If you’re reading one of these Humans of Hampton for the first time, these are long-form stories. You’ll need to grab a cuppa or a wine!
Trent played 17 games for Collingwood and 61 games for Carlton but as you’ll read, he nearly didn’t play AFL at all…
I grew up in Morwell with an older brother Justin, a younger brother Cam and a younger sister Naomi and at the end of grade 4 we moved to Warragul because dad got a transfer. I don’t remember a heap of Morwell but when I was in grade 3, I had a paper round for about two years. I filled in for my brother who was in grade 4 when he went on the Train of Knowledge, so I did his paper round. At the end I said “I love it, can I have a round?” and when I filled in the form and it had the date of birth on it they said “sorry you’re 7 you can’t do a paper round”. I said “I’ve just done one for two weeks”. They said “you’ve got to be 9”. Two weeks later they rang me up and said “we still haven’t found anyone do you want to do it?” And I said “yep”. I was well and truly the youngest and Justin was probably the second youngest. I wasn’t entrepreneurial, I was just addicted to lollies and pinnies and it gave me money for that. My parents bought us up a bit hippy like, no sugar, processed food or TV so any lollies we got our hands on were gold. One of our best mates Scam still complains about only being fed alfalfa at the Hotton’s house.
I obviously played a lot of sport as a kid and loved footy. All I wanted to do was play for Carlton. When we moved to Warragul we got into basketball a lot more and I probably played more basketball than footy. Just before starting year ten I went to America for six weeks on a basketball tour. We toured down the west coast and I got offered a scholarship at an American high school for basketball but I said no. It would have been twelve months over there and that would have meant no footy, away from mum and dad, friends/family. Also their school years are different to ours and I didn’t know how it would fit.
My parents let me make my decision. I think they knew what decision I’d make so therefore let me go. If they thought I was going to go then they may have talked me out of it. They were pretty good at letting us do our own things. I suppose because from seven years of age we’d had paper rounds and jobs. When I came back to Warragul I basically stopped playing footy and just played basketball. For two or three years I didn’t play footy. I probably had ambitions of being a professional basketball player.
I went to Melbourne Uni and did Science and just hated it. When I was in year 11 and 12, I did physics, chemistry and maths but I didn’t do biology. I wanted to be a chiropractor and biology was a prerequisite so I went and did Science for a year to get my biology to do chiro which I didn’t get in to. I didn’t do well enough in uni.
I ended up transferring to Bundoora and doing a teaching degree. Because I’d done my year of Science, I was able to do phys-ed, maths and science. But I haven’t taught a day in my life. It’s a four year course that took me about seven years.
I was playing basketball at the Dandenong Ranges at the time which is the level below the NBL and it was just too far to come every day to training as well as doing a full time uni course. So I tried to get a transfer from Dandenong across to Coburg Giants and Dandenong said “no you’ve been here forever we won’t give you a transfer, you can travel”. At the same time Collingwood rang me up and wanted me to play on their supplementary list.
That came about because a couple of years earlier I’d tried out for the Victorian Under 18 basketball team and over the road there were tryouts for the Victorian Country Under 18 footy team. So at lunchtime from the basketball tryouts I went across the road to talk to my mates who were trying out for footy and they asked me to have a run around. So I played a half a game in the lunchtime and the Collingwood guys said “where’s this guy, what’s he doing?” I had to go and play basketball so I left but they stayed in contact.
They rang me after the first year but I was still playing basketball. Then the year after they rang me again and said “we’ve put you on the supp list”. I still enjoyed footy and was playing whenever I could so I thought “I’ll try footy and see how it goes”. When they told me they’d put me on their supp list I said “okay that’s good but what does that mean?” It meant I could play in their seconds but not the seniors. Back then they had a list of 42 or 45 but the list players play first. I didn’t think that sounded like much fun so I went and played with Preston in the VFA for a year and then Collingwood got me down to do a pre-season. I was 19/20 years old. Did the preseason and then they drafted me at the start of 1994.
I played at Collingwood for three years. Kept getting in trouble, not doing the right things off the field. Leigh Matthews was the coach for the first two years and then Tony Shaw took over in 1996. I was a bit silly. When Tony took over we actually had a curfew so no-one was allowed out after midnight any night of the week and it probably didn’t sit with me very well and I was a bit stubborn. Every Monday he’d say “who was out past midnight?” and every Monday I’d put my hand up and said “I was”. I think I earnt $21,000 that year and would have been fined over $15,000.
