If you are an Aussie Rules fan you will know perhaps why I am posting this story now in March 2018. This weekend means a lot to many AFL fans.

The action in this story occurs on a day leading up to the Grand Final of 2017 – the ‘big dance’ as we call it.

You find your blogger at the airport greeting some professional speakers at the baggage carousel. We are gathering for our convention – I like to call it our annual jamboree.

There are people attending who are at different stages in their speaking career. Some are giants in the industry. People like Lisa McInnes-Smith who, with no word of exaggeration, is a genius presenter. Lisa is one of only three Australians to be a member of the Global Speakers Hall of Fame.

There’s Jon Yeo who in 2017, served as president of the Victoria/Tasmania region of Professional Speakers Australia. Jon also runs the annual TEDx conference in Melbourne.

There are speakers who are coming to convention for the first time who might have been speaking for a while and there others we call the newbies – speakers who are just starting out.

Jon is standing next to someone I haven’t met before. He introduces me to Dianne. It is a quick hello as I am organising a maxi-taxi to get us from the airport to the hotel where the convention is happening.

I ask Dianne if she wants to join us in the maxi.

“No, it’s okay… I have already booked a bus but thanks for asking,” Dianne replies.

Then excitement ripples through the airport as a troupe of athletes appear in red, blue and yellow track suits to collect their luggage. It is the entire Adelaide Crows squad who have arrived from South Australia to get ready for the AFL Grand Final.

Speakers who are famous in their own worlds go to water and are star-struck by how close they are to these players who will be fighting for the premiership on Saturday.

Then one of the players (I can’t remember which one) walks past our little crowd and very deliberately stretches out an arm, points back to a colleague and with emphasis remarks, “I still remember what you said to us at our season opener… you are a legend, thanks”.

It wasn’t Lisa. It wasn’t Jon.

The player was pointing back, with admiration and respect, to Dianne.


A bunch of us get into the maxi-taxi.

Dianne catches her bus.

I ask Jon, “What was it the player was talking about to Dianne?”

Jon replies, “She spoke at the last TEDx Melbourne event – you should check out who she is.”

Noted but the day starts at a cracking pace.

We get to the hotel and start the pre-convention sessions straight away. At the day’s end, there is a welcome session where experienced speakers meet with convention first timers. Our facilitators invite us to go and say hello to someone who has caught our attention. There is Dianne, standing unassumingly in a back corner.

“Dianne – g’day, we met at the airport. Can I just say I was fascinated that that Crows player remembered what you said.  What was that about?” I ask.

“Oh, that will be when I was invited to speak to them at the season launch.”

“How did you come to be asked to speak to them?”

“Oh maybe because I am in the last 100 people (and last seven Australians) to be considered as a candidate for the Mars One project https://www.diannemcgrath.com.au/mars-one-astronaut-candidate/

Dianne is quiet (yes, there are some professional speakers who are introverts) and there is a chance that you might miss her within a group.

In school and university – I was a literature student and was fascinated by the clever structure of Tom Stoppard’s play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are old school friends of Hamlet. They play a side role in the great Shakespearean tragedy Hamlet. Stoppard’s genius is that he makes these two characters the centre of his absurdist play. You hear scenes from Hamlet playing out in the wings, off centre-stage. The concept opens up an image of the drama on the stage being one portion of a large circle or wheel that could be spun so that dramas related to others could land on centre stage and appear in front of you.

If we look hard, listen and notice there is always another story, closely connected, being played out to the side of the one in front of you.

There were all these famous speakers at the luggage carousel. There were the Adelaide Crows and to the side, there was Dianne. And then the compliment came about a message Dianne gave in a presentation to a bunch of elite Adelaide Crows players – a message so strong that it impacted on one player who recognised Dianne.

I like to think that that player seeing Dianne at the airport contributed to what we now know to be part of history – the Adelaide Crows went on to win the AFL premiership that weekend.

Readers who are not AFL fans might think…

Okay Bill, nice. A person to the side of the drama quietly influenced some elite athletes to win the premiership.

Inner thoughts of the AFL fan…

Err, Bill. That’s wrong. Adelaide lost to Richmond in last year’s Grand Final.

And you would be right in asserting that…

… but

Have you guessed yet?

Click here if you still haven’t worked it out





the AFL (Women’s) Grand Final of 2017.

It was this time last year that we had our annual Professional Speakers Australia Convention on the Gold Coast. Adelaide’s AFLW side were arriving to play the Brisbane Lions at Carrara Stadium. They were the underdogs – the Lions were undefeated and yet the Crows caused an upset and became the inaugural premier of the AFLW competition.

My lesson in this was about who Dianne is… she isn’t simply a potential first human inhabitant of Planet Mars (it is a one-way ticket by the way). Have a look at the extraordinary intentional way some folk live their lives – exemplified here by this graphic about Dianne.

I gave Dianne a call yesterday to check that I had this story accurate from her perspective and memory of the occasion.

Dianne shared a bit more about the day she spoke to the players. The AFL always run an annual induction day for new players. Because the AFLW was a new competition in 2017, Dianne spoke to all of the players and all of the coaches from all of the clubs. It is a day that has never happened with the men who play AFL. The whole competition gathered in one place, listening to Dianne McGrath who hopes to fly to Mars in 2031.

Dianne explained that she was asked to speak to these athletes, who made history last year, about trail blazing, creating their own future… doing something in their own unique way like it never has been done before. She shared with them how becoming someone in the public eye has its downside and forewarned the players about how hurtful it can be to be trolled on social media platforms. There is unpleasantness but the upside of a public profile is the good one can do, evidenced by Dianne being before these athletes. Dianne asked the players to not worry so much about perceived expectations of others which she told me is a huge common worry of woman in elite performance spheres. She challenged the players to arrive at their own definition of what success means to them and to get deep into their purpose for being an inaugural AFLW player.

Sometimes if we don’t stretch our peripheral vision and look and listen to the side of the drama in front of us, we might just miss an extraordinary story belonging to someone quietly standing near to us.

Good luck to both the Western Bulldogs and the Brisbane Lions who are playing off today in the second AFL Women’s Grand Final. It is nestled and almost hidden ridiculously in between fixtures of the men’s competition’s opening round. I am unsure why they don’t schedule the Grand Final, one out, in the ‘bye’ round the weekend before the men’s season starts. There were no AFL male games scheduled last week, a perfect time to showcase the Women’s Grand Final.

And Dianne – good luck this year with stages 3 & 4 – where the Mars One final 100 reduces to 24. Whatever the outcome, you are a quiet inspiration.

And to you Time & Space community reader – who might be someone you spot in your peripheral vision today who is unassumingly extraordinary? Feel free to share in the space below.