Disclaimer: The Moderating team have attempted to contact all Board Nominee’s with an invitation to have a thread in which they can put forward their case and/or interact with Blitzers. As part of this, I contacted Julian via his twitter account and he replied to me that he was interested in the opportunity. Eventually, as a non-blitzer , he asked if the opening could be done via a written Q and A rather than jumping straight in. The following “interview” is the result. A couple of important clarifications need stating.
- Neither myself nor Bomberblitz are advocating a vote for Julian. Nor are we trying to dissuade Members from voting for Julian. This is simply a medium for him to express his position on things, as per the invitation extended to all Board hopefuls.
- I have no affiliation with Julian, i have never met him nor did I know of him prior to his Board nomination.
- The ‘interview’ was done in two stages via ‘social media’. The questions were by me, as i thought them up in relation to previous questions. Since i was effectively asking on behalf of Blitz, ordinarily i would have canvassed these boards for questions you wanted asked, but i am confident that Julian - who has now signed up - will attend to this thread and answer questions put forward by Blitzers. As such, i feel that the general tone of the ‘interview’ is sufficient to provide a starting point. Personally, i see no value in asking Candidates (especially 1st time aspiring Board members) about Hird, for example. I apologise if you think otherwise, and you should get your chance to ask such things should you wish.
- The words are Julians, I have not attempted to alter the structure or grammar of his replies in any way other than spell-checking the entire product.
- I wrote it conversationally because… well…just coz.
Anyway, here it is.
Interview with Julian Porter, 15th & 16th November 2015.
Saladin: Hi Julian, thanks for taking the time to give Blitz users a little bit of your background and agreeing to an interview. Let’s start with the plain basics to get them out of the way. How old are you and where you are from?
Julian Porter) I am in my thirties and was born in Ballarat. I completed my primary and secondary school then University in Ballarat before moving interstate to pursue my career in Queensland. I spent a number of years in Queensland working and playing football before returning to Melbourne and settling with my wife and being closer to the EFC.
Sal) Since we are obviously all Dons fans, and this is primarily a footy website, let’s look at that first. What is your Essendon supporting background, how did that start?
JP) My father is an Essendon supporter and after my older brothers were persuaded to follow other teams, my father wrapped me in Bombers gear from birth. I am grateful for that because the 80’s was a very successful era for the Club and I was able to experience the powerhouse of the EFC.
Sal) Ha! We can get lucky can’t we? My family were largely Collingwood, somehow I ended up choosing between Essendon and Fitzroy in the late 70’s. That panned out well for me.
JP) I haven’t looked back. Been a loyal and passionate supporter ever since and even through the hard times I believe that the heart and soul of our club hasn’t changed.
Sal) Were you a regular attendee on match day or did being a country kid preclude it?
JP) I played football my whole life, and being in Ballarat it made it difficult to get to every game. My father did his best to take me to Windy Hill through the 80’s and the MCG through the 90’s. I used to love the trip down the Highway to Melbourne singing the Bombers team song, and the butterflies as if I was getting ready to play. I still get that feeling now, minus the drive down the highway.
Since finishing playing, and now being involved in the VFL, I have attending almost every Melbourne game. My wife, who is from Sydney, only discovered the game 6 years ago and is now one of the most fanatical Bombers supporters in the grandstand. We both live and breathe the EFC and even Lloyd, our golden retriever, (named after the great Matthew Lloyd) will don his Red and Black colours on Anzac Day.
Sal) I’m sure Lloydy would appreciate having a dog named after him! That’s dedication to the cause though. Any other unusual Bombers confessions to make?
JP) There is one embarrassing fact: We both (Julian and his Wife, not “Lloyd”- S) have matching Essendon pj’s we wear to bed every night.
Sal) Ha! We’ll come back to that one shortly, trust me. Ok, to finish up on the footy history, do you have any key on-field moments that you recall? Favourite games or favourite players?
