Jack: And do you guys as team with premierships catch up regularly?
Don: We do all the time. And it’s amazing as we’re getting older here how much closer we get. Especially the guys that I played with, we do talk and it’s an amazing comradery we’ve got.
Jack: And then you took on coaching post-career, what was the focus with that? Was that something you wanted to buy around with and try? Take us through your mindset.
Don: That’s an interesting one. I went to Adelaide. I was doing commentary and whatever else, I suppose it was an egotistical thingy.
Jack: And you had some, obviously, great coaches, David Parkin and others.
Don: Yeah. I was pretty hard to footballers, very seriously. Then I can see the mistakes I made when I went coaching. But I wouldn’t do any differently because that’s just me. I suppose, the most satisfying thing I got when I did go coaching was coaching Sorrento Under 18s.
As a man or a mentor said to me, ‘It’s all very well playing your professional sport, which was football, where you’re receiving money and whatever else for it. It’s a business. But go back to what football is really about. And it’s out in the suburbs.’ And the most satisfaction I got was when I went and coached the Sorrento Under 18s. For the first time in my life, I’d given back to football.
Jack: And why Sorrento?
Don: I lived down there. And they didn’t have a third, an Under 18 team. They had a seniors and a reserved team, but they were forfeiting every week, not being able to put a thirds together. My son happened to be at that age coming through. So, I got involved and that was probably the most satisfying two years. The most satisfying thing in football is that I gave back to football.
Jack: And you talked about that earlier in the podcast, how passionate you are about that age. It was a critical age for yourself as a footballer. With those memories and doing that for two years, why did you stop? Is it something that you felt like you’ve given back now?
Don: You have a limited time and, in my case, we played in a grand final in our second year, we missed out. We came from absolutely nowhere, there wasn’t a team two years prior and in the second year they played in a grand final. And that team happened to be the backbone of Sorrento success five years later in the seniors. And so, give somebody else the change. The philosophy was set as to how we structure this and then somebody else can take over and do it.
Jack: And you talked about business and your involvement from 22. You were instrumental in the preventing Hawthorn for merging with Melbourne in the mid 90s. Why did you take on that role and talk us through that campaign?
Don: Well, the reason I took it on was I used to commentate for Channel Seven. I used to do special comments and prior to a game I would bring their particular clubs that I was commentating on for that week and find out a little bit of information about the players.
And I remember talking to Graeme Allan, ‘Gubby’ Allan. Collingwood had a game that week. And he just mentioned something about Hawthorn merging. There was some talk, it was just a bit of a whisper in football circles. It wasn’t out there.
And then, on the Sunday it just happened to be that all premiership players that had ever played for Hawthorn had a photograph taken wearing white shirts, every player that have played in a premiership team. That was a huge photograph. And it was a bit of an article about the third page, a little paragraph about Hawthorn or a merge or something.
And from there, I remember I met Porter, he was my teammate in 1971, and he said, ‘Geez, I think they’re going to merge.’ And from that, it just started to roll. And I felt a little insulted that I wasn’t given the opportunity to say, ‘Hey, Hawthorn, we’re in trouble as a team, financially we’re cash broke, we’re not profitable.’ And I wasn’t given that opportunity to say, ‘Yes, I’d like to help.’ And I was like one of 9,000–10,000 members who weren’t consulted.
The various committees or the administrations were doing a deal without thinking of the members. They are not the football club. The members are the football club, and I just felt that. And so, whether we won or lost the merge, what we tried to do was that people were given the opportunity.
And it was structured in such a way that if you wish to put money in and the campaign wasn’t successful, it was, ‘Guilty. You would get your money back.’ So, if you put your 100 dollars in, your name was taken on and whatever else, and if we weren’t successful, that money would go back to you. It wouldn’t go to a new entity.
Jack: It’s great, really fair.
Don: So I thought. And so, the people were given that opportunity and we raised a million dollars in how many weeks to stave off the merger.
Jack: That’s inspiring story. It’s almost like you became, that’s real leadership.
Don: I don’t think it’s real leadership. You’re dealing with emotion. All that had to be, you just had to set a very simple thing. There was a simplicity of it. They need money. That’s the bottom line. They need money. And we’re going to give you a program where you donate, and if it’s not successful, the money goes back. So, you’ve got your opportunity. I don’t care whether the place exists or not, it’s no skin off my nose, but you are given an opportunity to save your football club if you wish to. And so, it was very simple to me. And you’re riding on emotion.
Jack: These ideas and putting together this campaign, where you working solely with yourself, or did you have a bit of a team?
Don: No, certainly I had a team. My experience was in the media. I had exposure through the media. I was working at Channel Seven and other things. And so, when you have that side of it worked and what happened behind the scenes and how they played the game, the AFL played the game and who they aligned. You wouldn’t get favourable reports from some people, yet you would the others. Just the conspiracy behind the whole thing. So, you knew how that worked.
Then there was the administrative side that was delegated here. The four people that were consulted, that I walked to. And I did my thing, they did their thing. And I had another fellow Leon Rice who I played with, he is the exact opposite to me. So, when I would express a view, he put a view, if we got halfway, that was the right way to go. So, it wasn’t my view, if that makes sense. It was a compromise.
Jack: And the players, like Doe Rone got involved. How much support did you get from the players?
Don: Well, we went to ex-players because football clubs demand the emotional involvement, administrators are not as invested as footballers are. When we play, when you play in a team, you’ve got to give emotionally. And so, it was basically made up of ex-players because of the fact that that’s what was required.
People don’t understand when players leave a club, I don’t think so now, because they seem to just transfer and go wherever. They don’t seem to have that emotional attachment. They certainly did back then.
