Grant Thomas (Former AFL Coach of St Kilda)

David Friend joined St Kilda Football Club when it had no money, no credibility, zero respect and an unproductive culture. In essence it was a basket case. The prospects of creating revenue streams were remote and this drove self esteem through the floor.

St Kilda had the indignity of being every football supporters second favourite team – no doubt a reflection of the pity felt for its underperforming and tragic history.

It had the lowest membership in the competition at 17,500 and this number had stagnated. Complementing this underachieving number was its paltry merchandise revenue of a meagre $180K which was considered embarrassing and pathetic in AFL circles.

Enter David Friend with all his concepts and plans, all his radical ways and fervent belief in delivering “reach for the stars” results. He was met with cynicism and negativity – people willed him to fail.

He marched through it all, never lost his temper, stayed amazingly focussed and determined, built a tremendous spirit of connection and achievement within his team and defied all and sundry around him.

Interestingly his performance was admonished to the point where even senior executives and Board were looking for ways to challenge his results as a “furphy” and unsustainable. It did not seem possible.

I witnessed it first hand and all through the criticisms and challenges he held his nerve and kept his cool, supported his team and most importantly continued to deliver results. That’s what David does; he implements, he delivers what he says is achievable which is usually way above what others anticipate or expect.

St Kilda’s membership went from 17,500 to 32,500. That’s an increase of 15,000 members in 3 years which was unprecedented.

During that period merchandise revenue rose from $180K to $1.4million and was the largest turnover of the 10 Victorian Clubs – an incredible result.

David is a sponge for information and a pioneer in his business model. I have enormous respect for his ability to cope with pressure, focus on the task and deliver results – what more can a person want from someone.