JP) The 80’s my favourite player was Tim Watson. I used to kick the footy in the backyard with my brothers and tuck the ball under my arm, imitating him. I then idolised Derek Kickett and he taught me how to kick on my left foot and kick goals from the boundary. I think I cried for a whole week when he left to go to Sydney.
Sal) I’m a little bit older than you, but I still recall a similar feeling with Tony Buhagiar and his move to Footscray. It can be a tough lesson for fans can’t it, and illustrates how ingrained in our soul all things Essendon can become?
JP) Yes absolutely, we idolise the players from an early age and I know there would be kids this year feeling the same about some of the EFC players that switched clubs, retired or were delisted. It is a big part of your life and is almost religion, something we live and breathe and all believe in.
Sal) So Tim retired as a genuine legend, and Kickett moved on. Did you find a new hero pretty quickly?
JP) In the late 90’s and 00’s it was James Hird. I still to this day believe he was the only footballer I have ever seen get the most out of himself and reach his full potential through hard work and commitment, and not rely on talent. A late draft pick but he had goals and achieved them.
I have many memorable games but my most memorable game of the modern era would be when Essendon played West Coast in Round 14 2013. What the club had been through, and Jobe being jeered by the crowd the whole game, the raw emotion, I couldn’t help but cry when they won. It showed the true leadership qualities of Jobe and why he is, in my eyes, the most respected and resilient Captain to have ever played the game.
Sal) I actually caught the interview you did on SEN yesterday. As someone who followed the Reserves pretty closely, and been involved on the fringes of the club I was interested to hear that you volunteer with the VFL side. How did that come about?
JP) Once my playing days were over I was determined to give back to a game that game me so much joy and allowed me to meet so many great people. I wanted to be involved in a professional organisation that would allow me to use my playing experience to help young players coming through. I went out to TVSC and asked if there were any volunteer positions available and they said they would give me a call. And sure enough they did call and offered me a job with the VFL side.
Sal) That’s pretty cool that the Club still look for volunteer help. So what exactly is the role you have with the VFL boys?
JP) I am the Team runner, which keeps me fit and still keeps me in the game (although sometimes I forget I am not playing anymore and get in the way). It is an important role because I need to know the game plan, the players, the tactics and the rotations. Listening to the coaching staff and giving clear direct messages to the players is critical to how a game can play out.
Sal) It’s still very grass roots, the Vfl. It has always appealed to me as the accessible side of the club. Is that the enjoyable thing for you?
JP) It is indeed. The game plans are the same as the senior side, there are often senior players coming back from injury or getting game time in the VFL. Then you have first and second year players developing their craft. I thoroughly enjoy being around the players, building a relationship with them, and also feeling a part of a team.
The Hawks and Dogs have had success in the VFL in recent year and it has translated into success in their senior side. I strongly believe this will be the EFC in a few years’ time. We have such good talent in Laverde, Langford, Fantasia, Edwards, Long then add in 4 early draft picks. Then the VFL listed players are quality in Coghlan, Polkinghorne, Thompson, Rigga, Heppel, Ferry, Freeza, and Hardy.
Sal) Do you feel it’s an important avenue to “ground” the club to its supporters?
JP) The support the VFL side got throughout the finals series was incredible. The AFL season was over, but our faithful supports came down to Port Melbourne and got behind our boys. I recall talking to them after the first final and them mentioning how electrifying the support was around the huddle at qtr time and 3qtr time.
Sal) Yes, I was there that day too and you could feel the passion, built across three years of frustration perhaps, simmering away. But something else was there that day too. You probably know where I’m going with this? So lets briefly go back to an earlier answer. Pyjamas. Specifically Essendon Pyjama’s. Surely you are going to have to join the Jarmy Army, Board member or not?
JP) The VFL this year gave all the supporters a glimmer of hope that we do have the potential to play deep into September, we just need to be patient and let the young players learn their craft and turn into future stars of the game.
I love the passion the jarmy army share with us all, even at the races on the weekend they were wearing red and black! If I am elected I will wear my jarmy’s to the AGM, that’s a promise!
