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Canavan returns home to give back

Not many know the inner tapestry of rugby league more than Brian Canavan.

With more than 33 years of experience under his belt, the revered administrator has made a significant contribution to a number of NRL clubs in his time, including at the Sydney Roosters, Gold Coast Titans and most recently, Newcastle Knights.

His input hasn't been exclusive to clubland, also serving as the game's Head of Football for two years beginning in mid-2016 and well before his administrator days, was the Queensland Maroons' strength and conditioning coach between 1988 and 1994.

After sounding the final siren on his full-time rugby league career earlier this year, the well-renowned footy tragic has returned home to assist on Queensland Rugby League's South East Region Board to bring younger people along their own career development path quicker.

Crediting the likes of Peter Corcoran, Nick Politis, Wayne Bennett and John Quayle as influential figures who helped shape his career, Canavan said giving back was something he quite enjoyed.

"The SEQ board role is offering me plenty of opportunity. It’s very invigorating actually. Just seeing these people extracting. They know the answers… you just have to guide them," Canavan said. 

"After spending 33 years full-time in rugby league, I decided to just step back a little bit and pass the ball to younger people and from there, I can 'share the grey hair', as they say.

"But I don’t wish to finish up. I wish to relay what I’ve learned and do what other people have done to me as I was developing my career with all the information and knowledge I received, so I want to pass that on to the next group of people coming through.

"They are honorary positions which I have nothing but the greatest admiration for those people who have been doing it for a long, long time.

Canavan has spent more than 18 years at the Sydney Roosters.
Canavan has spent more than 18 years at the Sydney Roosters.

"We have some pretty specific projects in mind as we go forward and come out of the COVID period."

The experienced administrator believes his involvement in three fundamental pillars over his career will assist in imparting knowledge to his peers.

"Even though I was involved at the pointy-end, I also had another role in an organisation called ARL Development which was around until 2012 when we merged the governing bodies of the game to come under one body – the ARLC [Australian Rugby League Commission]," Canavan said.

"So, I’ve always had a deep interest in the actual development aspect of the game.

"The game to me is split into three areas – there’s the elite end, which is the NRL plus representative footy including State of Origin.

"Then you've got the pathways, and the pointy-end of the pathways is the state cups, mainly Intrust Super Cup and then the final part of it is development.

"The three pillars are the ones I’ve been in and I hope the three pillars join together so they make a better product for individuals wherever they end up and hopefully they stay in our game.

"It is also hoped it creates a better game for spectators which generates revenue and that keeps our game ticking over.

"I have been fortunate enough to work across the three areas of the game so I can piece the jigsaw together. You can see where the opportunities, threats and landmines lie from experience.

"Unfortunately, there’s no textbook for it, you just have to work your way through it.

"But I’ve seen all the components of our game. That’s where I feel very, very privileged to have encountered all the components, so I can construct the jigsaw."

Canavan also wants to remain with his rugby league family.

"Rugby league… it’s full of drive, it’s full of reward and it’s full of enjoyment," Canavan said.

"I’ve been brought up with rugby league – they say it flows through your veins and this sport gives great enjoyment, great passion, great challenge and the rewards are there.

Canavan at the 2017 QRL Leadership Conference.
Canavan at the 2017 QRL Leadership Conference.

"Some are tangible some are intangible and I hope I can get some of those intangibles myself as I move to the next phase of my career, whatever phase that is.

"As an example, I went to a Valleys Diehards reunion recently and I haven’t been able to go to many of those because it’s always been around finals time and I’ve always been tied up with footy commitments.

"But it felt like I had only been away for five minutes as opposed to 15 to 25 years.

"We always keep close connections… you talk about family. You have your immediate family but your sport is your extended family.

"Rugby league is my extended family."