Sometimes, if you’re not first you’re last

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By Strategic Partner Tom O’Meara

This is the time of the year when you realise that finishing second is a galaxy away from winning, whether it be in business, politics, sport or everyday life decisions.

It was only a month ago that Richmond won the AFL grand final for the first time in 37 years, and supporters are still celebrating. Not only are the players now elevated to legend level, the Tigers of old are roaring again.

The AFL Premiership Cup is now in the Tiger’s lair, along with the Brownlow medal thanks to star Dusty Martin. The coffers are overflowing with a record $5 million from merchandise sales, and now Richmond are aiming to be the first club in Australia to sign up more than 90,000 members.

By the way, Richmond beat the Adelaide Crows, the bookmakers favourite which flopped on the big day. Adelaide is still in mourning, and don’t try and tell supporters “at least they finished second”.

About this time last year, a man with a quirky hairstyle trumped the odds-on favourite, Hillary Clinton to become the 45th president of the United States of America. Before the convoluted US election voting process started, Hillary was unbeatable.

By the end of the process, US voters had decided that Donald Trump was the right person for the role and Hillary was in shock for months, and today the rest of the US is also trying to work out what went wrong. Despite all the conspiracy stories, there are no cigars for running second.

A long time Melbourne mate, despite being a Carlton supporter, was a part-owner of a horse called Bauer – unknown in Australia but quietly being prepared in his UK breeding ground for the Melbourne Cup back in 2008.

Bauer won the Geelong Cup which ensured his start in the Melbourne Cup two weeks later, but still he was 33/1, although some owners and friends had taken 66/1 for the win months earlier.

In a classic Melbourne Cup finish, Bauer and the Bart Cummings runner, Viewed, hit the line locked together. It took an hour (exaggerated) for the judge to declare Viewed the winner by a millimetre in the closest ever Melbourne Cup finish.

The cup night dinner at his Mietta’s restaurant turned into a wake, and trying to look on the positive side I suggested the runner up cheque would soften the pain. Wrong.

“I don’t want an $85,000 cheque for running *+%#*%@ second, I’ll throw it away. I just wanted to be the owner of a Melbourne Cup winner.”

Nine years on and the sores are still festering.

Raelene Boyle arguably should have been Australia’s most successful athlete with three Olympic Silver Medals in addition to seven Gold and three Silver in the Commonwealth Games.

One hurdle was being disqualified in the 1976 Olympic 200 metres for two false starts. Video replay later showed she had not broken in the first start.

But the two seconds in the 100m and 200m are the emptiest Silver medals possible. The winner, East German sprinter, Renate Stecher, was later found to have been part of the state sponsored drug programme. The confirmation of the performance enhancing drug programme was revealed following the release of East Germany secret service files.

I was going to add the recent New Zealand election, where the incumbent Nationals government attracted eight per cent more of the vote and 10 seats more than the Labour runner up and still ran second.

The inability to attract the support of one of the two smaller parties saw a Jack and The Beanstalk style result, and the Nationals will take a couple of elections to determine what went wrong.

So, the lesson is, avoid running second, particularly this time of the year.

1 Comment

  • Robert Mallett says:

    Yes Tom, as the article goes and the examples you have shown, you are right. I however, don’t beat myself senseless if I have genuinely done all I can and get beaten in a fair fight.

    I wonder if James Walker (Candidate for Pembroke) was to win, will he thank his State Executive Director for inserting the dirty politics ageism discrimination dimension into his campaign? If he loses will he recognise that playing the man and not the game is the way any person seeking responsible public office should want to win?

    Similarly in business. Isn’t it better to have a range of strategies for winning, maybe described as a diversification of portfolios, and win because of the quality of the way the game was played and not because of the dirty tricks you can dredge up out of the bag?

    I am NOT suggesting your article is promoting that however there is winning and there is winning and sometimes coming second is not the end of the world.

    Best Regards


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