I didn’t really like being told what to do. We were young and we wanted to go out. And that’s probably the era where things started to change. Nowadays you grow up knowing what’s expected of you, whereas when we started playing…it probably sounds a little disrespectful to say but if you played well and went out and partied hard they’d name a stand after you like they did with Darren Millane. We revered it in one way but then all of a sudden they’re trying to change it to “well that’s not what we do now”. It was the dawn of professionalism in the AFL but some of the people were ready for it and adapted and others like me said “oh I don’t like that, I’m not going to adapt to that”.
After my first year at Collingwood my little brother, Cam, came to Collingwood as well – he had one year there. I remember Leigh Matthews saying to Cam “you’d be so much better if you didn’t go out and drink every Saturday night”. And Cam said to him, “can I still drink Thursdays?” I think the first thing Tony Shaw did when he took over as coach was call Cam in and told him he was no longer required and then called me in and said “you can’t live with your brother”. Of course I said “I’ll live with who I want”.
I got delisted from Collingwood in 1997 – I played 94, 95 and 96 and then the start of the ’97 season came to training Sunday morning a bit dishevelled and then we had a really long meeting which I fell asleep in. That wasn’t great. Tony called me in and said “what would you say if I said you were delisted, go home?” And I said “I would probably say goodbye” and got up and walked out. I’m not sure if it was a rhetorical question. I didn’t wait for the answer. Many people in football circles would still believe the widely reported story that I sold the Collingwood playbook after I’d been delisted. I didn’t do it, but also did not want to out an ex team mate who naively wanted to help out Mick McGuane who was now at Carlton and gave it to him. Shawey still brings it up on the radio occasionally and my sister, Dad and mother in law go nuts and threaten to call the stations.
After playing with South Adelaide for a year, I ended up coming home and playing two years at East Burwood because Alan Richardson was coaching there. I played with Richo at Collingwood. He rang me and asked me to be assistant coach. Richo was a playing head coach, so he was still playing as well. It was good fun and my little brother Cam was there as well. We had a couple of other young kids who went really well so we had a few recruiters come out and one of the guys, Paul Brody, who was recruiting at Carlton asked Richo why I didn’t want to play AFL anymore. And Richo said “have you asked him, he might want to. The fact that he’s not playing I don’t know if it’s his choice”. He asked me if I wanted to play and I said “yeah of course”. He said “I’ve been told you weren’t that interested”. And I said “well I am”. I was probably using that as a defence mechanism, oh yeah I’m done with that. So I went and played a couple of practice matches with Carlton and went to training with them a few times and they then drafted me.
I was probably a bit more mature this time. I was also physically more mature as well so I could play better. I was pretty young when I was at Collingwood. I hadn’t played football for three years before I got drafted to Collingwood so I was a little bit ungainly and didn’t always know what to do. I suppose I developed a little bit better at East Burwood and was probably lucky when I got to Carlton and went okay. I was 25/26 at the time.
I had three years at Carlton. Really enjoyed the first two years. David Parkin was the coach when I first got there, then Wayne Brittain took over. The dynamic between Carlton and Collingwood was really different. At Collingwood, because they hadn’t had a lot of success it was almost a negative environment where it wasn’t fun. Whereas when I went to Carlton they would work hard but they’d have fun doing it. They’d play a lot more games in training and there seemed to be a lot of fun associated with it and the boys would all get to the pub afterwards, they’d have a drink together. Stephen Kernahan was really good at that; let’s have a drink together and let’s all go when it finishes. We played in finals in the first two years and won quite a lot of games but tended to fall over at the wrong end of time with injuries but my last year there was the year we started getting a little bit more professional. That was 2002. They ended up bringing in that whatever day you played, you’d have training at 8am the next morning. So the old blokes, myself included, were going “let’s just go home, let’s not even meet for a beer”. The young blokes would go out by themselves til all hours. If you played a night game you wouldn’t sleep anyway so you’d get to bed at 3 or 4am and then up at 7am for training so it was a slog of a year. I don’t know if that was the reason but we ended up getting Carlton’s first ever wooden spoon.
