A must read-Emma Murray

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Nov 23, 2000
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All i can say is what a human being.


Hamish McLachlan: The mindset coach who helped Dustin Martin, Richmond Tigers win
She’s helped Richmond win three premierships, Dusty win the Brownlow and Will Pucovski debut for Australia. So what does she do?

Hamish McLachlan

16 min read
February 27, 2021 - 4:14PM
Sunday Herald Sun
45 comments
Sport psychologist Emma Murray with Dustin Martin.

Sport psychologist Emma Murray with Dustin Martin.

Emma Murray has been helping sports performers achieve great things by helping them control their mind.
It might be pure coincidence, but Emma arrived at Richmond in 2016, and they have won three Premierships since. She has worked closely with Dustin Martin, and he’s won a Brownlow and three Norm Smith Medals since they began together. She has helped Will Pucovski debut for Australia, Dylan Grimes become an All Australian, and Scott McLaughlin dominate the Supercars.
And while she has been doing all of this, Em has been guiding her family forward following her son Will becoming a quadriplegic following a pier jumping accident five years ago when he was 13.
HM: Em, did you ever think that you’d be mentioned in a Brownlow medallist’s winning speech?
EM:
I never thought I’d meet a Brownlow medallist, let alone have the privilege to work so closely with someone like Dusty. He’s taught me as much as I’ve taught him in relation to the mind, and how to use it to perform better. I’ve learnt more from Dusty than anyone else, really.
HM: Let’s go back a little bit. I met you when we were working at the same sports management company in 1998 – we were both working on golf tournaments and other events. Then I turn the TV on 20 years later and realised you’d help people become three-time premiership players and play for their country. What did you go and do!
EM:
I learnt to meditate! I was an underage national netball player, but never went on to play at a senior level. I had a lot of injuries and not the right mental focus. I moved into coaching and found a book on the bookshelf of one of my coaching mentors called Sacred Hoops, written by Phil Jackson. I started reading this book and was absolutely fascinated by the fact that he’d spent so much time teaching his players to meditate, and work on their mental training, compared to their physical training. It was in a time when you didn’t hear about it in the media like you hear about it today. I found a local lady to teach me mediation, and from then on, I was just interested in it myself.
Murray with [PLAYERCARD]Trent Cotchin[/PLAYERCARD] after winning an AFL premiership medal.

Murray with Trent Cotchin after winning an AFL premiership medal.
HM: How did you move into professional sports?
EM:
I moved into coaching netball, and I was interested to see how sharing some of the things I was learning in mindfulness would help these athletes. Then I had an opening to work with Dylan Grimes at Richmond, and Dylan had incredible success by using mindfulness. It just spread from there. I was really blessed to work with people who were open minded, who were curious, and willing to take on what I was sharing. When you find people who are willing to go on that journey, the results come.
HM: How are you able to take individuals who are going OK or battling as professional athletes, and get them to perform at a higher level? How simply can you explain it?
EM:
I’ve learnt that humans are pretty much unconscious, or unaware of what we’re thinking, or what we’re feeling, in any moment of the day. We largely just go through life, essentially completely unaware. The more athletes and people in that performance space I work with, whether its corporate executives, or year 11 and 12 students, the main thing that pulls our mind out of the present moment is the fear of failure, and the fear of other people’s opinions. From that stems this obsessive focus on the outcome.
HM: Not healthy?
EM:
Not healthy at all Hame. I call those places people get to, their ‘B game’. When our mind goes into that ‘B Game’, that then affects how we perform. These athletes that I have the pleasure of working with, and these really skilled and talented corporate executives, when their attention is in the present moment, they have everything they need to perform at their best. They have done all the work, they’re fit enough, strong enough and intelligent enough to perform well, so my job is to simply help them get their attention and focus back into the present moment. If I can, then everything they’re good at, just comes to the fore.

Race car driver Scott McLaughlin with Murray.

