Keeffe keeping it real

THE CQ NRL stars of tomorrow are already running around our region, in Gladstone, Biloela and Woorabinda.

Denis Keeffe is passionate about rugby league and wants those kids to be wearing a CQ jersey on the national stage, playing the game loved no more in the country than right in our backyard.

He’s the CEO of the CQ NRL Bid team and held court at the Observer’s Men at Work Lunch yesterday, and informed the gathering how a CQ NRL team will benefit the region, including Gladstone. And if you look at the stars aligning at present, CQ is the best option the NRL hierarchy can arrive at when making a decision.

How will the pathways be structured for young league players here?

We’ve gone to the government and spoken about having a central academy with satellite academies in Bundaberg and Gladstone. We’ll be identifying potential and emerging talent. We’ll also be holding school-based programs and have people based here. Importantly it’s about recruiting the many, many talented kids there are in Gladstone. They’re disengaging in the sport at an early age because there aren’t those identifiable pathways.

You’ve said if CQ doesn’t get a team, they probably never will. Why?

The NRL might not go through this expansion mentality ever again. I think if they don’t do it now, the resources won’t be there from the media rights, for at least 25-30 years anyway. We’ve got a wonderful commitment from Geoff Murphy who is stumping this bid and they don’t come along every 10 minutes. We’ve got the opportunity now...and the alignment of ducks won’t happen again. That would be a shame because it’s strong rugby league territory that produces strong talent.

What did you learn with the Cowboys you’ve been able to bring to the bid table?

The Cowboys team was made up of all elements and no one with a real strong affinity for the region. We changed that culture around and changed it strongly to be proud of what we represented. I want to start that culture here: we’ll be a CQ side for CQ. It’ll have a predominance of CQ players, coaches and staff. It’s easier to start with the right culture than change it.

How excited are you about the bid prospect?

I’m pumped. This is the most obvious place. It’s about time we had our team. We’ve been supporting rugby league for over 100 years and we’ve been supporting someone else’s team and I think that’s wrong. We deserve a crack at it.

How soon do you need finals’ success for people?

You’ll always get your diehard supporters but in this business, success is measured by your win loss record. There’ll be a honeymoon period where people will expect us to move into the big league and compete against the St Georges and Broncos.

There’ll be a high level of expectation for this team to do well and I think we’ll be a very competitive team in short space of time, say two-three years.

Have you thought about the first game?

I have actually, and I get a bit goosey about it. I talked to a bloke in Rocky recently who wanted to be a corporate partner and I said why do you want to be?

He wanted to be sitting there at the new stadium with the white lights and knowing he was part of bringing it to CQ.

I was in Townsville for the first Cowboys game and officially there was 30,000 there. I reckon I’ve spoken to 130,000 who say they were there. It’s one of those things that will become part of our folklore.

Do you think the NRL are seriously considering the CQ bid?

David Gallop is a very shrewd man, he holds his cards close to his chest but he was blown away when we took him over Gladstone in a helicopter. He didn’t realise the boom was here or the passion for the game was here. He said keep working hard and stay in touch. The people I speak to say he’s very impressed.

When is the decision expected?

We should probably find out by June 2012. We’re putting a business plan now and they should be submitted in August this year, so it’s a matter of building a compelling case.



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