NESC Forum 2009: Western Bulldogs

The final session of Day One was introduced by Ken Norris. James Fantasia (Director of Football), Rodney Eade (Head Coach) and Bill Davoren (Head, Physical Conditioning) presented The Team Behind a High Performing Sport: A Case Study.
James Fantasia introduced the talk. He shared a video of  a week behind the scenes with the Bulldogs club in Round 15 week v Collingwood (one point loss 110-111). Channel 7 filmed the week’s preparation. James provided some historical background to the Bulldogs (Founded 1877, entered the VFL in 1925). he noted the development of a Learning Centre at the club (a $30 million faciliity). The club has 20 full-time personnel and 55 part-time staff. There are seven key areas (administration, coaching, physical conditioning, development, medical services, recruiting, football operations and logistics).
James presented an organisational plan but acknowledged that the club is a flat line organisation. He noted the importance of the club’s business values. The Bulldogs are a process driven club keen to preserve intellectual property.  The club uses the Leading Teams approach. Bulldogs have adapted this approach. James discussed role clarity at the club and noted that everyone is clear about their responsibilities.
James concluded his talk with some characteristics of the culture at the club:

  • Education priorities
  • Attention paid to the recruitment of staff
  • Standards on and off the field
  • Honest and open communication including peer assessment

Rodney Eade discussed the Coaching Department at the club and explored the environment the club wants to create. There are 45 players and 20 staff. The key functions of the Coaching Department are: game plan; skills; training planning; analysis; game review; match day preparation; season, weekly and daily planning; individual sessions. Rodney discussed four key points:

  • Role of the Head Coach
  • Motivation
  • Openness to knowledge sharing
  • Clarity of goals (and process delivers goals)

Rodney noted the commitment to a continuous improvement environment. Creative thinking is encouraged in high challenge environments. Emphasis is placed on an enjoyable daily training environment. He was very clear about the superordinate importance of the team.
Bill Davron discussed his 12 months of learning in AFL. A year ago he jumped at the opportunity to take up his role at the club.He shared his admiration for the game and the players in it. he gave an example of  Preliminary Final intensity. In this game one athlete ran 19.5kms, 7kms of this at high intensity. The player had 350 efforts and 290 maximum accelerations.
Bill underscored the demand to make hard decisions quickly in AFL and used his own experience of modulating training for 45 players’ loads. What pathway should be developed for each player?  Bill emphasised the importance of links he had developed with Victoria University to develop his approach at the club.


  1. Great piece Keith, shows how diverse and multi faceted the demands are in a modern professional sports environment. Interesting that Rodney Eade said that ‘Emphasis is placed on an enjoyable daily training environment’, shows that sport even at the top end should be fun.


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