How one conversation – one story – got this Melburnian to her first-ever footy match

I’m a Melburnian. Born and bred. I’ve lived here for 48 out of my 50 years. 

So you’d be forgiven for not believing me when I tell you that I have never watched a full game of AFL in my life. 

That’s right – unlike most true blue Victorians you’d come across, I’ve never cared one iota about the sport. 

In fact, the mere possibility of AFL coming up in conversation (or on a news program or a podcast for that matter), had me running out that door faster than you can say ‘Aussie Rules’.

But earlier this year something changed. 

It all began at a family dinner, when I was seated next to and chatting with one of our country’s biggest AFL followers and Carlton fanatics: My brother-in-law, Simon.

There was nothing unusual about this scenario. We have family dinners fairly regularly. And I’ve had billions of conversations with Simon over the years… 

But not a single one about AFL.  

You see, for as long as I’ve known him (25 years, cough cough), I’ve been well aware that footy is a huge part of Simon’s life. But due to my lifelong disinterest in the sport, I have always managed to find other things to chat with him about.

That Friday night in April though, I threw him a bone:

’So Sime, how’s Carlton going this season?’, I asked for some bizarre reason. 

Admittedly, I was just making small talk. I didn’t actually care about the answer. But before I knew it, Simon was taking me through Carlton’s ups and downs (mostly downs, tbh) of the last two decades. And to my amazement – as well as his, I suspect – I was hanging on his every word.  

In particular, I recall being on the edge of my seat during his blow-by-blow description of Carlton’s nail-biting victory against the Demons in the last moment of the 2023 finals. (And get this: I even watched a few minutes of the replay later that night! Who even am I?)

Yup, Carlton’s recent revival after 20 years of despair and disappointment – and Simon’s  unwavering loyalty to his team through it all – struck a chord. It just got me. How he held on to that thread of hope all this time, I’ll never know. But his passion that night, as he was taking me through it, was palpable. And I was suddenly and unexpectedly… invested.   

Over the following weeks, I began to take an (understated) interest in the outcome of Carlton’s games – sending texts of congratulation or commiseration to Simon upon learning the outcome of each. 

Then, before long, at yet another family dinner, I found myself asking Simon this question: ‘You reckon you can get me a ticket to a Carlton game?’

His eyes lit up – and his smile stretched proudly from cheek to cheek. Because he knew he’d got me on board the Carlton train. And he knew that the perfect game (for one to lose her AFL virginity) was only a couple of weeks away: 

Carlton v Essendon on Sunday 9 June 2024.

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I’d want to watch a full game of footy… live or otherwise. But there I was, at the MCG (along with another 88,000 hyped-up fans), decked out in my brother-in-law-supplied Carlton paraphernalia – with laser-focused attention, cheering on our winning team. 

You see, that’s the thing about storytelling. It can transform you from not giving a flying fruitcake about something in one moment, to feeling deeply and personally invested the next. Because once you’re hooked – by the characters, the backstory, the plight – you just can’t disconnect.

Which is why, when done well, storytelling can influence and change us in a profound way. And it can create a feeling of satisfaction and belonging like nothing else can – whether in our personal or professional lives. 

It’s no wonder then that storytelling is widely considered a core competency of successful leaders. Unlike slide decks and statistics, stories enable you to bring people along with you on the journey. And it’s by far the most memorable and impactful way to demonstrate your organisational and personal values. 

Right now, I am excited to be working with storytelling specialist, Sara Tiefenbrun on a new CSA workshop called Effective Business Storytelling.

It’s a practical, fun and eye-opening course that teaches leaders the rules of storytelling and how they can apply them. Sara shows participants how to use stories to establish stronger, deeper human connections internally and externally – and how to proactively shape and align their brand narrative. 

Sound interesting? Then get in touch so we can tell you more.

Meanwhile, I’ll be here, crossing my fingers and cheering on Carlton, hoping they can make it all the way to the premiership this year. 

After all, I’m invested now. And there’s no turning back.