The five keys to Mundy's historic feat: Pavlich

2 months ago 18
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David Mundy of the Dockers holds the RAC Derby trophy aloft after winning the round 22 AFL match between the Fremantle Dockers and West Coast Eagles.

We grow up idolising people for their extraordinary exploits and the connection to our own passions. For their amazing feats. Be they in the sporting arena or in other fields. 

But often it is the weaknesses that can be their greatest strengths. 

Focusing on the ordinary part of extraordinary may just be the secret sauce staring us all in the face.

This afternoon in Hobart, David Mundy will surpass the all-time Fremantle games record of 353. And while 'Barra' has been one of this generation of AFL player's most consistent performers, it's his ability to do the basics well, over and over and over again that sets him apart.

It is a record I set back in 2016 during my final game with the Dockers saying goodbye to teammates, coaches and 40,0000 fans one last time at the now-extinct Subiaco Oval.

Matthew Pavlich is chaired from the ground by David Mundy and Alex Silvagni after playing his 353rd and final game. (Getty)

It took 17 years to achieve this milestone; at which point, I handed over the captaincy to Mundy, who will next year clock on into his 19th professional season. Quite a remarkable feat.

Mundy's greatness is in his ability to stay balanced - both on and off the field. He rarely gets caught up in the thrill of a great win, nor does he flatten out after a heartbreaking loss. This level-headedness has allowed him to find what most athletes crave for in their sporting lives - consistency. 'Barra' has it in spades.

This balance, matched with his elite football intelligence, poise and great decision-making ability and elite skill execution all result in a very special player who you can trust to deliver more often than not.

This imminent record-breaking moment has naturally got me thinking about what it takes to sustain an elite-level sporting career for close to two decades. 

The theory I've landed at for the key to long-term success - in the AFL, but possibly for life in general - is centred on a few basic key thoughts:

1 - You don't have to have special powers to do superhuman things

In fact, the more I think about the AFL greats who have played over 350 games, the more I see a common link; they aren't the most gifted physical specimens to ever grace the field. Sure they have solid physical foundations, but most aren't built with amazing speed or strength - they are all-rounders with great footballing ability who match that with incredible mental application and discipline.

2 - Have big ambitions, but a short-term focus

When they are first drafted, players want to be the best, but they don't know how to do that, or what to expect. So by focussing on the next training session, the next team meeting, or the next contest you can stay on task. With a short-term goal focus, you can see the achievements you have made along the way as another box gets ticked and before long you'll end up so much closer to what you really want and be hungry for more.

3 - You can't win every contest

A former coach of mine once told me... "Look son, in AFL footy, there are plenty more kicks up the a---, than licks of the ice cream." And he is spot on. Life is like that as well. My Dad gave me a similar type of advice in my very first game as a seven-year-old. It was perhaps a key moment that shifted my game from being centred on physical exertion and trying to win everything, to a more consistent mental application and a reading of the play. If you can't get to the first contest, think about where the next one will be, and get there - fast.

Matthew Pavlich and David Mundy of the Dockers. (Getty)

4 - Variety is in the spice of life

Mundy was a fullback when he was first drafted. By playing in different positions on the field and having different experiences off it, you find a true understanding and empathy for each and every experience lived by your teammates. Having a sound understanding of every working piece of the puzzle is critical; if one piece of the puzzle is out of place, it can all fall apart very quickly. 

5 - Respect

Have it for your loved ones, your peers, your opponents and most importantly those who have helped you along the way. The fabric of each club and organisation is built upon people. I always knew the true spirit and character of someone when I saw how they treated people and built relationships with others and Barra has done this well.

These skills and thoughts developed in sporting careers are absolutely transferable to life. In fact, most of this thinking is foundational to how I work with the teams in media and with start-up, Pickstar

A bit of luck certainly goes a long way, but it takes durability, passion and physical and mental application to play for a long time at the elite level of AFL football. 

I truly believe that there is no one better to take over my record - it's a significant moment both for Mundy and the Fremantle club.

And while he is not as superhuman as you may think, he does the basics extraordinarily well.

Matthew Pavlich is a Nine Sports Presenter and Co-Founder of Pickstar

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