Rev. Shinboner asked North Melbourne’s CEO, Eugene Arocca, to give his thoughts on the current President, James Brayshaw.
Rev. Shinboner: What were your initial impressions of James Brayshaw when you got to the club?
Eugene Arocca: I found him to be really affable. For a person who was a first class sportsperson, or an elite athlete, and involved in the media I found him very down to earth and we hit it off straight away, to the point where the moment I met him, I pretty much felt that, from a President-CEO point of view, it was going to be a good working relationship. Probably dissimilar to the one I’d just had with Eddie. I found them to be different personalities, both good, but it really struck me with JB that he was more akin to the way I thought about things than I thought he might be. That was again a perception that was immediately shattered the moment I met him.
What also struck me was his absolute passion for the club, and that goes without saying. I’ve now been swept up in that passion.
RS: In many ways Brayshaw was a reluctant President. Do you think he enjoys the job?
EA: I think he enjoys the job. I think that it’s probably a little bit different to what he expected it to be, and I probably reckon that, like me, he wouldn’t enjoy some of the public comment about the club that is unfair or unbalanced. But I think he can do the job for as long as he wanted to because I think he’s driven by his passion to succeed, and we’ve got a long way (to go) from being successful.
So at some point in time you may stop enjoying it, but you may still love doing it, if you know what I mean – there’s a difference between enjoying something and loving something and being passionate. Everything about him suggests to me that he loves this game, he loves the sport, he loves the club, and particularly enjoys the job that he’s doing at the moment. But we’ve still got some challenges.
RS: There are obvious advantages him working in the media, but there’s disadvantages that go with that. Do you think he trips himself up on his public commentary on North at all?
EA: I think it’s particularly difficult for him because sometimes he’s approached and asked to comment about things where the wearing of the two hats gets a bit blurred. I think that’s the part that he probably doesn’t enjoy the most.
But, to his credit, he’s been very good at separating himself as the President from making comment on executive matters. He’ll generally say, “That’s a matter for Eug.” I think he’s been pretty good at separating himself from making comment just for the sake of comment. Generally he’ll be responding to something.
Even on the Footy Show, if you looked at the way Eddie ran the show (it had) a lot of Collingwood eccentricities about it. JB’s particularly careful not to over ‘North Melbournise’ it if you want to call it that. So I think that he’s handling that pretty well, and I like the idea that I rarely see him in print unless it’s about something that is really important to the club as a policy matter. Such as, for example, Wayne Carey being on the Hall of Fame in the AFL. I would expect the President to be make that comment. But if you look at the number of comments he makes compared to some other Presidents I reckon he’s way behind them, and he allows me to make the comments where necessary about matters that are more relevant to the football club.
RS: Were you disappointed with his comment about North couldn’t attract Leigh Matthews or Mark Thompson as a coach?
EA: No, I wasn’t disappointed by that. The reality is that they probably couldn’t attract a better CEO! They probably couldn’t go out and pay double the money for a CEO who might have been better than me. That’s the reality.
I’m not embarrassed by those comments. We are a club that only generates $24 million, and to pay for a coach like a Leigh Matthews or a Mike Malthouse, for us, would have a significant financial impact.
So I heard the comments and I wasn’t disappointed by them but I don’t want people to think that that is us running ourselves down. It is simply a recognition of a financial constraints that we work under, not the nature of the club, or the culture of the club, or the good bits about the club. It’s merely a recognition that we can’t fly our boys to Arizona, but we can take them to Wilson’s Promontory. It doesn’t mean the experience is any different, or that we treat people any differently, it’s just the reality. So I would have thought that JB would have an acute knowledge of what people are getting paid, and he understands that generally speaking there’s a limit to what this club can pay.
RS: At the same time you said that you brought people over (to North Melbourne) who took a pay cut who were up for the challenge and not for the money. You don’t think the same could be done with the coach?
EA: I think the same could be done with the coach, but it depends on the particular coach. It may be that a Leigh Matthews might say that, “I’ll take on a North Melbourne challenge at $400k, less than most other coaches.” This is a very challenging job at the best of times, being a senior coach. I reckon they get remunerated fairly for what they do, based on where they are. Our coach is appropriately remunerated. But you’re right, I think in an administrative position it’s far easier to make that decision (to take a lower salary) than it would be for a senior coach, because the pressures on the family of the coach and the lifestyle of the coach is probably more impactful than for an administrator.