Creating wins and handling defeat

Home / Blog / Creating wins and handling defeat

Creating wins and handling defeat

The last weekend in September is a huge sporting event each year. Both the AFL and NRL have their grand finals on either day of this weekend.

Of course, with any final there has to be a winner and a loser.

I am always fascinated after the finals by two things:

  • How the winning team speaks about their win – why they think they won, what the catalyst was, what it took to win
  • How the losing team speaks about their loss – why they think they lost, what was the missing ingredient, what they will do next to recover from the loss

Hearing these ‘stories’ gives me fodder for how I can apply these words of wisdom to our business to make it better, and then how I can share it with others to help improve their businesses.

So I am going to briefly share what I heard and read after the AFL Grand Final.

West Coast Eagles played Collingwood. For all but the last 5 minutes Collingwood led the game. However, in that last sequence of play, West Coast kicked a goal and went on to win by 5 points. West Coast were elated, and Collingwood were devastated.

It will go down as one of the best AFL Grand Finals I have ever seen – the to and fro and the ‘never give up attitude’ of both teams was a sight to behold.

West Coast Eagles

So, let’s start with West Coast…………. what was it that helped them to hang in there and win the most important game of the year? What was the reason for this side’s success?


West Coast lost in the finals the year before. But rather than slink away feeling sorry for themselves, their coach Adam Simpson asked Justin Langer (the current Australian cricket coach, West Australian legend and devoted fan and Board member of the Eagles) to address his team after that loss.

Simpson summarises what Justin’s key message was about,

“At this club we have a theme about head, heart and gut. The heart is the love of the game, the gut is about the last quarter, and the head is about preparation and training. Justin then added the need for spirit and brotherhood and used his career as an example of how important both of these things are to attain success. His passion and dedication to his career has definitely, positively impacted our team. His words hit home and made all the difference.”


To say the coach, Nathan Buckley and all his players were devastated by the loss is an understatement. Collingwood hasn’t won a Grand Final since 2010, however before that it was 1990. For one of the most successful clubs historically it has been a long time between drinks for them. And for Nathan, one of the best players of the game, he has never won a Grand Final. And again, it wasn’t to be.

So, what do you do when you have the win within your grasp and you let it go?

Well, before you embark on the season, as the coach you read a book called ‘The Courage to be Disliked’ by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga. It is a self-help guide that teaches the importance of realising it is impossible to please everyone.

Fast forward to after the game, when Nathan Buckley addressed his players he began by speaking about all the adversity many players and staff at the club had endured throughout the year – the death of a sister two weeks before the final, the injuries to star players who couldn’t make it to the Grand Final, life-threatening health scares and a positive test to cocaine just before the Grand Final that ensured that that player would not achieve his dream of playing in his first Grand Final.

But rather than lament the difficulties faced, he used an analogy from ‘The Courage to be Disliked’ to show how they had handled the cards they had been dealt.

“If I drop a glass, rather than picking it up and throwing it in the bin, in line with Japanese philosophy I would pick it up and put it back together again and to emphasise the parts that were broken, I would put gold leaf through the middle of it.”

The philosophy underneath this story is about celebrating your hardships, about understanding that the things that break you can actually have you coming out the other side stronger, more resilient, a better version of you. I have got no doubt we have celebrated that this year.

We are going to be all right. We will keep highlighting those areas that everyone else thinks are going to break us, they will make us stronger and they will make us more resilient on the other side.

We are all hurting. We are all feeling it. We didn’t get where we wanted to go. I would have thought that we would have been able to finish the job this year, but it is only a step along the way for us…………..”

Key messages for me

The wins are great and need to be celebrated and learned from – how did I make that happen so I can repeat it?

However, the losses can also be wonderful learning opportunities, as much as they hurt – making us stronger and more resilient.

‘An arrow can only be shot by pulling it backward. When life is dragging you back with difficulties, it means it’s going to launch you into something great. So just focus, and keep aiming.”

Never give up!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *