Off the Wall

Over the weekend the well connected sports writer, Rebecca Wilson, took to the Independent Commission with gusto.

Her central point was one that I made time and time again during the drawn out, and suspect, IC selection process - the IC members have a worrying lack of rugby league experience and knowledge.

But that most certainly cannot be said of the Chairman of the IC, John Grant.

My knowledge of John Grant is largely historic, though a recent discussion with him confirmed he has a good understanding of where the game is today, and needs to be in the future.

Forty years ago, the then QRL Chairman, Senator Ron McAuliffe, assembled what was then an event almost without precedent in rugby league - a live in, intensive training camp for 20 of the best Queensland players drawn from clubs right across Queensland.

John Grant, who was starting to make his name on the wing for the Brisbane club, Souths, was one of them.

John Grant stood out from the rest - and it had nothing to do with his long hair or beard!

He was a full time university student - as I recall studying engineering at the University of Queensland.

That was an era when rugby league players were not full time...and it was very much the working man's game.

Ron McAuliffe, a Labor Senator, struggled with the idea that a full time university student would be playing A grade rugby league - let alone be in a training camp that would almost certainly guarantee state selection, as it did.

During the camp he asked me to ask a  couple of players and officials how he was coping.

I can recall the response then as if it was given today - "he might be quiet, but he is sharp as, and a very good listener".

Oh, "and he has a very good football brain".

When John Grant was chosen in the Kangaroos World Cup squad in 1975, Ron McAuliffe reminded me that I must have spoken with some good judges!

It is a matter of history that he played with distinction for Souths and Queensland - and then Australia - while completing his university degree, and embarking on a very successful business career.

I have had very little contact with him until recent times, but I did observe his rise in the business sector, ending up as the CEO of Data 3, a very successful IT company, and becoming one of the most influential executives in the national IT sector.

He is probably at a stage in his professional/business career that he can afford to give the time the role of IC Chairman will demand.

In my view, he brings to the role a sound rugby league "culture" and history, and, a clear capacity to "listen".

What a welcome change that is going to be?

I remain concerned about key aspects of the IC - how its members were chosen in particular.

But we have to play with the cards we have been dealt.

The IC is a reality - and the game desperately needs strong and visionary leadership.

In John Grant, I believe we have a Chairman who will give the job his best shot - and the game will be richer in time for his leadership.

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