Race car driver Scott McLaughlin with Murray.
HM: More often than not, you’re trying to stop self-sabotage?
EM:
Pretty much. For some of us, self-sabotage is working obsessive hours, drinking too much alcohol, gambling, eating too much food, or have poor self-worth where we become invisible and don’t have an opinion or set boundaries. It shows up in so many different ways for different people, but effectively, it is just because our attention, and our focus, has gone to a place that is not helping us. I don’t like to use positive and negative, I like to talk about how it goes to unhelpful places, which don’t allow us to bring our best to the table.
HM: You talk about the drinking and the gambling – it removes clarity from your day to day, and being present. It’s not just relevant to high-level sports performers, but everyone – those in a marriage, a relationship, at work ….
EM:
Everyone really. Over the years, I’ve taken the traditional form of mindfulness, and added various tools or strategies that I’ve developed across the years working with people who know high pressure, high expectation environments, and have created what I call high performance mindfulness. The reality is, being an at-home parent is as high pressure as you get! A year eleven and year twelve student, that is high pressure and high expectation. We all have performance moments in our lives, where we are wanting to turn up with our best, and we are wanting a particular outcome to go a particular way, but we have all of these unconscious thoughts, and all of these unconscious feelings, that are not allowing us to do that. We get told to think positively, we’re told to “do this”, and “do that”, but we don’t know how! How do I not get home from work and sit on my phone and have a glass of wine when I should be present with my kids, and my family? I don’t know how to get up in the morning and take some time to exercise, or journal, before I get on my emails. That’s what I hope my work is able to do — to give people the ‘how’ to actually get their attention back in the moment, and back on how to bring their best to that moment.
HM: Got it. Were you in the changerooms at half time during the 2020 AFL Grand Final?
EM:
Yes.
HM: What conversations do you have, and who do you have them with?
EM:
You have to remember that Richmond have been doing this work now for a good four years. The coaches, the players — everyone is very skilled in this space and are as knowledgeable as me in this space. The beauty of what we have going on at Richmond is we are all constantly teaching each other. The coaches bring it into how they talk to the players, and the players bring it into how they talk to each other, so you could take me out of the picture and those conversations are still going to happen. Dimma is still going to use that language and those concepts in whatever he talks about.
Murray with Dylan Grymes after Richmond’s Premiership win.

Murray with Dylan Grymes after Richmond’s Premiership win.
HM: Half time …
EM:
Half time was an amazing scene. You watch the players come in, they get into their lines, the forwards, mids and backs. The coaches were all so calm and precise in their messaging. Everyone was focused on what we could do, and not on all the stuff that induces those feelings of fear of failure. The conversation that stands out for me in my mind was with Bachar Houli. I caught Bachar’s eye, who was sitting on a chair. He called me over. Bachar is not someone that I would typically speak to during a game. He has incredible mental strength that comes a lot through his religious practice, and just his experience in the game. He said to me very quietly that a couple of minutes after Nick Vlastuin went down, he did his calf. It was really bad. Dimma needed him to stay out there, so we just spoke about the pain in the calf, and about what he could still do, not what he couldn’t. He recognised that he lost his offensive drive but could still be really valuable locking in defensively. We picked up his attention, his focus, and put it into something that he could do that could still serve the team really well.
HM: Don’t focus on what you can’t do, focus on what you can. It’s what we should all be doing with life. Enjoy what we have — not what we don’t.
EM:
Exactly. It is important for people to know, that we’re not wired to focus on what we do have. Our mind is wired to keep us safe and keep us alive and wants to keep warning us that, “this is bad, this could go wrong, remember last time when it didn’t go right?” It wants to jump into the past and replay past mistakes, and wants to jump into the future and play movies and stories, and monologues of where it can go wrong as a way to prevent us from getting into danger. The last thing our mind wants to do is replay the good times and replay all the things that we’ve got going in our favour, because that’s not how it keeps you safe. So we need to deliberately and purposefully learn tools and strategies to put our focus and attention on what we can do well, and on what we can bring to the table.
HM: I’ve heard you talk a lot about exercise being critical.
EM:
My view is motion, changes emotion! If you think of that word, emotion, it means energy in motion, so when we are in an emotional state and it’s not serving us well, we need to get some sort of movement into our body so that we can shift and change that energy. That doesn’t have to be a ridiculously hard gym session, or going for a really long run, that can be as simple as a walk to get your coffee in the morning, it can be a breath routine — there’s heaps of stuff available out there on the internet about this, but we have to stop thinking of these emotional states as who we are. I’m angry, I’m resentful, I’m unmotivated. It’s just an energy that can come and go! It can be a moment with our kids, a moment in the boardroom, a moment in an exam, or on the sporting field.
HM: How often do you run into someone that doesn’t buy in to your methodology in mindfulness?
EM:
A lot, particularly when you go into a team environment. Josh Caddy always tells new players that he thought I was full of sh*t when he first met me! They come around pretty quickly when they realise that I’m not asking you to meditate for 30 minutes a day, or burn incense, or chant — I’m talking about strategies that are based on brain science! Thankfully Cadds is one of my greatest supporters now. The science is that we’re wired to stay alive, so we’re going to look at the bad and the dangerous, and that’s not going to help us perform at our best. I was speaking with Oscar Piastri, the F2 driver recently. He told me he didn’t really believe it to begin with, but when he found himself in a pressure moment, he would really cling onto those tools. They feel better, and they do better. When we start doing better and feeling better, that’s when we start getting the best out of our lives. When I’m motivated, then I’ll do this. When I’m feeling more confident, then I’ll get up in front of my boss and say what I think. We are waiting to feel a particular way to take action, but this work is about getting us to take our best action, and then we start to feel better in all parts of our life.
Emma with her family. BACK: Emma, Tessa, and husband Nick. FRONT: Will, Gus, and Meg.

