Entrepreneurs

The AFL players building businesses in 2017

Emma Koehn /

AFL Fergus Watts

Former AFL player and Bastion Collective founder Fergus Watts.

The Australian Football League is increasingly thinking of itself as an entrepreneurial enterprise, and its players are driving that change.

From the launch of the inaugural AFLW competition this season to clubs like Port Adelaide adopting a startup mentality, footy is on the lookout for ways to grow using a more entrepreneurial mindset.

Last year SmartCompany checked in with the players making waves in the business world, and over the past 12 months more new enterprises have popped up across a range of sectors.

Here’s some of the business interests of former and current players across the country.

Food and drink

Hospitality has always been a big area of interest for AFL players, with no shortage of pubs and nightclubs run by local sporting stars.

These days, players are also investing in the growing cafe culture around the world, with Essendon star Jobe Watson spending his hiatus from football working on New York’s Fifth Avenue cafe Hole in the Wall. He will return to the States to work with the business after retiring this year.

Meanwhile, Tiger and winemaker Dylan Grimes bought Mount Macedon winery in 2016, and has restored and reopened the venue with his wife.

Another player getting outdoors is North Melbourne’s Ben Cunnington, who started Shinboner Cattle Company last year after teaming up with a Victorian stud breeder.

Geelong great Cameron Ling is still involved in the city’s hospitality scene, while fellow Cats player Corey Enright has also seen opportunities in Geelong, refurbishing the Bush Inn Pub with the help of three friends at the end of 2016.

Luke Darcy’s The Darcy Group is still in control of The Precinct Hotel, Melbourne Public and The Citizen in Melbourne, while Richmond player Shaun Grigg is a shareholder at potato chain SpudBAR, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Coaching, training and services

Western Bulldogs centre half-forward Katie Brennan continues to run her training business KB Performance, while Brisbane’s Sam Virgo also launched her own coaching business in the middle of a busy year, which included her recently tearing her ACL.

Hawthorn great Brad Sewell continues to offer training to athletes through his Australian Rules Football College, combining elite training programs with uni and higher education study so players can “future proof” their careers.

Outside of fitness and training, players are also involved in businesses across a range of other sectors: Collingwood’s Moana Hope is operations manager for a traffic control company, while also spending the past year at speaking engagements and promoting her book.

On the technology front, former Richmond and Adelaide player Chris Knights runs Melbourne SEO and digital agency Zib Media, while former Adelaide and St Kilda team member Fergus Watts continues to grow his marketing agency Bastion Collective.

In the outdoor furnishings space, former St Kilda player and assistant coach Aaron Hamill continues to run family business Hamill Pools.

Fashion, snacks and tattoos

Buddy Franklin and Chris Judd are both still involved in the world of fashion: Judd with his sports clothing brand Jaggad, and Franklin with menswear brand Nena and Pasadena.

Richmond Brandon Ellis has partnered with 2017 SmartCompany Hot 30 Under 30 member Robbie Ball in the Uncle Jack watch business, while Melbourne’s Jack Watts continues to work on his shorts brand Skwosh.

Collingwood star Dane Swan is a man known for his ink, and the owner of tattoo parlour Renegade Art Society, in Melbourne’s Moonee Ponds.

Former Collingwood player Tyson Goldsack continues his involvement as one of the founders of health drink brand Utonic. Meanwhile, 2017 Brownlow medallist Dustin Martin is involved with streetwear label Balla Balaclava.

Know another player we have missed? Let us know in the comments below.

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Emma Koehn

Emma Koehn is a former senior journalist at SmartCompany.

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