As an Adelaide Crow, Michael Doughty was known for his meticulous and dedicated approach to shutting down the opposition’s best midfielder. As a player agent working for Elite Sports Properties (ESP), he hopes to apply the same approach but with the opposite effect.
His aim will be to boost the prospects of the players under his gaze.
Doughty retired from AFL football at the end of 2012 after 231 AFL games, but his life after football started in his second last year in the game, when he undertook work experience in ESP’s talent management division.
Doughty always knew he would stay involved in the game he loves; at one stage he thought that might be in coaching, but after sitting down with his player agent, Justin Reid – now his boss, it became apparent his future was sitting on the other side of the table.
“I was always interested in the mentoring of players, coaching appealed to me but probably the second last year when I did the Next Coach program, the time and the hours required didn’t suit me or the balance I require in terms of my family life,” he says.
“I wanted to get outside the football club and try something new.
“It was a great experience to get that other side of the business and make sure I really wanted to do this job.”
While still a Crow, Doughty worked one day a week at ESP filling a mentoring role for some of its Adelaide talent. While he wasn’t negotiating contracts or dealing with sponsors, he was taking care of the day-to-day operations, like appearances and “what guys are doing outside of football”.
When the opportunity arose at ESP, Doughty described it as a “pretty simple decision” to accept.
He completed a finance qualification earlier in his playing career, but as a past player Doughty believes the biggest asset he brings to the role is an understanding of the pressures on AFL footballers trying to establish their careers.
“I guess being in the inner sanctum of a football club for 13 years, you learn a lot about yourself and other players in the stressful environment that it is. That empathy with the players and knowing what they are going through, the ups and downs, the setbacks and the highs and dealing with all those scenarios will be a help with my job.”
Doughty believes the greatest challenge facing the modern day player is maintaining work-life balance and its value to performance is something he hopes to pass onto his charges.
“The earlier you can get into good habits and get that balance with family and friends, get their teeth into some education or work placement, the better,” he says.
“That’s the hardest thing as a young kid. All you care about is playing AFL football and finding that balance takes time to develop.”
Beyond understanding and perspective, Doughty says a career in the AFL builds skills in teamwork, leadership and networking skills.
“It’s not always what you know, it’s who you know and while you are in the system if you say and do the right things people appreciate that. You never know when you might need a hand and AFL provides you with that opportunity.”
Doughty has the understanding, the skills and the connections but there was one hurdle remaining in his bid to become a player agent; the accreditation exam, which he describes as a daunting prospect.
SWOTing for an exam isn’t something Doughty was used to, but he gives the impression that it was nothing in comparison to the task of curtailing Gary Ablett Junior or Dan Swan; challenges that remain despite the level of preparation one does.
Having done his homework Doughty cleared the 75 per cent pass mark in flying colours.
Doughty is developing a burgeoning stable in South Australia; he inherited 15 players and has brought in a few of his own, with some more to come as the drafts approach.
Some of those players include former teammates Brodie Smith and Matthew Wright and cross-town rivals Matthew Lobbe and Jarrod Redden.
Adelaide and Port Adelaide showdowns are traditionally spiteful encounters, Doughty jokes that managing the dynamic of having members from the arch enemy on his books was “always a concern”, but a change in occupation has spurned a change in location and colours.
“We have just moved our office to Alberton, so it’s given me enough time to build a relationship with them, and they have all been great, very supportive and I think I have done the right thing by them so far.
“I’ve changed colours, I’m neutral now,” he laughs.