Emma with her family. BACK: Emma, Tessa, and husband Nick. FRONT: Will, Gus, and Meg.
HM: You have four kids Em, Will is the …
EM:
Eldest son, second child.
HM: Will was 13 when he jumped off a pier, and as a result he has been in a wheelchair ever since. Has what you’ve studied and done and taught, helped you and your family through a most difficult time?
EM:
I’d been practicing mindfulness 20 years before Will’s accident. I remember when Will was still in a coma after getting pneumonia from inhaling water, I was doing walking meditation up and down the hallway, just to stay upright, really. When we talk about that, those fears in our B game, we talk about that wiring of our brain wanting to go to the bad, and the dangerous. It was insane. Hame, you would understand the fear you have as a parent – when you have a child that is injured, or unwell, or anyone that you love. Your fear explodes. What if Will never walks again? What if our family goes broke? What if we are caring for Will forever? What if he’s never independent? What if he dies? There’s all of these what ifs, and all these if onlys. If only I didn’t let him go to the beach, if only I was there, if only it wasn’t a king tide that day.
HM: Did your training help you deal with the ‘ifs’?
EM:
I remember a moment in ICU really thinking about mindfulness. I had this moment of “Oh, so this is mindfulness”. My only way of surviving was staying present. As Will’s injury went on, I realised a spinal injury doesn’t get better for anyone. In fact, the longer you go with a spinal cord injury, the more the tentacles reach further and further into finance, independence, your house, friendship groups – it just keeps going and going. There’s no light at the end of the tunnel so I needed to be able to perform at my best despite the grief. I started to really observe the traditional tools of mindfulness. Find my A game and play that.
HM: You kept working?
EM:
Yes, my husband wasn’t able to go back to work, so all of a sudden, I found myself as the primary breadwinner. I’d never been that before. My husband became Will’s primary carer, so I had to find a way to now support four children, and fund an injury that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. I had to do that at my time of most grief, and most trauma. I had to find my A game.
HM: How did you do it?
EM:
We decided as a family that it was important that I stay involved with the AFL, because it was such a big part of Will’s life. We knew that the AFL was such a supportive environment when peoples backs are against the wall.
HM: You stayed on at Richmond.
EM:
I did. I’d go to the hospital, then into the club, and then back to the hospital again. Every day. I would go into the club and see these young boys trying to get better as Will was doing the same. At that time Richmond hadn’t won a premiership for 37 years and the public were calling for the board to be sacked, for Dimma to be sacked, and a complete rebuild. I could see the fear in those boys, and the fear in the club. There was no sense of calm anywhere. I would share with the players tools and strategies that I was learning in my world, and they would share with me what was working for them. They taught me as much as I taught them during that period – I am so grateful I had the club.
HM: Has Will used mindfulness to live his best life?
EM:
Will taught me some incredible things. I remember in the early days, he had just turned 14 when he was still in hospital. He was having post-traumatic stress symptoms arising from the accident, particularly when he was in bed at night. He had flashbacks to drowning. I remember asking him, “What do you do when you’re having those thoughts, and those feelings, Will?” He said, “I just remind myself that I’m in a bed, and I feel the mattress. I feel the blankets on me, I feel the pillow under my head, and I remind myself that I’m right here”. The words “Right here, right now” are words that I talk about a lot. Right here, right now, we haven’t lost our house, we haven’t lost our family, and Will hasn’t passed away. Right here, right now, I’m just having a conversation with my son. There is no struggle in the right here, right now, the struggle sits on either side of that moment. How do I get back into the right here, right now? Will has taught me as much as I’ve taught him. He won’t directly let me work with him, but he listens, and I try and put him in front of as many of my athletes as I can! Dusty has been incredible, he plays a lot of PlayStation with him and has spent a lot of time with him. As has Scott McLaughlin.
Murray with Australian cricketer Will Pucovski

Murray with Australian cricketer Will Pucovski
HM: Did Dusty give him his Norm Smith Medal?
EM:
He did!
HM: Has he still got it?
EM:
No … Will was very determined to give it back to him! It was a beautiful thing he did. After the most recent Grand Final, we had Will on FaceTime in the rooms. The boys have been a huge part of Will’s journey, and a huge part of our family’s journey. All of my athletes are so giving, in sharing their successes with Will and the family. We are really blessed to be a part of it.
HM: If you walked into Tigerland in 1990 with your CV and said, “I want to work with your football club focusing on training the minds of your players” … what do you reckon they would have said to you?
EM:
“Not today. Off you go, little girl!” Full credit to Blair Hartley and Dan Richardson, who had just been to the United States. They heard a guy by the name of Michael Gervais talk, who had worked with the Seattle Seahawks using very similar principles. Their mind was open when I met them for a coffee. They set me up to work with Dylan Grimes, I think just to see what it was about, and to see how it would work. Dylan had been to the club and said, “I feel like my game, and how I play on game day, is not in line with my potential as an athlete”. Dylan has incredible curiosity, open mindedness, intelligence and awareness. They handed me the best person ever to work with. I talk often with Dyl about the sliding doors moment of that, because that has really set me up for the career that I have now. He worked with me every single week for two seasons without fail, and he grew, and grew. He would teach me, and I would teach him. That enabled the club to have confidence. Dyl would tell another player who would then start to get on-board; Dave Astbury, Sam Lloyd, Dusty. They weren’t being forced to do it; they were choosing to do it.
HM: I’ve got a man crush on Will Pucovski. I did something with him in October before he debuted, and we’ve stayed in touch. What did you find Will needed, and what does he do now since you’ve been working with him?
EM:
I love working with athletes who are so open minded, and willing to be vulnerable, and say, “Yeah, I’m struggling with this, or I need to work more on that”. Some view that vulnerability as weakness, whereas it’s actually one of Will’s greatest strengths. To be able to really see where he is at, see where he needs to be, and identify that gap, and then go and work towards bridging that gap. Will’s focus and attention, like any athlete, would go off the present moment, and the thing with cricket is, there’s more time in the game to leave that present moment. A midfielder in footy is constantly busy, and constantly on the ball. In cricket, between every ball, waiting out in the field, your mind wants to go to why the situation is bad, and why it’s dangerous. “You could get out, to a short ball. Last time you faced a short ball it hit you in the head”. That doesn’t make you mentally weak, it just means that you have had to work harder at building tools and strategies to get into the present moment.
HM: Enjoying what you do?
EM:
Absolutely Hame, I feel blessed. I liken it to reality TV. You get to work with these wonderful people to create tools to get them into the present moment, and then you get to sit back and watch it all happen on TV, watching them do it and bring it to life! Nothing gives me more joy than watching an athlete bring their best.
HM: Knowing you’ve played a role …
EM:
I’m not a magician. I can’t create skill and talent where skill and talent doesn’t exist. It’s all them. I just remove a few blocks and give them a few tools and strategies. I can’t make them do the work — they need to want to do the work. I get to sit back and watch them fulfil their potential. I think we all deserve that. We all deserve to fulfil our potential as a parent, a friend, a corporate executive, a student — that feels really good. When we do better, we feel better, and I just want that for everyone.
HM: You’ve done an amazing job, with the athletes and Will …


EM: T
hanks, Hame.
 
Oct 6, 2004
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All i can say is what a human being.


Hamish McLachlan: The mindset coach who helped Dustin Martin, Richmond Tigers win
She’s helped Richmond win three premierships, Dusty win the Brownlow and Will Pucovski debut for Australia. So what does she do?

Hamish McLachlan

16 min read
February 27, 2021 - 4:14PM
Sunday Herald Sun
45 comments
Sport psychologist Emma Murray with Dustin Martin.

Sport psychologist Emma Murray with Dustin Martin.

