‘Bomber’ reveals focus taking Ipswich rugby league forward
INTERIM Rugby League Ipswich (RLI) chairman Anthony Breeze is adopting a steady as she goes approach having just taken on more responsibility.
Being on the RLI board since 2018, the knowledgeable football enthusiast is confident of tackling the issues and challenges often thrown up in the Ipswich competition.
Affectionately known as "Bomber'', Breeze has stepped into the new role until the AGM in November when members come up for re-election.
But as he gets on with helping one of Ipswich's tradition-rich sports, Breeze offered his thanks to former chairman Gary Parker, who stood down recently at an extraordinary meeting.
"Gary took us through last year, probably the hardest year in Rugby League Ipswich history,'' Breeze said.
"The Covid pandemic we had to go through . . . and he organised the (Volunteers Cup) comp when other leagues around the state just cancelled them straight upfront and didn't even try.''
Parker also played a leading role organising the highly successful Gala match before the revamped 2021 season kicked off.
"He was instrumental in the Indigenous concept and he basically run that from go to whoa,'' Breeze said.
Given the work Parker has done, Breeze said his main focus was continuing to bolster rugby league after last year's challenges.
"There will no change really from what Gary had set down,'' Breeze said of the immediate future.
"We've just got to get through the rest of the year and look to next year.
"This year was the first year after Covid so we faced a lot of difficulties here with low registration of players, clubs look like not having sides.''
Breeze, 51, has two decades experience in rugby league management and other sports having been part-owner of the Ipswich Indoor Sports Centre for 17 years.
He was previously secretary for 10 years with Ipswich Rugby League (IRL), before it was renamed Rugby League Ipswich.
"I've been involved with the seniors now for nearly 20 years - at West End firstly and then to the IRL under Mark Boettcher,'' Breeze said.
Boettcher had two stints as then IRL chairman - from 1998-2001 and 2005-2008.
"He'd been there and done that and he was the boss,'' Breeze said, of gaining valuable experience with Boettcher.
Breeze joins order RLI board members David Nugent, Dave Martin and Ken Kennedy with another key person joining the team next week.
He welcomes the support he has, especially from former chairman Nugent, who has considerable experience in Ipswich.
"Dave was president of the junior rugby league for many years so he has a vast knowledge of the junior rugby league whereas I've got probably a vaster knowledge of the senior rugby league,'' Breeze said.
The interim chairman said the main change for him was "I've got to be over everything now''.
"When I was on the board, I was competitions and development director . . . looking after the development with Dave Martin but now I've got to be above all the affairs.''
Kennedy was recently appointed, bringing extensive rugby league governance and expertise from interstate to the RLI board.
Breeze also has to work with office staff at North Ipswich, who look after finances and other matters.
While a major focus is stability after some player retention issues earlier in the season, Breeze believes this year's competition is taking shape.
That includes Goodna adding a Volunteers Cup (C Grade) team after at one stage struggling to field an A-Grade side.
The A-Grade competition is producing some quality football with Swifts leading the way on 12 points, having suffered their first loss last Sunday to the Ipswich Jets.
Brothers and Jets are on nine points with Norths on eight, Fassifern on four and Goodna on two.
"The players are going fitter, a lot better,'' Breeze said.
He said keeping the game safe and free violence at grassroots level was a priority, following the lead set from the Queensland Rugby League and National Rugby League.
He said RLI was working hard to ensure juniors can play without unsportsmanlike behaviour from parents.
Players doing wrong on the field will face the judiciary and teams can lose points for melees or related incidents.
Breeze said "tough love'' regarding zero tolerance of bad behaviour could provide positive benefits for the game.
High head tackles have gained prominence during the latest NRL crackdown.
"It's always been a rule. They are just penalising a little bit more now,'' he said.
Another goal is to recruit more volunteers - a challenge most sports are facing.
Rugby League Ipswich has organised a workshop next Wednesday at the North Ipswich Reserve for club representatives to discuss their "top five'' issues with the Queensland Rugby League facilitator.
"The main one they have brought up is player retention,'' Breeze said, keen for clubs to have their say.
Breeze performs multiple roles as a casual at Brothers Leagues Club, including calling the bingo on Mondays.
One of his passions is working on West Bremer Radio team.
He also writes a weekly column for Ipswich's major sport provider - on The Queensland Times online digital service.
His thoughts are never too far from his beloved Parramatta Eels and what's happening in Ipswich rugby league circles.
Having lived in the Ipswich area since 1975, Bomber enjoys calling matches with the West Bremer Radio team.
Ironically, he wasn't comfortable with microphone in hand during his early days working at the Ipswich Indoor Sports Centre.
Now, he's the first to conduct a post-game video interview.
"I just love rugby league, being involved still,'' he said.