We had a goal and we worked hard to develop a mindset of success. The result was that everyone improved in their performances, established where their weaknesses lay and began to improve on them.
Allen Aylett is a legend. On the 16th of June 1979 he was named an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in recognition of services to Australian rules football. On 24 October 2000 he was awarded the Australian Sports Medal for his contribution to Australian football. January 1st 2001 he was awarded the Centenary Medal for service to Australian society through the sport of AFL football. He was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 2006.
Allen was a passionate and qualified dentist, only recently retiring at the age of 81. He played 220 games and kicked 311 goals for the North Melbourne Football Club in a career spanning from 1952 to 1964. Allen won the Best and Fairest award from 1958 to 1960, was All-Australian in 1958 and 1961, won the Tassie Medal in 1958, the Simpson Medal in 1960, and was captain of his side from 1961 to 1964. He was selected in North Melbourne Football Club’s Team of the Century.
After his playing career Allen led the North Melbourne Football Club, as president, to their first premiership in 1975. He then went on to the presidency of the Victorian Football League (VFL), leading the organisation from a state to a national competition, Australian Football League, in 1982.
Where it started
In the 1950s I was selected to play for a VFL club at a time when zoning had just been introduced. The metropolitan area was divided into areas and potential players were taken into a club based on the area in which they lived. So if you were born in Brunswick, like I was, you were in the North Melbourne zone. I had no choice but to play with the North Melbourne Football Club, whether I liked it or not. Ironically I was an Essendon supporter and lived just a couple of streets away from the Essendon Football Club zone. All players, whether metropolitan or country, were zoned in this way to a particular club.
I started playing with North Melbourne in the boys league as a teen
Then, at 17 years of age in the 1952 season, I was selected for the North Melbourne Football Club’s first game of the season to play my inaugural senior game. Luckily, it was against Carlton, not Essendon!
In my second year at senior level I was still 17 and had one year to go at University High School. I played that full year with North Melbourne and the following year, 1953, I was admitted to Melbourne University Dental School to start my five-year university course — while still playing football. Of course, that is not done these days because the players now are professional athletes and full-time footballers. In my day, players needed to have a full-time career outside of the sport.
I was fortunate to have a successful football life over 13 years
I played 220 games when it was only 18 games per season. During 1958, the centenary year of football, I was awarded the Tassie Medal for the most outstanding player in the series.
In 1964, at 30 years of age, I broke a bone in my hand. Bearing in mind that, by this stage, I had graduated as a dentist and I had my own dental practice, it was time for me to make a hard decision, as I couldn’t work as a dentist with a couple of broken bones in my hand!
However, after missing about three or four games, I came back to finish the season. In the very first game I came back, I broke my left wrist. That was virtually the end of my career — I was taken off the ground and the doctors were injecting morphine into my body. One of the sporting reporters attending the game, who was a very good friend of mine, asked, “Is this the end? Is this the end?”
It turned out that that game happened to be my last. With some sadness I retired from my playing position at the club. But it certainly wasn’t the end of my time at the club — in many ways it was the beginning of a new adventure.
Almost straight away the guys running the club asked me to be on the board. In the beginning of 1965 I took up the position on the North Melbourne Football Club Board for the next five years — five long years! The football club, during this period, was not having any success on the field. In fact, the talk around the town was, “Poor old North. What’s going to happen to them? They will be out of the competition.”
It really upset me that people were saying we were finished and out of the competition. We were so passionate about playing for North Melbourne, what the club meant to us, and what North Melbourne meant to a lot of other people. I wanted to make a difference and help get the winning feeling back at the club, but nothing was actually happening at board level in order to change our lack of success through the 1960s.
I retired from the board even though my mates tried to persuade me to stay on. In my mind, as sad as it was, I felt it was time for me to move on. I finished up and it was only about three or four weeks before the board sent a delegation to my home. I was ill at that time, which was a very rare occurrence, but the delegation came to my bedside and said, “We’ve got an offer to put to you.”
They didn’t waste any time:
“You can either be the coach of the North Melbourne Football Club or the president”.
“Well, I’d just like to think about it a bit. It’s all come out of the blue and here I am lying unwell in front of you guys and you’re putting this massive decision to me”, I said.
“Well, you know, we want to try and get it cleared up and we’re really desperate for you to do something — one of those two things”, they responded. I told them to let me think about it.
I only really got to think about it for two or three days before they came back and so I said, “Well, I’m happy to come back, but if I do come back I want to be the president”.