Emma Murray has been helping sports performers achieve great things by helping them control their mind.
It might be pure coincidence, but Emma arrived at Richmond in 2016, and they have won three Premierships since. She has worked closely with Dustin Martin, and he’s won a Brownlow and three Norm Smith Medals since they began together. She has helped Will Pucovski debut for Australia, Dylan Grimes become an All Australian, and Scott McLaughlin dominate the Supercars.
And while she has been doing all of this, Em has been guiding her family forward following her son Will becoming a quadriplegic following a pier jumping accident five years ago when he was 13.
HM: Em, did you ever think that you’d be mentioned in a Brownlow medallist’s winning speech?
EM:
I never thought I’d meet a Brownlow medallist, let alone have the privilege to work so closely with someone like Dusty. He’s taught me as much as I’ve taught him in relation to the mind, and how to use it to perform better. I’ve learnt more from Dusty than anyone else, really.
HM: Let’s go back a little bit. I met you when we were working at the same sports management company in 1998 – we were both working on golf tournaments and other events. Then I turn the TV on 20 years later and realised you’d help people become three-time premiership players and play for their country. What did you go and do!
EM:
I learnt to meditate! I was an underage national netball player, but never went on to play at a senior level. I had a lot of injuries and not the right mental focus. I moved into coaching and found a book on the bookshelf of one of my coaching mentors called Sacred Hoops, written by Phil Jackson. I started reading this book and was absolutely fascinated by the fact that he’d spent so much time teaching his players to meditate, and work on their mental training, compared to their physical training. It was in a time when you didn’t hear about it in the media like you hear about it today. I found a local lady to teach me mediation, and from then on, I was just interested in it myself.
Murray with Trent Cotchin after winning an AFL premiership medal.

Murray with Trent Cotchin after winning an AFL premiership medal.
HM: How did you move into professional sports?
EM:
I moved into coaching netball, and I was interested to see how sharing some of the things I was learning in mindfulness would help these athletes. Then I had an opening to work with Dylan Grimes at Richmond, and Dylan had incredible success by using mindfulness. It just spread from there. I was really blessed to work with people who were open minded, who were curious, and willing to take on what I was sharing. When you find people who are willing to go on that journey, the results come.
HM: How are you able to take individuals who are going OK or battling as professional athletes, and get them to perform at a higher level? How simply can you explain it?
EM:
I’ve learnt that humans are pretty much unconscious, or unaware of what we’re thinking, or what we’re feeling, in any moment of the day. We largely just go through life, essentially completely unaware. The more athletes and people in that performance space I work with, whether its corporate executives, or year 11 and 12 students, the main thing that pulls our mind out of the present moment is the fear of failure, and the fear of other people’s opinions. From that stems this obsessive focus on the outcome.
HM: Not healthy?
EM:
Not healthy at all Hame. I call those places people get to, their ‘B game’. When our mind goes into that ‘B Game’, that then affects how we perform. These athletes that I have the pleasure of working with, and these really skilled and talented corporate executives, when their attention is in the present moment, they have everything they need to perform at their best. They have done all the work, they’re fit enough, strong enough and intelligent enough to perform well, so my job is to simply help them get their attention and focus back into the present moment. If I can, then everything they’re good at, just comes to the fore.

Race car driver Scott McLaughlin with Murray.

Race car driver Scott McLaughlin with Murray.
HM: More often than not, you’re trying to stop self-sabotage?
EM:
Pretty much. For some of us, self-sabotage is working obsessive hours, drinking too much alcohol, gambling, eating too much food, or have poor self-worth where we become invisible and don’t have an opinion or set boundaries. It shows up in so many different ways for different people, but effectively, it is just because our attention, and our focus, has gone to a place that is not helping us. I don’t like to use positive and negative, I like to talk about how it goes to unhelpful places, which don’t allow us to bring our best to the table.
HM: You talk about the drinking and the gambling – it removes clarity from your day to day, and being present. It’s not just relevant to high-level sports performers, but everyone – those in a marriage, a relationship, at work ….
EM:
Everyone really. Over the years, I’ve taken the traditional form of mindfulness, and added various tools or strategies that I’ve developed across the years working with people who know high pressure, high expectation environments, and have created what I call high performance mindfulness. The reality is, being an at-home parent is as high pressure as you get! A year eleven and year twelve student, that is high pressure and high expectation. We all have performance moments in our lives, where we are wanting to turn up with our best, and we are wanting a particular outcome to go a particular way, but we have all of these unconscious thoughts, and all of these unconscious feelings, that are not allowing us to do that. We get told to think positively, we’re told to “do this”, and “do that”, but we don’t know how! How do I not get home from work and sit on my phone and have a glass of wine when I should be present with my kids, and my family? I don’t know how to get up in the morning and take some time to exercise, or journal, before I get on my emails. That’s what I hope my work is able to do — to give people the ‘how’ to actually get their attention back in the moment, and back on how to bring their best to that moment.
HM: Got it. Were you in the changerooms at half time during the 2020 AFL Grand Final?
EM:
Yes.
HM: What conversations do you have, and who do you have them with?
EM:
You have to remember that Richmond have been doing this work now for a good four years. The coaches, the players — everyone is very skilled in this space and are as knowledgeable as me in this space. The beauty of what we have going on at Richmond is we are all constantly teaching each other. The coaches bring it into how they talk to the players, and the players bring it into how they talk to each other, so you could take me out of the picture and those conversations are still going to happen. Dimma is still going to use that language and those concepts in whatever he talks about.
Murray with Dylan Grymes after Richmond’s Premiership win.