And so, these people and they were all basically ex-players were the catalyst, well, not the catalyst, they were there, but they were looking after the main roles: PR, administration and whatever else. And then supporters came in and helped. We had a workforce.
Jack: And that media side, your work with Channel Seven commentary, how did that come about? Was it just that you got some opportunities, obviously, rose to those opportunities and it just built up momentum? Or was it something you were intending on doing?
Don: I suppose when you come out, just like any other player, as soon as a player with, I don’t know, an image or reputation or whatever else, comes out, if you come out of the retire at the right time and there’s nobody of comparable or statue or whatever else, you’re given that chance. It just keeps on rolling. It’s happening in the media. Constantly new players coming out, everybody wants to go out at the other end of the media. And everybody has a use-by date in the media, constantly being replaced.
So, I got an opportunity and Christopher Skase back in that heady days of the 80s, where companies were going berserk in Australia, taking and acquiring, Skase acquired Channel Seven. They got the football back, I think, from either the ABC or Channel 10, somebody, and he launched huge. And then the football started to go national. And so, there were about eight commentators which would just fly around Australia, commentating the games. Perth, Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne. So, that was in the 80s.
Jack: Awesome. Well, we’ll go to the personal side of the podcast, a bit of a get-to-know-Don-Scott-as-a-person-rather-than-the-professional-ADF-footballer-horse-lover. So, what’s your favorite life motto and/or motivational quote?
Don: I’m not into anything, nothing along that line inspires me. I wake up tomorrow and I look forward to that day. I don’t always plan ahead of what I’m doing. I’m training horses show jumping. So, I’m looking at the show that’s coming up in a month’s time. I’ve got to get horses ride for that. I don’t look at what happened yesterday.
Do what you’ve got to do today. If you’re doing something now, do it to the best of your ability, so you don’t have to go back and correct those faults. But you look ahead to what’s happening, don’t look back.
Jack: And what about movie, book or TV series that has impacted you the most?
Don: Well, there’s one film that I found fascinating, and I don’t mind admitting it. It’s one with Julia Roberts and Richard Gere where she plays the prostitute. What was it?
Jack: We’ll add it in the show notes.
Don: There you go. I don’t know the title, but every time that comes on, that gives me… The businessman who takes on the prostitute, needs a girl to go out for the day. I forget the name of it. But there is a trashy film boy.
Jack: And what makes you angry? What are your pet peeves from a professional point of view?
Don: I don’t have many because I don’t really get close to too many people. I have high expectations of myself and I find it very frustrating when people don’t live up. Maybe that’s a fault of mine that I set goals that I consider. Maybe I’m hard on myself, but if people don’t measure up, I just can’t be bothered with them. So, I don’t really associate with too many people.
Jack: So, basically, you’ve got your standards and things that you’re focusing on and people can come along for the ride or they can do as they do.
Don: Yeah. Not too many people come along for the ride, let me tell you.
Jack: That’s why you love horses.
Don: What you can give, you can give to young children under the age of five and you can give to animals, and they give you back unconditionally. Because if you are cruel with an animal, especially a horse or any animal, they will not respond, my friend, let me tell you. And what you see in young kids, they sum you up very, very quickly.
Jack: What about, these two are COVID-free world’s, your favorite way to spend a day off? What do you like to do?
Don: Oh, I don’t have a day off. I just don’t. I do something every day. I don’t know, I’m just busy.
Jack: But what would be your favorite way to spend a day?
Don: I can get pleasure right out of, I’ve just put in the beehive at home. Now I will go and stand there for half an hour. And I’m just fascinated with these bees coming in. I’ve seen them come, how they come out scouting, they have hierarchy, how they don’t crash. They just fascinate me. I’m fascinated and interested in anything. I haven’t got to go down to the beach for the day. I just work.
Jack: And what about where would you like to go for a holiday in the world?
Don: I think I’ve just about done it all, I was fascinated with Europe. I’ve done Europe. America’s like Australia, it’s got natural history. But I was fascinated and still am about the history of people who’ve gone before us, and especially in Europe. And it just never ceases to amaze me what people have achieved and we don’t give them credit for what they’ve achieved in the past.
Jack: That’s great. You’ve lived a full life. It’s been great to have you on the podcast and share your journey and your story and philosophy for life from whether it’d be performance in media, athletic pursuits with football, business, whatever it is. No doubt, I’ve taken a lot from it, as well as the listeners and those watching the live chat. What’s on the horizon for you? What are you excited about for the rest of 2021?
Don: I’ve got two horses at home. I hope we can get out from COVID and start to compete. They look like they’re going all right.
Jack: So, where’s the next competition?
Don: I don’t know. I don’t know how they are going to open. There are shows planned, but whether we can do it is another thing. Up in the air as everybody. You’ve got to be double vaxed and whatever else.
You know what we’ve gone through. I think we’ll look back in this in the years to come and say, ‘How the hell did we ever get through this?’ I just cannot believe what Melbourne has gone through and we’ve experienced. Yet, we’ve been numbed to it. This is the scary thing that we have been numbed into what we have experienced. But we can only blame ourselves because we have, in a lot of cases, voted these people in.
Jack: It’s a crazy time and whenever it’s time that we’re looking back and sharing the stories, we’ll be pinching ourselves of what we’ve coped with. Well, thanks, Don. It was great to have you on.
Don: Thank you very much.
Jack: And what’s going on with ‘You Cannot Be Serious’ podcast as well? For those that are interested, who are your next guests?
Don: Oh, it’s two old blokes talking shit. And I follow Sam Newman. He’s the controller. He’s a narcissist. And so, I just know my right.
Jack: Very good.
Don: Thanks, Jack.
Jack: Thanks, Don.
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