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John Grant is a Magpie great, played for Australia and Queensland and never left his beloved Davies Park.

Grant was the glamour centre in Brisbane in the 1970’s and played out a glorious career in black and white, putting him in the Magpies’ hall of fame and team of the century.

John Grant Q&A

Why the Magpies, and can you remember your debut?

I remember my third game, the first two were terrible, but we got to game three – Easts at Langlands – and I finally started putting it together. But I was young and still learning. I remember we put a kick through and I was chasing it and beside me loomed Des Morris. No cameras in those days, so I grabbed his jersey and pulled him away from the ball. Des was not happy at all, throwing an elbow that just skimmed my head and letting go a stream of expletives as a measure of his displeasure. Suffice to say, I didn’t do it again. I played club AFL from age 10 to 18. When I went to Yeronga State High School, I had a chance to play schoolboy rugby league in year nine. I remember sitting with the other boys and the boy before me telling the teacher he wanted to play outside centre. I didn’t know the positions, so I thought well if there is an outside centre there must be inside centre too. So that’s what I told him, and that’s where I played for most of my league career. In 1968, I went to Souths as an 18-year-old and then worked my way up to first grade.

You got to captain-coach Souths in 1974 when Brian Briggs walked away with three games to go - how did you find it?

I certainly wasn’t seeking the role. Brian was asked to leave and, as captain, I was asked whether I’d captain-coach for the rest of the season. It was only a short period of time and I decided to take it on. I had no idea how to do it, making it up as I went. But we had a successful end to the season, making the semis after two mid-week playoffs. When Harry Bath came in 1975, there was no talk of me continuing the role.

When Isoa Vola Vola, Asaeli Batibasaga and Amen Gutugutuwai - the Magpies Fijian connection - came to town for Souths, what did you think?

It was such an exciting thing to happen to Brisbane football and very innovative of Souths. They were internationals playing in Brisbane and walking around West End. They were complete rock stars who added real colour to the game and brought the crowds in the gates. For one game at Davies Park against Wests, I remember there were over 8,000 people crowded in – six and seven deep on the sideline. It was amazing and the Fijians didn’t let them down, with Asaeli banging a field goal over from the centreline. I remember we developed plays that had Fijian names that once translated were not fit for publication, but we played fantastic attacking football, which I relished.

Wayne Bennett moved you to lock - did you mind?

I remember I was on holiday in Italy when Tony Testa called in the middle of the night to tell me they were appointing Wayne Bennett as coach for 1977. Wayne and I had spent some time together and I knew he coached at the police academy, but I really didn’t know too much about him. Of course, he’s since gone on to be a wonderful coach, perhaps the greatest of all time. But that night, I just went back to sleep. Wayne gave me an opportunity to play lock forward in 1978 and I absolutely loved it. I could get my hands on the ball a lot and be much more involved in the game. I do remember one game against Brothers at Davies Park in the wet. First tackle in the match I decided to give one of the Brothers’ front rowers one of my big under-the-ribs tackles. I was out cold, they tell me, for at least two minutes. I went on to win man of the match which we won I think 10-6. One of my favourite photos on the wall of my office today is from that match with Greg Veivers and me in the dressing room with broad smiles and covered head to toe in mud. Ultimately Wayne moved me back out to the centres, because we were a bit short there, but I really would have liked to play more in the forwards. We had such churn in coaches at Souths. I was there nine years and had seven coaches. It wasn’t a stable environment to learn how to be a better footballer. That’s the one thing I wish I had been exposed to, good consistent coaching and development. When Souths had Wayne Bennett and Bob McCarthy from 1977-1985, one of the major contributors to their success was coaching stability and continuity.

Where are your Magpies, Australia and Queensland jumpers now?

I have them here. One of my favourites is my Bulimba Cup Brisbane jumper from 1972. It’s white with the red poinsettia on the front and was my first senior representative jersey. I am very proud of it. I loved playing for Brisbane, it was such a great competition. That’s where you had to play well to play for Queensland, and it was so tribal to play for your city. I also treasure my Magpies jumper with the number on the front and the black stripes across the shoulders.

Who is your favourite ever Magpie?

I have two favourite Magpies. Graham Atherton was a great five-eighth. Great league mind, terrific hands and a little ‘twinkle toe’ step that drew in the defenders. If you were an outside back like me, then being outside Graham was a dream. He won a Brisbane Rothmans Medal in 1970 and played for Queensland. He was great for me when I came into grade at Souths. Mitch Brennan was a terrific winger and great mate. He would play outside me and I saw my role as getting him some space to do his thing. I remember in his first game for Souths, I drew his opposite and offloaded the ball to Mitch who ran down the field avoiding the cover, then swerved in-field to beat the fullback, and then come back out and scored in the corner. He scored two great tries that day – a beautiful thing to watch. That was my view of the centres' job – get the ball to the winger in space, and Mitch didn’t need too much.

Souths had great success from 1979, do you wish you kept going for a bit longer?

I was physically done at the end of 1978, but the one thing I wish I had done was play with Mal Meninga. He came along in 1979 and I would have loved to play with him.

Acknowledgement of Country

Queensland Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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