Murray with Dylan Grymes after Richmond’s Premiership win.
HM: Half time …
EM:
Half time was an amazing scene. You watch the players come in, they get into their lines, the forwards, mids and backs. The coaches were all so calm and precise in their messaging. Everyone was focused on what we could do, and not on all the stuff that induces those feelings of fear of failure. The conversation that stands out for me in my mind was with Bachar Houli. I caught Bachar’s eye, who was sitting on a chair. He called me over. Bachar is not someone that I would typically speak to during a game. He has incredible mental strength that comes a lot through his religious practice, and just his experience in the game. He said to me very quietly that a couple of minutes after Nick Vlastuin went down, he did his calf. It was really bad. Dimma needed him to stay out there, so we just spoke about the pain in the calf, and about what he could still do, not what he couldn’t. He recognised that he lost his offensive drive but could still be really valuable locking in defensively. We picked up his attention, his focus, and put it into something that he could do that could still serve the team really well.
HM: Don’t focus on what you can’t do, focus on what you can. It’s what we should all be doing with life. Enjoy what we have — not what we don’t.
EM:
Exactly. It is important for people to know, that we’re not wired to focus on what we do have. Our mind is wired to keep us safe and keep us alive and wants to keep warning us that, “this is bad, this could go wrong, remember last time when it didn’t go right?” It wants to jump into the past and replay past mistakes, and wants to jump into the future and play movies and stories, and monologues of where it can go wrong as a way to prevent us from getting into danger. The last thing our mind wants to do is replay the good times and replay all the things that we’ve got going in our favour, because that’s not how it keeps you safe. So we need to deliberately and purposefully learn tools and strategies to put our focus and attention on what we can do well, and on what we can bring to the table.
HM: I’ve heard you talk a lot about exercise being critical.
EM:
My view is motion, changes emotion! If you think of that word, emotion, it means energy in motion, so when we are in an emotional state and it’s not serving us well, we need to get some sort of movement into our body so that we can shift and change that energy. That doesn’t have to be a ridiculously hard gym session, or going for a really long run, that can be as simple as a walk to get your coffee in the morning, it can be a breath routine — there’s heaps of stuff available out there on the internet about this, but we have to stop thinking of these emotional states as who we are. I’m angry, I’m resentful, I’m unmotivated. It’s just an energy that can come and go! It can be a moment with our kids, a moment in the boardroom, a moment in an exam, or on the sporting field.
HM: How often do you run into someone that doesn’t buy in to your methodology in mindfulness?
EM:
A lot, particularly when you go into a team environment. Josh Caddy always tells new players that he thought I was full of sh*t when he first met me! They come around pretty quickly when they realise that I’m not asking you to meditate for 30 minutes a day, or burn incense, or chant — I’m talking about strategies that are based on brain science! Thankfully Cadds is one of my greatest supporters now. The science is that we’re wired to stay alive, so we’re going to look at the bad and the dangerous, and that’s not going to help us perform at our best. I was speaking with Oscar Piastri, the F2 driver recently. He told me he didn’t really believe it to begin with, but when he found himself in a pressure moment, he would really cling onto those tools. They feel better, and they do better. When we start doing better and feeling better, that’s when we start getting the best out of our lives. When I’m motivated, then I’ll do this. When I’m feeling more confident, then I’ll get up in front of my boss and say what I think. We are waiting to feel a particular way to take action, but this work is about getting us to take our best action, and then we start to feel better in all parts of our life.
Emma with her family. BACK: Emma, Tessa, and husband Nick. FRONT: Will, Gus, and Meg.

