Life Lessons from not making the A Team


We had a great Melbourne WOBMeet last week with guest speaker Marlene Elliott, Non-Executive Director Commonwealth Games Australia (CGA) and Netball Victoria and very successful netball player and coach.

Marlene spoke about her interesting career progression from senior management at KPMG to her decision to leave Adelaide and move to Melbourne at the tender age of 50 to progress her career and expand her board portfolio.

She shared how she went from the B Netball Team at school to represent South Australia at the Nationals and how being overlooked for the A Team taught her many valuable lessons.


Not Making the A Team

Growing up in North Adelaide, Marlene recounted an inspiring story to highlight the need to back yourself.  A self-confessed uncool kid, Marlene didn’t make the A Grade netball team in high school, which disappointingly resulted in her not being able to try out for the U16 State School Girls team.

Undeterred, on the suggestion of her sister, she made a bold move and tried out for the U21 State team instead. And a great move it was - at the age of 16 she was selected and represented South Australia at the Australian National Championship.

Marlene says that this experience highlighted that you can never let other people define you, that you should never give up and to pursue your passions.

Career Overview

A loyal employee, Marlene had just two employers in her successful 30 year career, with 15 years at Adelaide Bank (Bendigo Bank) where she started as a Teller moving through the ranks of Retail banking to General Manager Wholesale Funding.  She then took a position at KPMG where she worked for 15 years, culminating in a role as National Director of Client & Market Insights. While she loved KPMG, Marlene made the brave move to leave at the young age of 56 to pursue her board aspirations.


Marlene’s current boards are CGA and Netball VIC, where she is also Chair of Netball VIC Governance Committee. She says it’s important to do your research on the organization, other board members, the strategy and financials and to ensure the organization’s values and purpose align with yours.  Her board journey has taken the following route:

  • Her first Board role was Asia-Pacific Professional Services Marketing Association representing KPMG for 8 years, including two as Treasurer and two as Co-Chair of the ASPAC Conference. 
  • Non Executive Director (NED) of Netball SA for 6 years –following a career as player and coach.
  • Joined Netball VIC as a NED in 2013 filling a casual vacancy and then voted in at 2014 AGM, where she is now  Chair of Governance Committee.
  • Netball Australia nominated Marlene for CGA, where she was elected at the AGM by exhaustive ballot.

Commonwealth Games Australia (CGA)

Marlene says the CGA is a great board and she enjoys working with her fellow 5 board members who she constantly learns from.

As a new Board they have refreshed the Strategic Plan. Marlene was nominated by the Board to work with the CEO to crystalize and condense the plan and design a Strategy on a Page document. Following the strategic planning process CGA now has five key pillars:

  1. Delivering team success
  2. Connecting with communities
  3. Presenting a powerful brand  
  4. Leading the way
  5. Hosting a great game

And yes, CGA Board members get to go to the Commonwealth Games!

The Importance of Mentors 

Marlene says mentors and sponsors have come in and out of her journey, depending on the challenges at the time. She says mentors have had an impact on her both personally and as a leader, which have helped shape her career. The key tip is not to choose a mentor who will allow you to stay in your comfort zone.

Marlene’s Key Tips for New and Aspiring Board Members

  • Network and connect authentically with people
  • Share your passion and purpose
  • Do your research well 
  • Listen and observe other board members
  • Put your hand up for sub-committees

Marlene’s Key Board and Career Learnings 

  1. Resilience – take the hits, they make your stronger and never stop learning  
  2. Discipline – choose your priorities, develop a structure that brings out the best in you    
  3. Authenticity – be yourself, be confident to be different
  4. Selfless – make time to give to others, help others grow and achieve

And finally, Marlene says her core purposeis simple and has remained constant as she continues to apply it to all facets of her life: To enable others to shine and succeed.

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