Combining an Olympic water polo career with mergers and acquisitions
Goran Tomasevic is a Vice President at Macquarie, having originally joined the organisation as an intern in 2015. He has recently returned from representing Australia at the Tokyo Olympics in the men’s water polo team. He combines his love of the sport with his work in Macquarie Capital.
Goran Tomasevic grew up in Split, Croatia, and began playing water polo aged six, thanks to his family’s involvement in the sport.
“Water polo has a strong following in Croatia and it’s always been a big part of my life,” Goran says.
“My family valued education, so they looked into how I could pursue the sport but still get a university degree.”
In 2009, he accepted a scholarship to play water polo and undertake a Bachelor of Science majoring in Business Finance and Applied Economics in California.
Goran threw himself into his studies, while captaining the University’s men’s water polo team, known as the Tigers, before graduating in 2013.
A move to Australia
After playing water polo in the Brazilian Cup, Goran was invited to train with Brazil’s team ahead of the country hosting the 2016 Olympic Games. While this could have been his ticket to the Olympics, Goran declined.
“It was my second opportunity to pursue water polo but I said no,” Goran explains. “It was a risk, but I wanted to move into a finance career.”
Goran was living in New York when one of his old teammates, who was now playing water polo for the University of Sydney, recommended the club contact him.
“Sydney Uni called me and asked if I would like to play water polo in Australia,” Goran explains. “I said ‘thanks, but no. Water polo is on the back seat because I want a career in finance’.”
The call happened to be from Antony Green, who not only played water polo for the University of Sydney but was an Executive Director in Macquarie Capital. He suggested Goran apply to Macquarie’s internship program.
“At the interview I thought, ‘this could change my life’,” Goran says. “Securing the internship fulfilled both my ambitions.”
“Water polo took me from Croatia to the US, where I gained an amazing education,” Goran explains. “Then it brought me to Australia. It has been a crazy ride.”
A career in finance
Goran was always interested in pursuing a career in business and finance, and it only grew stronger through his experiences.
“I was involved in the university’s investment fund where students were responsible for investing $1.5 million on the stock market,” he says. “That and my internships really reinforced that it was what I wanted to do.”
Goran joined Macquarie Capital in 2015, completing six months as an intern before becoming an Analyst. He was promoted to Associate, and three years ago he joined the Sydney Metro Martin Place Project.
“It was a landmark deal,” he says. “Getting it across the line required working with architects, engineers and lawyers and it was a bit different to my usual work.”
The only problem was that it didn’t leave a lot of time for water polo. Goran played for the University but kept an eye on the Australian National Team, hoping he would be able to play for them one day.
“I play centre forward - it's a very physically demanding position,” he says. “To have a serious go I needed to train more, because sometimes I was playing more than training.”
His work on the Metro Martin Place project wrapped up in January, just as he received a call from the coach inviting him to train for Olympic selection with the Sharks, the Australian Men’s water polo team.
Goran spoke with his managers at Macquarie about making the commitment.
“I wasn’t sure if I could do it, but they said I deserved it and they’d do what they could to support me, even if I didn’t make the team.” Goran says. “If I didn't get this unconditional support, I doubt I would have done it.”
Between February and April 2021, Goran worked his day job at Macquarie, while training twice a day. From May, Macquarie provided two months special leave for him to focus on training full time. He was at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra in late June when he found out he’d made the Olympic team.
“It was an incredible feeling after all the effort,” Goran says.
“The feeling was out of this world,” Goran says. “Wearing green and gold and seeing the Olympic rings before jumping in the pool was amazing. Feeling the energy of proud athletes was incredible. The Olympics brings out the best in people.”
The Olympics ended up being his first international competition representing Australia as the pandemic had interrupted plans to play international competitions ahead of the games.
Goran says the Olympians had to negotiate strict COVID rules but any disappointment over playing in empty stadiums was overridden by the relief of simply being there.
“Australia is an underdog in water polo, but we knew we could beat Kazakhstan and then we beat Croatia in the preliminary round which gave us hope,” Goran says. “But we lost to Serbia, Montenegro and Spain and it wasn’t enough to go through.”
The team finished ninth overall.
High performance teams
In his day job, Goran has recently been promoted to Vice President. He plans to continue playing water polo for the University of Sydney because he says he loves the team environment, the friendship, the competition and the excitement of winning and losing.
“It’s an aggressive sport but it’s also one of the most team-oriented,” Goran says.
He also believes his water polo and finance career have a close relationship.
“They leverage off each other, and the physical training helps with the mental aspects of the job,” he explains. “I feel more energised and productive.”
Goran says juggling water polo training with other life commitments such as study or full-time work is challenging but routine for Australian players.
“In my job, transactions go for long hours and I need to be focused. I can’t always fit in the training but my work colleagues understand water polo is part of my life and support it.”
For Goran, the highlight of his Olympic experience was the team.
“I’m used to the high performing teams at Macquarie, full of people who love a challenge,” says Goran. “I have learnt a lot from them.”
“And I got the same feeling when I joined the national water polo team of Australia. They were so mentally tough, they could push themselves so far, while supporting each other.”