Emma with her family. BACK: Emma, Tessa, and husband Nick. FRONT: Will, Gus, and Meg.
HM: You have four kids Em, Will is the …
EM:
Eldest son, second child.
HM: Will was 13 when he jumped off a pier, and as a result he has been in a wheelchair ever since. Has what you’ve studied and done and taught, helped you and your family through a most difficult time?
EM:
I’d been practicing mindfulness 20 years before Will’s accident. I remember when Will was still in a coma after getting pneumonia from inhaling water, I was doing walking meditation up and down the hallway, just to stay upright, really. When we talk about that, those fears in our B game, we talk about that wiring of our brain wanting to go to the bad, and the dangerous. It was insane. Hame, you would understand the fear you have as a parent – when you have a child that is injured, or unwell, or anyone that you love. Your fear explodes. What if Will never walks again? What if our family goes broke? What if we are caring for Will forever? What if he’s never independent? What if he dies? There’s all of these what ifs, and all these if onlys. If only I didn’t let him go to the beach, if only I was there, if only it wasn’t a king tide that day.
HM: Did your training help you deal with the ‘ifs’?
EM:
I remember a moment in ICU really thinking about mindfulness. I had this moment of “Oh, so this is mindfulness”. My only way of surviving was staying present. As Will’s injury went on, I realised a spinal injury doesn’t get better for anyone. In fact, the longer you go with a spinal cord injury, the more the tentacles reach further and further into finance, independence, your house, friendship groups – it just keeps going and going. There’s no light at the end of the tunnel so I needed to be able to perform at my best despite the grief. I started to really observe the traditional tools of mindfulness. Find my A game and play that.
HM: You kept working?
EM:
Yes, my husband wasn’t able to go back to work, so all of a sudden, I found myself as the primary breadwinner. I’d never been that before. My husband became Will’s primary carer, so I had to find a way to now support four children, and fund an injury that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. I had to do that at my time of most grief, and most trauma. I had to find my A game.
HM: How did you do it?
EM:
We decided as a family that it was important that I stay involved with the AFL, because it was such a big part of Will’s life. We knew that the AFL was such a supportive environment when peoples backs are against the wall.
HM: You stayed on at Richmond.
EM:
I did. I’d go to the hospital, then into the club, and then back to the hospital again. Every day. I would go into the club and see these young boys trying to get better as Will was doing the same. At that time Richmond hadn’t won a premiership for 37 years and the public were calling for the board to be sacked, for Dimma to be sacked, and a complete rebuild. I could see the fear in those boys, and the fear in the club. There was no sense of calm anywhere. I would share with the players tools and strategies that I was learning in my world, and they would share with me what was working for them. They taught me as much as I taught them during that period – I am so grateful I had the club.
HM: Has Will used mindfulness to live his best life?
EM:
Will taught me some incredible things. I remember in the early days, he had just turned 14 when he was still in hospital. He was having post-traumatic stress symptoms arising from the accident, particularly when he was in bed at night. He had flashbacks to drowning. I remember asking him, “What do you do when you’re having those thoughts, and those feelings, Will?” He said, “I just remind myself that I’m in a bed, and I feel the mattress. I feel the blankets on me, I feel the pillow under my head, and I remind myself that I’m right here”. The words “Right here, right now” are words that I talk about a lot. Right here, right now, we haven’t lost our house, we haven’t lost our family, and Will hasn’t passed away. Right here, right now, I’m just having a conversation with my son. There is no struggle in the right here, right now, the struggle sits on either side of that moment. How do I get back into the right here, right now? Will has taught me as much as I’ve taught him. He won’t directly let me work with him, but he listens, and I try and put him in front of as many of my athletes as I can! Dusty has been incredible, he plays a lot of PlayStation with him and has spent a lot of time with him. As has Scott McLaughlin.
Murray with Australian cricketer Will Pucovski

