A couple of weekends ago my family and I attended the Grand Final match of the NRL [National Rugby League (of Australia)] season.
The game was a tight game played between the two teams that finished first and second during the regular season. These two teams were the best two teams of the seventeen teams that competed throughout the season.
The team that finished first, the Penrith Panthers, were the season Premiers for 2021 and 2022, and were chasing a third straight Premiership title, a feat not seen for forty years, and a feat made very difficult to achieve because of salary-cap restrictions [spending restrictions] placed on each team in an effort to help spread the talent [of players] more evenly throughout the competition.
The team that the Panthers were to play was the Brisbane Broncos, who had finished equal first, but second on points differentials. The Broncos had been a very successful team twenty and thirty years ago, but had not won a premiership for some sixteen years.
The Broncos team was very talented, and the game was expected to be a cracker of a contest.
And it was.
After leading the Broncos 8-6 at half-time, the Panthers came back from a deficit of 24-8 with 18 minutes to play to win the match 26-24 in the final three minutes.
This was the biggest comeback ever seen in the history of Rugby League Grand Finals.
The result left all spectators, commentators and journalists wondering what exactly they had just witnessed.
With eighteen minutes to play, nobody in the ground believed that in a game of this intensity, the tide could turn against a team that had taken the half-time score from 6-8 to 24-8.
At 24-8, the whole crowd believed that the Broncos would just go on with the slaughter of the Panthers and show no mercy.
Everybody in the ground believed that at that point, with eighteen minutes to go, it was “game over” for the Panthers.
The trouble was, nobody told the Panthers players that the game over script had been written for them…
Lesson Number Two: When The Going Gets Tough You Need To Back Your Processes
With only eighteen minutes of game time remaining, many a team would have thrown their starting plan and playbook out the window, and thrown caution to the wind, and chanced their arm…. making risky plays with the hope that SOMETHING or ANYTHING might just come off and turn the match around…
In fact, after the match at the post-game press conference, winning Panthers coach Ivan Cleary complemented his team that in their deepest and darkest time, while staring defeat in the face, his team DID NOT chance their arm with risky plays that might not come off.
Instead, he said that he was proud of the fact that the Panthers players had stuck to their game plan.
They identified weaknesses in their opponent and they worked hard on those weaknesses until their opponent [the Broncos] cracked under the relentless pressure applied to them.
That was always the plan.
Always the game plan.
In contrast, the Broncos changed their game plan when they had a substantial lead, that most people believed was unassailable.
Instead of continuing on with the plays that had stunned the Panthers players, the Broncos started to chance their arms and play like a team that was sixteen points behind with eighteen minutes to play, instead of tightening things up and playing like a team in control of the ball with a sixteen point lead to protect for eighteen minutes.
The Broncos forgot their game plan, and started taking unnecessary risks.
And these unnecessary risks did not come off.
In fact, the Broncos lack of structure during the final eighteen minutes was palpable.
So much so that the Broncos lost their way… and lost the game.
The lesson here is simple…
When things appear to be working well in your life, and in your business, just keep on doing those things.
As boring as it may seem, the recipe for success is to keep on doing those things that you know work and you know give you results.
For the Panthers, they knew that they had the successful game plan.
They just thought that that game plan would have put them in the lead sooner.
By sticking to that game plan during the final eighteen minutes of the game, they were able to execute the necessary processes to create the victory they sought.
They just needed to be patient and to believe.
They knew that each ream member had a specific job to do on the night.
It just took longer than they had anticipated for the results to happen.
But their trust, and their belief, brought home the result.
For the Broncos team, once they had acquired a healthy lead, they threw their game plan out the window and began playing impromptu football, and against a disciplined team like Penrith, that can prove to be your undoing.
Because Penrith will sense weakness, and suffocate you, and cause your weaknesses to compound.
And in the final eighteen minutes, that’s exactly what happened to the Broncos.
When the going gets tough, your disciplines and your processes that you know and trust will deliver you your desired outcomes.
The final eighteen minutes of a seven month long season is not the time to be looking for new miracles.
It is the time for trusting what you know has worked under pressure, and will work again.
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