Skip to content

Old scholar Phil Davis (YNG 2008) Muster Address

Good afternoon everyone and thanks for having me in today.

Well, it has been a while since I was last in this Hall – Speech Day 2008 – But yet, even with all that time, close to 16 years, there is so much familiarity that comes from sitting in your seat weekly for five years.

Throughout my time at Saints, I was incredibly lucky with the opportunities that I was presented. I didn’t necessarily always take them, and at times I wish I had taken a few more.

This became clearer to me once I joined the AFL where I would often be in conversations with teammates where we’d be discussing our childhood and schooling experiences amongst other things. It was in these moments where it became clear to me that I had been awarded clear privileges from my time at Saints and that I had learned skills along the way without necessarily realising it.

No doubt, you have all heard many times how great an opportunity you have here and how you had better not waste it. While that is true, I won’t labour on that fact today, rather I thought I’d take the opportunity to talk about three particular aspects of my journey to date. Two of which were skills that I developed right here at Saints and the other, a skill I wish I had developed in my time here.

When I showed up to the Crows, a week before I graduated, my fellow draftees and I were told of the professional skill set we were required to have to ‘make it’ in our AFL career. These were organisational skills, being professional and having a strong work ethic. In fact, interestingly to me, there wasn’t any long discussion about your football talent or skill set, rather a focus on our attitude. It was almost a given you had the necessary talent to succeed but rather a question on if you had the right professional skills.

All sounds pretty easy, doesn’t it?! Get paid well. Kick a footy for a living. Play in front of big crowds. Then all you have to do is be professional. Good deal!

But, as I embarked on my career I realised that this wasn’t for everyone.

When I started I was just focussing on myself and my fellow draftees and seeing how my work ethic stacked up against theirs. However, after some time I began to look at all the players around me and see not only how I stacked up, but if they were as fanatical as I had hoped I was.

There was no doubt throughout my career I was around many more talented players than me, although for some reason they never really made it. In my first few years, I couldn’t quite articulate why that was. But as I got older, I began to see the pattern. In almost all cases, barring bad luck and a too significant talent shortfall to overcome, they failed because of their attitude.

What I am about to say might be too simplistic, but I strongly believe is a major cornerstone of successful people. That is, an attitude built on by a strong work ethic, discipline and a growth mindset.

When I reflect on work ethic, I see that this is a lesson or the first aspect I learnt here at school. Throughout my time here I tried to do my absolute best in schoolwork, in sport and also in my social life. To do all of this and be the best I could be, I had to develop a strong work ethic.

I have no doubt there were plenty of times where I slacked off or didn’t apply the right work ethic to get the best outcome and I know I made mistakes along the way which meant I was far from perfect. But these were all important learnings to create a work ethic that was sustainable for me. Not everyone has to have the same work ethic to be successful. I know it sounds straightforward and obvious to just “work hard”, but I also know it isn’t that easy. What helped me overcome this hurdle was when I realised that when ‘motivation wanes, discipline lasts.’

Discipline, the second aspect I learned here at Saints.

By Year 12 I was playing in three football teams, travelling for football, and trying to get the best entrance score I could. Motivation for study and training definitely waned. However, through the habits that were taught to me during my time here, I learned discipline. Discipline to manage my time. Discipline to complete a task. Discipline to put in the work required for success.

During my football career, I could see this attitude at play too. Discipline to ask questions of coaches and other players. Discipline to do my recovery even when there were more fun alternatives. Discipline to finish an exercise even when no one was looking. Discipline to work on my skills when everyone else had gone home.

Fundamentally, this foundation of discipline helps me have a consistent work ethic by making me ask myself “is this task helping me get closer to where I want to go” and if it is, no matter how much I don’t want to do it, I grit my teeth and get it done.

If I could wind the clock back to my time here at Saints, this final concept I want to talk to you about today, is something I would apply to my everyday school life.

In the middle of my football career there became a big push towards a concept – fixed versus growth mindset.

For me, I hadn’t previously heard much about this concept. However, without realising it, I had been exposed to both mindsets throughout my life and had been caught bouncing between both.

Fixed mindset is very much stuck in your ways. Not open to new ideas or experiences or ways to do things. While growth mindset centres on being a lifelong learner. Being open to new thoughts, processes, and opportunities.

As we embarked in trying to embed this topic in my football club, I realised how unhelpful my fixed mindset ways had been. I look back on my time at school and early in my career and can see that I missed so many opportunities to improve and experience more things. I was too often caught saying “no” or even worse, “I know better” without even giving it a chance. A habit I wish I had changed earlier!

This consistent change of mindset is something that I now work towards every day. Acknowledging I don’t know everything and there may always be a better way to do something or something new to explore.

I found this mindset particularly helpful in two ways. Firstly, around my mental fitness. It has opened up a new world of thinking around mindfulness, meditation, gratitude, and engaging a psychologist. Early in my career these topics were not discussed and often dismissed by those around me. But being open to grow and learn, I found that these tools are of such significant benefit to me.

Secondly, by being open to the potential of a better way to think or do things pushed me to, as Ted Lasso says, “Be Curious Not Judgmental”. It enables you to speak to others from a position of wanting to learn why they are who they are and not take the easy option and just judge them from pre-conceived ideas. It creates learning moments and potential for growth.

As I push on into the next phase of my life, I know there will be hurdles and challenges, but I will strive to have the discipline that underpins a strong work ethic and use my growth mindset to encourage endless learning.

Once again, thank you for providing me with the opportunity to speak. As I push on it has been a great pleasure and I hope something (even if small) resonated with you today.

Thank you.

Phil Davis (YNG 2008)