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Leading the way

Pre-season countdown: Leading the way Sam Dunell talks to SAINTS.com.au in the build up to the start of the 2014 AFL Season
Sam Dunell in action during a St Kilda Saints training session at Westpac Stadium in Wellington, New Zealand, on April 24, 2013. (Photo: Lachlan Cunningham/AFL Media)
Sam Dunell in action during a St Kilda Saints training session at Westpac Stadium in Wellington, New Zealand, on April 24, 2013. (Photo: Lachlan Cunningham/AFL Media)

One month out from the first hit-out of the pre-season, the Saints are ramping up their preparations for the 2014 season, both on and off the track.

As well as suffering through sweltering heat conditions last week with increasing training loads, the players began focusing on improving club culture with the Leading Teams model.

Third-year player Sam Dunell told SAINTS.com.au about the program and how former Saint Justin Peckett is helping to develop a greater sense of teamsmanship.

We’ve got a facilitator who comes in, it’s actually Justin Peckett who played at the club obviously not that long ago, and he’s just running a program that (Leading Teams) structures up where we meet every week and go through certain things; building up the trademark and having some conversations about what we want to stand for and the culture of the club,” Dunell said.

“(This) week the younger first to four year players were split up into groups and given an assignment to go and research the history of the club and come back to the group and give a little presentation on some significant moments in the club’s history and what it means to the club, and how we can relate to it today.”

While its still in initial stages, the program has already inspired players to learn more about themselves and how to improve club culture.

“That was a good assignment to be a part of and it just gives everyone a gauge of what the club means and how it is bigger than the individual and what we stand for,” he said.

“Everyone had their own stance, some guys did PowerPoint presentations some guys read from books… we just tried to relate it to what we can get out of it today and what it means to the club and why it was significant.  It was a good exercise.”

Through the AFL Players’ Association Development Program, players are encouraged to study or work in a different industry for at least half a day a week.

Dunell said that was important for players to take their minds off the rigours of AFL and explore their interests outside of football to lead a balanced life.

“It’s time to go out and do something outside of football, whether that be certain courses, university, TAFE, some guys are doing apprenticeships and some guys are doing some initial first year stuff in the AFL,” Dunell said.

“It’s just a chance to have something going on outside of football so that you’re not living and breathing football (and) you’ve got something to work on after you finish playing football.”

Dunell, who has a Bachelor of Business, is hoping to do some work placements at a large organisation to learn on the job about how companies work and what it takes to run a business.

“I’ve finished up my University degree last year so I was able to do a couple of years before I got drafted and just plugged away at it for the last couple of years and finally finished it.  So I’m finished my degree and I’m hoping to do some work one day a week so at the moment I’ve been catching up with some people and some contacts through the club, just trying to get some work experience if I can fit it in,” he said.

“Richo’s pretty keen on us making sure that we’re doing something and (Welfare Manager) Tony Brown is a good facilitator of that, making sure everyone is held accountable … but at the end of the day you’ve really got to facilitate it yourself and get out of it what you really want to get out of it.”