From Rugby Field To The Business World

From handling rugby balls on the fields to a renowned corporate executive, Michael Hawker, a former rugby player for the Wallabies, has done it all. Directors across Fiji had the
18 Apr 2015 09:48
From Rugby Field To The Business World
Internationally-recognised business leader and former Wallabies rugby player, Michael Hawker (left), and Fijian Holdings Limited Group CEO, Nouzab Fareed, in an interview with the Fiji Sun. Photo: JONA KONTACI

From handling rugby balls on the fields to a renowned corporate executive, Michael Hawker, a former rugby player for the Wallabies, has done it all.

Directors across Fiji had the opportunity to listen to this internationally-recognised executive speak during a business leaders dinner on Thursday evening.

The event was organised by the Fiji Chapter of the Australian Institute of Company Directors at the Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva.

Mr Hawker has taken his on-field rugby experience into the boardrooms and, over the dinner, he shared the importance of passion for work for business leaders.

“I think being a success in pretty much anything requires a whole lot of skills,” he said.

“For instance hard work. No one gets anything for nothing and you need to find something you are passionate about. When you are passionate about it, then it is not work.

“Find something you are passionate about, work hard at it, be reliant and understand team work.”

Mr Hawker highlighted the most effective teams are the ones who are constant contributors.

“Team work is not about being nice and friendly but about doing your job well and working towards a common goal,” he stressed.

A good example in Fiji can be found in two of our early Hong Kong Sevens rugby heroes, Ratu Ilaitia Tuisese and Viliame Cegumalua. Both became successful businessmen serving as directors on leading boards.

Both, incidentally, also graduated from the Australian Institute of Company Directors Fiji Course.


Sun Interview

What is your key message for the directors in Fiji?

I am actually speaking from Rugby to the Boardroom. I’ve got two messages – one is what I think of the core Governance principles needed to be a good director.

And then I talk about how I think directors should act being a director and how people should differentiate themselves from being a good and a bad director and how they might have to change the governance structure.

A public listed company might have a different governance structure to private companies. Some can be an entrepreneur company, which has been set up by a founder who is wanting some government help in various levels of governance around.

What I am talking about is how much you might document and how much you might have for a formalised process to do that.

And I think because of director liability, it is very important for public-listed companies that you have good processes, well documented to demonstrate you have been following a solid governance processes and that is not as expensive.


What are the three key elements a director should have?

The director needs to be more competent to work with the board and there are a lot of person skills that I believe you need to be able to sit on the board.

What I am talking about is the life skills you need to be a good director and I’ve learnt those in the rugby field and taken those skills across. You need to have good life skills to become a director and you need to have a proven capacity.

One of the interesting thing is how do you get yourself heard as a board director when you are one of the six to 10 directors and you speak the whole time and people turn you off or when you don’t speak at all.

In my view, you are better off speaking less and when it is worth while saying. You want be able to hear your own voice – but people in the room keep repeating the same things over but you want to hear people who are focusing on the material issues of the organisations.


How important would you say are the Australian Institute of Company Directors courses for directors in Fiji?

Since the time I have been involved in the AICD, we have moved heavily into training and as the world becomes more regulated, it becomes critical. The AICD proves a central depositary of knowledge for directors to help them in their roles to govern their companies that they are responsible for in the most effective fashion.

So the director courses are very valuable as it is a one-stop-shop, giving you all the information you need to know to be a board director as long as you’ve got the right life skills to start with.


What would you say about Fiji’s economy and how important the directors are to the Fijian economy?

I think good governance is really critical of a company for any country because foreign investment will only come to a country where there is good governance, the legal system and fair process to invest into a country.

All those things are incredibly important for a direct investment and Fiji relies on foreign investors. So all those things are critical to finance an economy.

I think the stability of the government here, the elections here, some of the macro economic issues globally are all helping towards the move to improve the economy.

 Michael Hawker

– Michael Hawker is currently a Non-Executive Director for the public companies:- Aviva – one of the world’s largest insurance companies, Macquarie Group and Macquarie Bank and Washington H Soul Pattinson. He was formerly the CEO and Managing Director of IAG (Insurance Australia Group) for 7 years and Chairman of the Insurance Council of Australia. .

– In the world of Rugby, Mr Hawker is the current Chairman of the Australian Rugby Union, recent past Chairman of SANZAR, and is on the Executive Committee of the International Rugby Board. As a Rugby Administrator, he has served on the Boards of the Australian Rugby Union twice, the NSWRU twice, the Sydney Rugby Union and the University of Sydney Rugby Club. He was Chairman of Selectors for the Australian Team in 1996 – the first year of professional rugby and is a qualified referee. As a player he played 25 Tests as a Wallaby, represented Australian Universities, represented Australian Schools touring the UK & Ireland and Japan in the undefeated 1977/8 Team and has a Sydney University Rugby Blue. He was also the University Sportman of the Year in 1981 and 1982.

– In the not for profit world he currently chairs the International Medical Research Institute – The George Institute for Global Health, and he founded the Australian Business in the Community Network – for which he was awarded an Order of Australia in 2010.



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