At the end of that year there were changes made and I was out of contract and got sacked by Britts. The conversation went something along the lines of “if I’m here next year you won’t be”. And I said “okay so I’m a still a pretty good chance”. And he said “yeah you are”. Britts and I got along okay. We had pretty open discussions a lot. He got sacked two days later and he said to me “yep, looks like you’re right, I’m out and you’re still in”. And they rang me on Monday and said “Denis Pagan’s been appointed, keen to have you”. Then Tuesday they rang me again and said “we’ve got a problem, we’ve got people we have to get rid of and some are contracted and you’re not”. So that was the end. It was okay. I’d had my time. If I’d had done it differently I would have had a whole different career but I was okay with it. And the other part of it, I had a job offer to go to with Leading Teams and they said I could start now but if I hadn’t had started then it might have been a little more difficult to start a year later. So it was good that I got in early which led to what I’m doing now.
I was at Leading Teams for ten years. I tended to steer away from AFL for a while. I went into Melbourne Storm and Auckland Blues in Rugby Union. And then I ended up going into the AFL. The first clubs I started to do some work with were Carlton and Essendon. I did them at the same time and it was just a very brief program, not a full program that we normally do. Denis said there were a couple of issues he wanted my help with. And that was really interesting sitting in the box and watching the coaches go about it and listening to some of the messages they send. And the erratic behaviour of some of them; I’ve seen some doozies. You ask them about some of the messages and they’re like “oh yeah I didn’t think about that, good point”.
What it does is it just helps open dialogue. If the coaches want open dialogue or want feedback from players, wants to get their input into things, then it can work really well. It’s not always the coach that brings you in, but it works best when it’s the coach. When I did some work with Essendon, the Footy Manager and the CEO brought me in to work with Sheeds. And that was Sheeds’ last year and that was more to help the players transition because they hadn’t really had any input before and it didn’t work that well because we weren’t on the same page, it’s hard to get on the same page with Sheeds.
And then I went to Port Adelaide and worked with Mark Williams for a year and that was the year they made the grand final and got walloped by Geelong. The turnaround in their performance that year was pretty good. I think they came 13th the year before and then ended up coming runners up. I think Mark was doing it possibly because some teams had had success working with Leading Teams so he was like I’ll do anything to help my team so I’m prepared to do this, but he didn’t quite think that meant him changing some of his ways. To his credit, he really tried hard and I thought made some strides but I only had the one year there and then I left to go to England. I opened up Leading Teams Europe and spent two years there.
It was a big gamble to go to London. We all chucked in fifty grand and said let’s go. It was interesting landing and not having a client and not knowing anyone in Europe. Before we left I’d worked for six months at night as well as during the day due to the time difference, trying to get a foot into a door of the lucrative English Football fraternity. I think probably within a month or two we were cash flow even. It didn’t take us long to hit the ground running. We had a rugby union club really early in the first couple of weeks and that went really well.
Within a month of landing the GFC hit so that wasn’t great. Our model was half sport, half corporate so the corporate just disappeared, there was not a cent made. I reckon there was one corporate day delivered in the two years that I was there. The sport arm was going well, the corporate arm wasn’t and we knew that if we kept going along it’d be okay and corporate would return one day. So after about a year I convinced the CEO from Australia to come over and join me. I couldn’t really take on any more work. I couldn’t train anyone up because I didn’t have the time or the funds to pay someone who can’t bring in any work either, so I convinced him to come over there with me.
We signed contracts with some Premier League sides. One was with Newcastle United with Alan Shearer and a week later he was sacked. Part of the problem with sports over there is they’re all privately owned and the Managers would go “hey I want to do this, I’ve got to get money from the owners”. And the owners are saying “hang on, I’m paying you to manage the team”. And so it was hard for them to ask for the money to do it. And people only want you if they’re going really badly, but they only get about two weeks of going badly until they’re sacked. So it’s very difficult to come in and it’s also not necessarily always a short term fix. So sometimes it takes a few months to change the team culture issue that have been going on for a few years.
