Only a few years ago, new presidents took the reins of Melbourne and North Melbourne, seeking to rebuild their respective clubs. In the seasons since, the chosen path for each president has been very different. And the results are stark.
James Brayshaw took over North Melbourne at the end of 2007, Jimmy Stynes in mid-2008. In many respects, the clubs were in similar positions at the time: high debt, low revenue, a neglected backyard, no real facilities and a trashed brand.
While North’s on-field performances were superior, history shows that 2007’s preliminary final berth was the exception rather than the rule. Both teams needed rebuilding, it’s just that Melbourne had better draft picks.
Although both presidents started out in similar ways – asserting a new vision, surrounding themselves with their people and appointing a new CEO – their divergent styles soon became apparent. The key difference can be summarised with one word: delegation.
Stynes rolled his sleeves up and got to work. He has been omnipresent, and achieved much.
Brayshaw, however, took a back seat. While remaining publicly visible, his preference was always to defer to Eugene Arocca as CEO, and allow the NMFC staff to take charge.
Both have made monumental progress in a number of areas. Most critically, Stynes and Brayshaw have successfully sold hope to the faithful, transforming the besieged mentality of each club into one of quiet confidence.
That is, until recently. Melbourne is back under siege, its football department in tatters.
It appears that Stynes can’t do everything. His people, namely Schwab (CEO) and Connelly (General Manager of Football), have either let him down or been unable to move out of his shadow.
Facing the club’s biggest crisis since he took over, Stynes’ first key move has been to bring in Gary Lyon, his old mate. Clearly, Stynes has trust issues.
While there’s no doubt that Stynes’ ill-health has been a devastating blow to Melbourne’s fortunes, one would think this would provide impetus for Jimmy to make room for others. Either there is no-one else – something I find difficult to believe – or Stynes simply refuses to relinquish control. And now the chickens are coming home to roost.
Meanwhile, Brayshaw has successfully overseen a quiet transformation of North Melbourne, with appropriate respect to its proud culture. The football department is as strong as ever, under the watch of North’s quiet achiever, Donald McDonald (affectionately known as ‘The Chief’).
With Arocca as CEO, only North Melbourne’s debt remains untackled. But with all other pieces falling into place, an assault is imminent and achievable.
Despite this tale of two clubs, Brayshaw’s presidency has been marred by heavy criticism from sections of the footy media, while Stynes somehow continues his (benevolent) dictatorship with almost universal support.
Surely it’s time (some) people woke up and smelt the Sherrin?