When I was appointed President in 1971, I made a commitment to bring positive change to the club. There was so much potential, yet so few results — something had to change. I adopted personal success author Napoleon Hill as our mastermind. Through his teachings I learned the importance of working with teams, leadership skills, and many of the other principles of running a successful organisation such as goal setting and having a business plan.
Our committee at North Melbourne began to have regular early morning meetings, which were much more productive than evening meetings. We set goals and kept accurate reports on how we were tracking. We measured our development and put together a five-year plan to win a premiership, our first ever, in just five years: 1975.
It was a bold plan and an ambitious goal that was going to take an enormous effort. The club had not won a premiership in its entire history in the VFL. So I started to make some radical, even unpopular, decisions. I knew that we had to try something different.
The first thing we did was to look around, learn from others, and convince good people to join our group and enjoy the ride.
We appointed Brian Dixon as coach and he introduced a handball style to the club. It was seen by many people to be excessive use of handball. He was so resolute about introducing it, however it had never been seen before, and consequently we made lots of mistakes. Brian copped more abuse from our supporters than the footballers did! But the football world was changing and shifting more and more towards this handball-based game – as it is today.
The first two years into our five-year plan were not looking positive on the scoreboard, but we had faith. We knew that if we stuck to the plan, persisted, learned from mistakes, kept building, and kept growing we would make it happen. The end result was that we did win the premiership in 1975. I don’t think you can say definitively as a rule that a five-year plan will always work, but in this particular case it did.
Our goal was achieved because we kept talking about it. We followed the plan, not always with 100 per cent capability, but we always spoke about it, focused on it, and affirmed it. We had a goal and we worked hard to develop a mindset of success. The result was that everyone improved their performance, established where their weaknesses lay, and began to improve on them. Very soon the power of the mind encapsulates all that you’ve learned, all that you’re striving for, and you are putting all that in place in your subconscious mind. Our positively expectant thinking and words started rubbing off on people in and around the football club and in no time we all had the belief that it was going to happen on the last day in September in 1975 — and that’s the way it was.
By doing that, I’m not saying it’s going to happen. But there’s a much higher chance that it will if you follow these principles. There’s no trick or secret to success. The books are out there and they tell us what to do. By simply applying what was in the books, the results were outstanding. Even though the actual goal may not be reached the first time around, if you keep persevering you’re well on your way to receiving that sort of success somewhere along the line.
Never give up
I always remember the story about when legendary English Prime Minister Winston Churchill was asked to speak at an undergraduate function at Oxford University in 1941. After his great introduction, he walked across the stage and stood in front of the microphone. “Ladies and gentlemen, never, never, never, never, never give up”, he said. Then he just turned around and walked off the stage.
There wasn’t any applause when he started to walk off because everyone was wondering what they came for. But by the time he got to the curtains on the other side of the stage, there was a thunderous applause that went on for several minutes. When you really think about it, it’s not a bad thing to do. I haven’t tried a speech like that myself yet, but one of these days I will.
At North Melbourne Football Club we followed that ‘never give up’ principle that Churchill spoke about. We all made sacrifices that flowed on to our families as the board members even mortgaged their homes to get some capital behind the club. It wasn’t substantial amounts of money, but it was enough to give us the impetus to do what we had to do. We gave it everything. The shared vision and the dream of making this goal a reality was what we worked towards. We wanted to change the attitudes about the North Melbourne Football Club and we wanted to set the club on a different path.
Since that first premiership in 1975 and up until this story in 2016, the North Melbourne Football club has gone on to win four day premierships, three night premierships, played in eight grand finals, and has appeared in 15 finals. The club is a well-respected member of the AFL. There is no doubt that we always had the ability and the potential to be great, but we just needed to change our thinking, set a goal, stick to the plan, and never, ever give up.
The Napoleon Hill books have stood the test of time. I learned from these books about how to set the goals and put them in place. How to actually use the subconscious mind to help me. I learned that once you set your goal, you need to affirm your goal at least twice a day by saying your own personal affirmations.
Hill tells you how to do that and it really does keep you on track. There’s no doubt in my mind that the subconscious is just so powerful. It’s so powerful that we can do anything. In fact, the subconscious is so powerful that an ordinary player can think his way to becoming a much better player because of the positive attitude that he applies to the game.
As an example, if a player runs 100 yards in ten seconds, it means he runs ten yards in one second or one yard in one-tenth of a second. If that player has conditioned his mind this way and can make a decision one-tenth of a second earlier than his opponent, he is going to be one yard ahead. If you have two players starting off at the same place and one player is one yard in front of the other player, that one yard will make all the difference. It’s about the attitude, focus, and power of the mind. It simply depends on how positively you’re thinking and it always comes back to exactly what we’re talking about – the power of the mind.