The AFL players association prides itself on preparing players for their post-football lives.
If they’re looking for a poster boy to advocate the values of those programs, then they need look no further than Tyson Stenglein. Better than that, Stinga could actually design the poster!
The 2006 West Coast Eagles premiership hero availed himself of the educational programs organised through the association to equip him with the necessary business skills to make a smooth transition into the next phase of his life.
He and his sister, Jen, together with her partner, Dave, have set up a web design/photography business in Melbourne and he is enjoying the new challenges thrust before him.
Stenglein is as far removed from the 60s image of the washed up footballer, slumped at the bar of a smoke-filled bar reminiscing about his past achievements.
Rather than the local pub, Stenglein and co are working out of a converted micro brewery in trendy South Melbourne, delving into their creative beings and it seems to be going well. Certainly he is enthusiastic about the venture and his energy is contagious.
“Melbourne is where my sister and her partner, Dave, have lived for the last eight or 10 years creating their own freelance businesses with what we’re doing now,” Stenglein enthuses.
“It’s built around photography and graphic design. For me really the business has been five years in the making, where we all thought we could collaborate and do something together.
“Really, the reason I came to Melbourne is because the guys are here and I just thought it would be a nice change after living in Perth for the last six years to try a different city and here I am.
“We’re a full production photography studio. As you can see we’ve got our own studio here so people can come and do the studio shoots. We also do on-location shoots and any graphic web design, corporate collateral. All that kind of stuff that goes with the design process
“We’ve had this space since January, so it’s eight months now and we’ve just finished all the renovations on it. It used to be an old brewery which was pretty cool seeing the photos of it back from scratch.
“Jen’s been a photographer for 10 years and she’s done a whole range of different types of photography but moved more into fashion now and Dave’s been running his own graphic design corporate company for the last six years and went freelance after that.”
Stenglein has always had something of a business mind. Even when playing he dabbled in a few different initiatives and was always looking outside the square, preparing for the day when football would give way to those interests.
The hard-nosed midfielder, originally from Subiaco, drafted to Adelaide but targeted by West Coast as a man who could make a difference in 2004, certainly lived up to that expectation.
Stenglein joined the club in 2005, after 106 games with the Crows, and provided the hard edge to the midfield that the Eagles match committee craved, to round out the capabilities of the team.
He gave them that – and some – and in 102 games for West Coast was a significant contributor.
After spending some time travelling and partaking in his favourite recreational pursuit – surfing – he headed back to Australia and began to implement his business plan. To put into practice the off-field skills with which he had equipped himself.
“When I was playing footy, I was just trying to up-skill myself, basically with all skills using the AFLPA education grants,” Stenglein expands. “I wasn’t exactly sure what I was moving into. This option really came about only in the middle of last year when we decided ‘let’s fully go ahead with it.’
“That’s when I met my sister on my travels last year in Croatia. We talked about it, then discussed it in a bit more depth and thought it could really have some legs here in Melbourne, so we just took it from there.
“I knew I always wanted to work for myself so I wanted to learn about business and starting a business so we approached the Australian Institute of Management. When I say “we”, Sam Butler and I approached them basically to put a program together that would accommodate playing footy full time.
“I tried a few uni courses over time but just found the study and basically the practicality of what I wanted to know, didn’t really work in that well. I did my Small Business Diploma and from there did an Advanced Diploma in Management.
“Also just up-skilling myself I did some work with Diageo, a big corporate company, in events and marketing. Really, it was just a bit of work experience and gave me an insight into what I wanted to do. While I was travelling last year I also looked into a few short courses which the AFL offer.
“I did some video editing and those kinds of courses which gave us a bit of background and tied in well with a lot of the stuff we’re doing here. It all kind of fits pretty well… I’m still trying to up-skill myself in a few areas.
“It’s been really exciting just to get into a new industry. The only real connection this has with football is meeting football people.
“You talk football and it’s a great starting point when people are interested in footy but you also have a service that you can help their business with if they’re in the need for something like that. I’m enjoying going to the football now as a spectator and not so much, being in the industry.”
The dynamics of the business, Spacebetween, seem to complement each other. And with Stenglein you get the sense there is a great deal of satisfaction in moulding something from the start.
He and his business partners were on the tools renovating the office space, they are all responsible for bringing clients to the operation and they are putting their heart and soul into it.
“Because Jen’s business has been established for so long, a lot of her clients; previous clients and new are coming from her brand and her reputation as a photographer,” Stenglein explains.
“That’s kind of the same with Dave. We’re all bringing clients from different areas. I’ve found it’s been a pretty even split amongst all of us with the clients we’ve brought to the business.
“It’s keeping me very busy! It’s a lot different…a reality check in terms of how much time you have when you play football.”
While Stenglein is firmly focused on his new business interests, he is also a regular at West Coast games in Melbourne. He has enjoyed watching the club’s rise back up the premiership table and looks forward to catching up with some of his former teammates in Melbourne in September.