Sal) Ok, so it’s a bit of fun, but is it also a symptom of how much the Essendon Footy Club means to its supporter base and how much we all get involved in various ways? Some dress up, I take photos and report back to Blitz, you are “inside” and run for the club. Everyone is different Its broad but essentially its all the same feeling?
JP) It IS broad, and I think experiencing this differentiates me from the other Board nominees. I can feel success because of the game plan and seeing what the players are going through each week in preparation for the game. On field success isn’t too far away, it is the Brand and reputation of the club that needs to be rebuilt.
Sal) Right, so you’ve probably just brought us neatly up to the matter at hand. Obviously you have nominated for a Board position. What was the initial thought process there, and when did it start to germinate?
JP) I have always wanted to be involved in the administration at EFC, after I realised I wasn’t going to play there. Standing in the huddle at 3qtr time of the semi-final against Footscray in the VFL was when it clicked. The support was defining, I had goose bumps. I had never experienced anything like this before. It was special!
At that moment it made me want to take my involvement to the next level and give the supporters a voice, to see EFC back at the top of the ladder and having off field success.
Sal) So it was like an epiphany at the game? Did you then have to weigh up any cons about putting yourself forward?
JP) The only competing factor was that I had to put myself out into the public forum for people to get to know who I was. But this is a sacrifice I needed to make to be one step closer to achieving my life long goal of being on the Board and being able to shape the future of the EFC.
Sal) Presumably you feel you bring professional skills and qualities across from your non-football life. So tell us a bit about that side of things. Who do you work for and what is the role?
JP) I am a qualified Accountant and work as a Regional Financial Controller for Mantra Group, a publicly listed company with over 130 hotels in Australasia. I was involved in the public listing last year, seeing the business go from a private equity to now a Top 200 ASX publicly listed company. I am responsible for 20 hotels throughout Victoria and Tasmania, managing a big team and a large turnover.
At the moment Mantra is acquiring a new hotel every two months, which involves me setting up policies and procedures, due diligence on all of the documentation, establishing 5 year corporate plans, setting budgets, ensuring the hotel operate efficiently and are profitable. Very relevant to the Board position.
Sal) Have you ever been on a Board of Directors before?
JP) Not a director as such, but I am currently on a number of compliance committees and owner corporations throughout Australia. This involves ensuring compliance with the relevant regulators and governing bodies, as well as dealing with key stakeholders. I was also a President of a football club, and key decisions were made with the committee members.
Sal) Given that, how would you view a Football Club Board against a more traditional Corporate Board? Has the game become so “Business focused” that there is little difference, or do you feel that important differentiations exist? Either way, which skills do you think you can apply most effectively if elected?
JP) There are similarities but it is very important to remember a football club needs football people in it to keep it a football club. We never want to turn EFC into a corporate organisation. The heart of the club is the players, supporters and volunteers. Being involved in football my whole life I know how important this is.
Currently there are only two Board members that have been in football clubs their whole life – Heffernan and Madden. That is two out of nine board members. A balance of corporate board members and football brains is really important. Also there are only two current board members that have accounting/finance experience and one will be becoming chairman. The financial position of EFC is very important for the future plans and viability, so making the right investment choices are critical.
Sal) So on that, looking from outside, and as a non-financial expert (I’m an electrician for clarification), it strikes me that the financial position of the club, given all the circumstances, has held up pretty well? Is that accurate to your eye?
JP) Without going into too much detail, the club has incurred a lot of expenses over the course of the past few years which has impacted on the cash available. In saying that new Assets are the highest they have been in 3 or so years due to the pay down of debt (financial liability), which is an encouraging sign.
Sal) It’s no secret to anyone that the Club has passed through a period of unprecedented turmoil. Is there a balance of considering the recent past, and optimistically looking forward that needs to be found?
