Gift of the gab helping Central Region speak up

This weekend's final round of Intrust Super Cup and Hastings Deering Colts fixtures has seen a focus on the all-important Turn to Me message, and thankfully in rugby league, there are a number of people across the state who can be leaned on in times of need.

One of those people who works tirelessly every day to ensure the off-field wellbeing of the rugby league community is Central Region Wellbeing and Education Manager Grant Bignell, who uses his laid back but loquacious style to ensure that everything is alright.

“Being from the bush, having a chat to make sure everything is okay comes second nature to me,” Bignell said.

“I think it’s something we’ve done for a long time and seem to do it quite well without instruction, but for whatever reason, a lot of young people (seem to have lost) the art of just sitting down and discussing things that are important to them.

“I think being able to do that is a big part of my job."

Hailing from Miles, Bignell is tasked with looking after the Central Region’s wellbeing education programs and delivery and is one of four QRL Wellbeing Managers situated across the state.

Prior to taking on the role just under 12 months ago, he was a NRL Game Development Officer covering South West Queensland for the past five years.

With the Central Region covering a vast majority of the state, Bignell said distance was one of the major challenges that he was faced with.

“I think getting access to grassroots footy players is the hardest part,” Bignell said.

“When we get players - mainly juniors - into our programs, it’s really easy to make it compulsory for them to experience the education; but it’s different for those who don’t make these programs or squads coming through, and sometimes, they don’t seem to see the importance of attending when wellbeing events are put on.

“Because of this, I think it’s important we make sure our parents and coaches are aware of the influence they have, particularly on young people and the way they can help them and keep an eye on them."

Another key issue Bignell is passionate about is educating coaches and parents on managing the expectations placed on junior players, especially those who are earmarked for greater success when they get older.

“I think one of the biggest issues we have is the expectations we put on kids that show a little bit of talent early on,” Bignell said.

“I think with the parents as well – they need be aware (of) the attitude they project to these players and make sure they’re not putting expectations on them that aren’t their own.

“They’re still juniors and they’re not professionals.

“They are going to have days where they don’t do what we think they should and shouldn’t ... do, so we just have to be aware of that and not be part of the problem and (make) it worse.”

Bignell’s aim for 2019 has been to grow his identity in the region, and the way he has begun to do that has been through his gift of the gab.

“By the end of this year, I’m hoping everyone in our region will know that there is someone is in this role and that it’s for the players, coaches and other people around our clubs,” Bignell said.

“My biggest aim is to go around and just have a chat to as many participants as possible and make sure they know that someone is there and can have a conversation when things aren’t quite alright.”