It’s generally people’s buy in to what they’re doing and if they haven’t had discussion or input into them often they don’t buy into it. If it’s always the coach telling you, the players leave their brain at home and just turn up and don’t think about… And they’re the ones who execute it and deliver it and if they’re not confident in it; if they have to second guess themselves they’re screwed. You don’t have time to second guess. If they’re thinking about it enough to have input into it, to comment on it to say “oh I like this or I don’t like this” and discuss it and come up with different ways then all the better. The coach should always have the final say but if he’s the only one who has a say then you’ve got one mind. Most of the coaches have come from playing backgrounds. They didn’t hand their boots to say “oh I’m finished playing now” and then they were handed a brain and told “good you can be a coach”. They generally had thoughts and input and beliefs before that.
I met Deb around 15. She grew up in Bunyip and I went to a footy game and, as teenage boys do, they’re like “there’s this good looking girl over there playing netball, you’ve got to go and have a look”. I think that’s the first time I ever saw her. And then we used to see each other at 18 at different events: Drouin Races normally, picnic races. And that’s probably when we hooked up. Then Deb went overseas for a couple of years at 22/23. She must have been 25 when she got back and that’s when we started seeing each other. I think she dropped me off at the Desperate and Dateless Ball one day and wasn’t all that sure why she was dropping me off to go a Desperate and Dateless Ball. I think she said “why am I doing this? What are you doing?” So that was the start of Deb and I, about 25/26. I think she was waiting until I settled down a little bit.
We got married in 2003 at St Joan of Arc Catholic Church in Brighton. I’m a Mick but Deb’s not so she agreed to marry in a church as it meant so much to my family. She refused to sign the pink slip though. Lucky we had our tolerant family priest who married my parents, my aunt and uncle, then buried my Mum and married us. But at least during the churchy counselling session to see if we were fit for Church marriage Deb found out about the Jelly Bean Theory. We had the reception at Sandy Yacht Club because we knew we would settle over here one day, even though we were living in Thornbury. We had photos at the Brown Cow and then onto the beach for more photos. Neither of us had lived here and we’d always been on the other side of town: Carlton, Hawthorn. When we got back from London, we took a lease for ten weeks in a little apartment in Hampton Street to make sure we could get into the school. Our friends Jen and Clint were going around Australia with Places We Go and so we house sat for them and absolutely loved living Bayside.
I’d been home a year from London and working back at Leading Teams when they went to a franchise model. I decided not to buy a franchise. I’d been there ten years and I didn’t really need the brand anymore. So I left and started Team Effect. I’m not working as much in sport now because the kids are busy doing their own things so I don’t want to be out working on weekends but I work with New Zealand Breakers in the NBL. I go there three times a year for two or three days then I catch up with them when they play in Melbourne. I also work with the Australian Boomers. So it’s more corporate these days than anything. Most of my clients are long term now and it’s good that way.
One of the bigger things in my life that happened was mum dying just after she turned 50. I was at Carlton at the time. It was certainly hard emotionally and I was really close to mum. She was such a fit, vibrant person, it was unexpected. Mum and dad probably sheltered us a lot from it I would think. She was diagnosed with cancer when she was 47 and they gave her six months. It was bowel cancer. She was doing the Murray River Marathon and when she was finished it she said she felt unwell, like she needed to go to the toilet all the time. She went in and got scans and they said “you’ve got bowel cancer and it’s pretty progressive” so she went straight in for an op and chemo and pretty soon it went to the brain and so she had a few other ops. But she went the natural method. She didn’t do chemo for a long time. She had the bit cut out but then went natural. She tried to do meditation which she sucked at. She was doing well and then they found out about this new treatment which she did and in the end probably got progressively worse after that. Maybe it’d just spread but she’d gone four years doing the natural method and was doing pretty well and then went the more medical process and went downhill pretty quickly. Losing someone you love probably does leave you a little bit emotionally detached at times too. You go “okay well it’s not death and it’s not a parent” so I think I probably have been a little less comforting at different times than I should have been.
At the end of the day I’m a family person just like my Mum and Dad. I want be around and in our boys lives before they grow up and bugger off overseas or into their own lives and families. My siblings and their families are my best mates and I love spending time with them even though the 9 boy cousins (and 2 much quieter girls) are usually running amok destroying the place.
Thankfully Deb and Trent’s relationship survived even after Deb’s father sold his pub. One of Trent’s three boys barracks for Collingwood and another Carlton. The youngest barracks for either depending on which brother he likes best at that minute. You’ll find Trent’s Team Effect website here and you’ll also find him coaching his middle son’s footy team and his eldest son’s basketball team.
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