Murray with Australian cricketer Will Pucovski
HM: Did Dusty give him his Norm Smith Medal?
EM:
He did!
HM: Has he still got it?
EM:
No … Will was very determined to give it back to him! It was a beautiful thing he did. After the most recent Grand Final, we had Will on FaceTime in the rooms. The boys have been a huge part of Will’s journey, and a huge part of our family’s journey. All of my athletes are so giving, in sharing their successes with Will and the family. We are really blessed to be a part of it.
HM: If you walked into Tigerland in 1990 with your CV and said, “I want to work with your football club focusing on training the minds of your players” … what do you reckon they would have said to you?
EM:
“Not today. Off you go, little girl!” Full credit to Blair Hartley and Dan Richardson, who had just been to the United States. They heard a guy by the name of Michael Gervais talk, who had worked with the Seattle Seahawks using very similar principles. Their mind was open when I met them for a coffee. They set me up to work with Dylan Grimes, I think just to see what it was about, and to see how it would work. Dylan had been to the club and said, “I feel like my game, and how I play on game day, is not in line with my potential as an athlete”. Dylan has incredible curiosity, open mindedness, intelligence and awareness. They handed me the best person ever to work with. I talk often with Dyl about the sliding doors moment of that, because that has really set me up for the career that I have now. He worked with me every single week for two seasons without fail, and he grew, and grew. He would teach me, and I would teach him. That enabled the club to have confidence. Dyl would tell another player who would then start to get on-board; Dave Astbury, Sam Lloyd, Dusty. They weren’t being forced to do it; they were choosing to do it.
HM: I’ve got a man crush on Will Pucovski. I did something with him in October before he debuted, and we’ve stayed in touch. What did you find Will needed, and what does he do now since you’ve been working with him?
EM:
I love working with athletes who are so open minded, and willing to be vulnerable, and say, “Yeah, I’m struggling with this, or I need to work more on that”. Some view that vulnerability as weakness, whereas it’s actually one of Will’s greatest strengths. To be able to really see where he is at, see where he needs to be, and identify that gap, and then go and work towards bridging that gap. Will’s focus and attention, like any athlete, would go off the present moment, and the thing with cricket is, there’s more time in the game to leave that present moment. A midfielder in footy is constantly busy, and constantly on the ball. In cricket, between every ball, waiting out in the field, your mind wants to go to why the situation is bad, and why it’s dangerous. “You could get out, to a short ball. Last time you faced a short ball it hit you in the head”. That doesn’t make you mentally weak, it just means that you have had to work harder at building tools and strategies to get into the present moment.
HM: Enjoying what you do?
EM:
Absolutely Hame, I feel blessed. I liken it to reality TV. You get to work with these wonderful people to create tools to get them into the present moment, and then you get to sit back and watch it all happen on TV, watching them do it and bring it to life! Nothing gives me more joy than watching an athlete bring their best.
HM: Knowing you’ve played a role …
EM:
I’m not a magician. I can’t create skill and talent where skill and talent doesn’t exist. It’s all them. I just remove a few blocks and give them a few tools and strategies. I can’t make them do the work — they need to want to do the work. I get to sit back and watch them fulfil their potential. I think we all deserve that. We all deserve to fulfil our potential as a parent, a friend, a corporate executive, a student — that feels really good. When we do better, we feel better, and I just want that for everyone.
HM: You’ve done an amazing job, with the athletes and Will …


EM: T
hanks, Hame.
Great stuff, thanks for sharing
 

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Masotiger

Debutant
Feb 12, 2020
145
380
AFL Club
Richmond
Brilliant!!

When Benny foreshadowed the 3-0-75 vision back in 2010 he knew if we could clear the debt and invest in the football department the rest will fall into place. I will forever be grateful to Brendon Gale and the Board of the RFC for positioning us as the powerhouse club we are now.

Stay in the present moment Richmond. Go Tigers!!
 

Meteoric Rise

Club Legend
Feb 4, 2008
2,432
7,018
Melbourne
AFL Club
Richmond
It's true. Happened in one of his final games. The player he handballed to was so surprised he dropped it. May have been Paul Sproule.
Handballing to a team-mate was a last resort for Hungry. And when I say last resort I mean it.

It occurred only if all of the following preferred options had been ruled out:

- having a shot for goal, even when cornered in a back pocket kicking into a 6 goal wind
- kicking the ball in such a way as to maximise his own chances of getting the ball back again
- kicking the ball to himself
- throwing the ball out in front of himself
- kicking the ball out on the full
- kicking the ball the wrong way to the opposition
- trying to evade the entire opposition team, including several of them multiple times in the same passage of play
- handballing to himself

You used to look at the stats in the Sunday Observer each weekend and see Bartlett 33 kicks and 1 handball, and you would know they had mistaken the vaguely similar sized and hair styled Sproule for Bartlett in congestion, because there was not a snowflake’s that Bartlett would consistently record a handball.
 

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Rodney Dangerfield

Doesn’t matter
Mar 28, 2005
39,150
91,114
Melbourne
AFL Club
Richmond
Other Teams
Liverpool,Bournemouth
One of the best things I’ve ever discovered was this stuff through work. It’s changed me completely and I said once I’d been doing it for about 6 months, now I really get what sets Dusty apart in the big games.
It’s as clear as day that he has a fully wise and calm mindset when most others are reacting which is perfectly natural.. unless you’re Dusty.
 

Moppey

Rookie
Oct 24, 2020
29
57
AFL Club
Richmond
Rudi Webster incarnated and better
Was thinking the same thing. Theres nothing new about sports psychology. Its all about getting people to take it on board and accepting it for what it is.

After the Rudi Webster experience im surprised the club failed to heed the lessons and value of people like Webster and Murray until recent times.
 

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