Among the first-time candidates at this month's state election are two
prominent former sportspeople hoping to make the jump to politics.
Ex-Freemantle football coach, Damian Drum, 42, is the National Party
candidate for the upper house seat of Western Province.
Damian Drum can't confess to any serious, long-held political aspirations. He
didn't dream his childhood away with thoughts of becoming Prime Minister.
For him, the behind-the-scenes process of running as the Nationals' candidate
in the rural upper house seat of Western Province only began last year.
Mr Drum had just been sacked as coach of Freemantle when he was informally
asked if he would consider standing in the Western Australian elections. He
doesn't really know why. Although he admits to a ``slightly stronger" than
average interest in politics, his political views had never been something he'd
worn on his sleeve.
``At that time I was talked out of it by some family friends, because it just
didn't feel right," Mr Drum says. ``Football was, at that stage, my one and
only love, and I was still very keen to pursue a senior AFL career in
Approached again by the National Party back on more familiar turf, Mr Drum
was offered the chance to represent what he describes as a ``huge provincial
city like Bendigo, as well as the Swan Hill and Mildura cities and the combined
group of really strong rural towns that make up the province". The time is now
``For someone like myself who has had the first 20 years on a farm and the
next 10 years living in and around Victoria and New South Wales, it's natural,"
Mr Drum says. He doesn't know if the family friends who disapproved last time
agree with his latest decision.
``I didn't ask them this time."
The biggest issue for Mr Drum to consider was the amount of time he would be
away from his family - wife Anne-Maree and children, Luke, 12, Alyce, 10, Gabby,
8 and Corey, 5. In an area the size of the Western Province, Mr Drum knows the
time commitment will be large.
``I think my wife has been very unselfish because it puts a lot of pressure
on her to bring up the children, in my absence, in some respects. When she
realised that I really wanted to have a go at it - knowing that there's no
guarantees in it - she was really supportive," he says.
While Mr Drum admits his past profile might have helped his thrust into
politics, he believes that it is performance that counts. With a belief that if
he works hard he can make an ``enormous difference", Mr Drum acknowledges the
risk that his virgin political eyes may eventually be tainted by the cynicism
and muck-raking of politics.
But that's down the track. At the moment, all that he hopes is that his
knockabout manner, preparedness to listen and ability to get along with
``everyone from 15 to 50" will take him to the next level.
``I'm convinced that people want a certain type of person in politics, more
so than a certain type of party in politics," Mr Drum says.
It is not though, he says, about ego. ``Football's full of egos. This is full
of hard work."
In Forest Hill, former champion skier Kirstie Marshall is the poster girl for
For Kirstie Marshall, sporting success was always about the thrill of
perfection, rather than the thrill of competition. Her attitude to politics, she
says, is the same.
``This isn't a race against anybody - this is my race and my job is to do the
best job I can do. Competition, I guess, at the end of the day, is about
lifting standards and getting better performance and learning from mistakes."
Any political skills Ms Marshall has have so far been honed within the
boundaries of the sporting world - a political framework she has been involved
with for more than 10 years.
As a director on the board of the Olympic Winter Institute, Ms Marshall says
she was involved in making decisions for all developing and established winter
sports in Australia. Then, her political interests became greater than sports.
``It was time to go into a more challenging field," Ms Marshall says.
In mainstream politics, as the Labor candidate for Forest Hill, Ms Marshall
says the issues are far more complex.
``I keep saying to my husband, `it's like a real-life SIM City'," she says,
in reference to a tactical computer game. ``You actually are looking at playing
everything against each other. When you are talking about funding, you know that
it's got to come from somewhere to go somewhere. It's an incredible balance."
Being a former golden girl hasn't hurt her popularity and the recognition
factor is high. When Ms Marshall speaks to anyone - whether it's senior citizens
or schoolchildren - any talk on policies is usually partnered by answering
questions about her days as Olympic skiing heroine.
``To doorknock and have people excited when they open the door must be a
first for a politician," she says.
She doesn't claim to be an authority on all things and says that, just as her
job as an athlete was to compete and leave the background details to others,
her aspirations as a politician are, for now at least, grounded by limits. ``You
trust people and you put them in positions where they are more capable than you
and then you trust them enough to walk away and let them do their job," Ms
``My job as the candidate at this point is to go out and meet people, to
listen to people and, effectively, allow them to ask me any questions that they
wish to ask me. What they are going to invest by supporting me is my
personality. It's going to be how assertive I am and how effective I can be in
Currently six months pregnant (her first child with her doctor husband is due
on March 1), Ms Marshall says she researched the reality and rigours of
political life by talking to Sports Minister Justin Madden - another sporting
personality turned politician.
``I told him where I was at and where I wanted to go. Justin simply listened.
He certainly didn't push me into politics - I didn't get drawn in by anybody,"
Ms Marshall says. ``I knew the more I found out that this is where I wanted to
be. Every single day that I've been campaigning has confirmed it."
If her election bid on November 30 is not successful, Ms Marshall says she
will simply try again.
``If you speak to people in my family, I always believed I was going to end
up in politics," she says. ``I love this."