JP) I think a full review needs to be conducted on the outcomes once everything has concluded from court hearings. Make required changes and ensure current procedures will protect this happening again. Then we need to move forward and look to the future. I am genuinely excited about the future of our great club and the talent we are currently developing. Think of the joy it will bring to all of us seeing the red and black on the main stage holding up the cup. We deserve it!
Sal) We on Blitz certainly think we deserve it! So, clearly the Board and the Executive have made some monumental decisions in the last few months regarding the structure of the Football arm of the club. There seems little point opening old wounds, but in general are you happy with the direction and decision making of recent times?
JP) With only one current board member now remaining after the ‘saga’, the new Board has been reshaped and have a good mix of skills and attributes. I like the decisions that have been made in the past few months and I believe it is the start of the new era for the EFC.
Sal) What do you see as needing to happen from here-on-in at Board level to grow all levels of the club?
JP) As a board we need to continue to have robust discussions and challenge the way we are doing things. Freshen up the outlook and ensure the members and supporters views are shared at the Board table.
Sal) I suspect that giving members a voice at the Board table, in a direct sense, is complicated by Corporation Laws? In many ways, we (supporters and members) need to trust in the integrity of those on the Board. Are you confident you can balance the Supporter vibes with the reality of Corporate boards?
JP) Yes, and there needs to be a level of disclosure as well as a level of confidentiality which is a requirement of being on a board. I believe honesty and integrity are one of the main personal attribute required for a Board member, and I am certainly this. I value robust discussions and also respect others views and thoughts.
Sal) We know that Paul Little is handing over the reigns as Chairman, in a sense it continues the feeling of “New Beginnings” that seems to be a thread running through the other areas of the club. If you look at the makeup of the new board, what can you offer Members should you be elected? Has the Board missed any specific skills in your opinion? Can you fill that gap?
JP) Yes, new beginnings and a new era and I want to be a part of that! As mentioned above about the current board and football and finance experience being critical skills to the success of the Board and the decisions paving the future for the EFC. I add the following skills that give me a point of difference:
I understand the game and what a football club is about. I have 25 years football experience, playing TAC Cup and VFL before taking a step back from my commitment to football to pursue my professional career.
I am at the peak of my career, not at the end of my career. I have the energy and passion required to assist with shaping the future of the EFC as we move into a new era. Our CEO is young, our stand in Coach last season was young, and it brings about a fresh outlook and different perspective on key decisions that need to be made.
I am currently invested in the VFL side, knowing the game plan, the players, the coaches and tasting what the future looks life and who the future leaders of the club will be.
Sal) Lets just throw in a general one. Can you outline your vision of how the EFC should proceed from this point on? What are the primary areas of concern in your mind? And should you make it, what are your major aims as a Board member?
JP) Rebuilding the reputation and brand of the club through building trust, honesty and engaging with the members and supporters. Renegotiating and attracting new key corporate sponsors is important. Focusing on targeting the younger members in schools who may not have wanted to support the club because of the past few years, and also aiming to achieve 70,000 members. Ensuring the club is financially fit for the future and the right investment choices are made. And remaining positive about our Club, being an ambassador for it and speaking highly of it at every opportunity.
Sal) Finally, with the removal of Hird one of the biggest bugbears of supporters for Board members to deal with has been taken off the table (for better or worse). But I would be fundamentally derelict in my interviewing duty if I didn’t raise the most important issue in the minds of all Bomber Blitzers. Particularly to a candidate emerging from the footy departments. JUST HOW GOOD IS TIPPA!?
JP) How good is he? Outstanding, and not just with his playing ability. He is a true professional, absolute gentleman and is one of the hardest working in the VFL. I followed him through the preseason and he knocked 1 minute off his 2k time trial in a month. I would like to see him given the opportunity to wear the red and black in the AFL on a regular basis, he has the fundamentals of being a long serving, loyal player and would do anything for the opportunity.
Sal) Julian, on behalf of the members of Bomberblitz, I’d like to thank you for your time. No doubt the Forum users on here will have their own questions to put forward, we look forward to any responses and wish yourself - and all candidates- the best of luck in the upcoming AGM Election.