Former Wallabies rugby union star David Croft reflects on the advantages his Griffith MBA gave him as he tackled his new career in the business world.
Can you tell us a little about your association with Griffith?
I studied an MBA part-time for 3 years at the Griffith Graduate School on the South Bank campus and to put it simply it was an invaluable experience. I was based at the Griffith. I felt I was coming from a pretty unique situation having started my postgraduate degree toward the end of a professional Rugby career. So I was really preparing for a career change. The combination of the MBA program and my previous sporting career provided me with the ability to engage with people in all levels of business with confidence. The MBA gave me the language of business, as well as the understanding and acumen that you need to develop in a new profession.
So how was the transition been to from professional rugby to business?
Even though I was employed as a professional athlete, I was already working with my future employer at International Quarterback. So it wasn’t a huge transition for me, but there were a lot of things that I was not prepared for. So I just had to work through those obstacles and challenges, learn from them and act on what I was learning from the MBA or my experiences in Rugby as a sport and an industry.
There is also the benefit of being in a team environment and I thrive in that environment. You can experience similar internal issues between management, senior and junior players, as well as the support staff. So you get to leverage off those experiences and learn from them as you apply your knowledge to business management.
Has the MBA benefited you in establishing your more recent career in business?
Yes, definitely. My current role as Head of Commercial for Sports and Entertainment Limited (SEL) requires a great deal of consultation and negotiation with brands and clients for revenue generation. Those businesses, brands and media networks require a strategy to achieve financial goals and we assist them with achieving those goals.
The MBA program at Griffith provides you with a skill set that you use in daily business life. The program exposes you to ways to breakdown these situations. You learn about Human Resource Management, Marketing and PR, as well as effective negotiation and strategising.
You seem to have been well-liked both on and off the field. That must have helped to develop your professional networks. Is that one of the greatest benefits you take with you into a business career from life as a professional athlete?
Yes, definitely, I have been fortunate to meet many inspiring people during my time in Australian Rugby. A really diverse range of people from all aspects of life. I learned from them and have maintained contact with them over the years. My sporting career has provided me with so many friends and that is always great for any job, career and industry that you might move in to.
Was it difficult juggling professional Rugby with your personal life?
The travel was great experience. An opportunity to see the World and meet people, so it was very rewarding overall. A valuable experience for my own personal growth and in developing a more global outlook on life. Of course it did affect my personal life, by being away from my family so much, but I was always amongst friends and have always always been very well supported by my family to achieve my goals both in sport and now in business.
I have also been very fortunate with my employers, who have offered me the flexibility to work as I pursued my sporting career which required so much of my time and commitment.
At the moment I continue to travel a lot, because I have to be at the ‘Coal face’ and in our industry that means Sydney and Melbourne. I am now based in Sydney, but most of my family is still in Queensland and I am a proud Queenslander, so I do see myself moving back here someday.
Did you learn any life lessons from Rugby that you take with you in to the business world?
Mostly work ethic and resolve. Having the ability to pick yourself up again after being pummeled by the challenges that life and work can throw at you. Learn from it, improve what you do and get on with the job. You also learn a lot about people management and behavioural management, what works and what doesn’t and how to adapt. Teamwork is another factor, how teams operate, how they develop and how they succeed or fail, because there are downsides. You have to learn how to balance successes and failures, by learning from each experience.
What are your thoughts on the Wallabies at the moment?
Whilst it was tough to watch and I know the guys will be disappointed with their performance on the weekend, I have seen some great improvement in the team this year. There have been some strong performances, such as the hard fought draw against the New Zealand All Blacks, in the final game of the Rugby Championship.
This Wallabies team has had to battle through the Championship with probably the worst list of injuries to established players on record. So I hope that we will see further improvement as they continue to develop and rebuild as a team. It will also be interesting to see what happens as the new CEO of the ARU takes over and the changes that may result from that.
Any other thoughts on Griffith, your MBA, etc?
I would like to mention one of the best opportunities I was offered whilst at Griffith. It was to visit the ESSAM School, which is a European Summer School for Advanced Management, based in Aarhus, Denmark. ESSAM is a 2-week intensive program with other business students and academics from all over the world. I enjoyed the similarities between the people you meet from different places and how much you can learn from them and the practices that they introduce you to. It really made you realise the value of the MBA program and it gets you out of your comfort zone and helps you to explore new ideas. I also made some lifelong friends there, so it was another great networking opportunity.
What I liked most about the MBA program at Griffith was the flexibility and the supportive attitude of our lecturers. They understand we need fit our studies around full time work commitments. It was also the very practical nature of the programs which was very engaging for me.
* David Croft played more than 100 games for the Queensland Reds and five Tests for the Australian Wallabies between 2000 and 2008.