2023 Mycelium #16 Football

Went to the footy on Friday night, which will probably be a surprise to some readers, it was a surprise to me. What I love about football has not a lot to do with what happens on the field, although I realise that is why people go to watch it. It is all the community and in particular the team work that goes on to get something on to the field. From the mums and dads who take their children to practice and save up to buy a special pair of boots, to the mind set coaches for the elite athletes that bring neuroscience and psychology to the players to give their best and meet the expectations of fans and sponsors alike. All the thousands of people and wildly different skill sets that put an event on that brings a community together in the often bleak and wet wintry conditions to be warmed by pies, pasties, each other’s company and an experience of solidarity cheering their team on.

Football matches are a extraordinary expression of mycelium made visible. The undergrowth bursting with multiple complex threads of energy finding their way to the surface and onto the perfectly curated ground and into the hands of a player taking a mark, kicking a goal, tackling an opponent, stilling themselves at the sound of a whistle.  Australian Rules Football is the largest team sport on the planet – 18 players on the field for each team – plus a squad of up to about 50 more behind the scenes, ready, willing and able to step up at any time to get onto the field. It is this feature of footy that has always inspired me – the size of the team on the field. I usually watch the grand final just to watch the play of the teams within teams and how the coaches work each of the lines and combinations to get the results they are looking for. I have often advised emerging and existing team leaders to watch a game and see what they can learn from the team-within-teams strategies for success.

In my role as Mayor, I haven’t been able to pick any of my fellow elected members, that responsibility rested with voters. So the challenge for me is to see what I can do to help us all orientate to the community and we aren’t playing against anyone. The goals we are trying to kick are for the whole community, not just one type of crowd. At the footy on Friday night I was thinking how much of what we do is in the binary world, often most expressed as us vs them. This is not what a council is though – it is all about collaboration and if there is any us vs them – the them is the future – how we can be as ready as we can be for the future, and shape it as we go along, so the goals we kick are accurate and inoculate future teams from missing the mark as best we can. 

Having this approach requires letting go of a binary world view and taking the lessons of what it takes to get a team onto the ground. I am reflecting that maybe my gig is the challenge of bringing all the training, experience, skills, ideas and expectations of individuals, forged to face the future with a common vision of being match fit and ready to kick goals?  This recent Festival of Football was branded as Gather Round and to see so many thousands of people turning up to gather around their teams and the game itself was a beautiful expression of the power of sport to bring people together.  I am hanging on to the legacy of the round to demonstrate what we can do when we all orientate ourselves to kicking goals at scale.

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