In a surprising turn of events, former NSW deputy premier Troy Grant will relinquish his role as head of the International Rugby League (IRL). This follows Grant’s most significant contribution to the game’s schedule in a generation.
Grant, last week, formally announced the delay of the men’s World Cup until 2026 and indicated that the women’s tournament will be held as a separate event in 2028. He will be stepping down from his position later this year.
Grant’s impending resignation comes as a shock, considering he had just joined the IRL months before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused a halt to Test matches globally.
Reflecting on his tenure, Grant said, “I’m proud to have got everyone back together and bridge the divide and relationships for a collegiate body.” He expressed satisfaction over the organisational changes he ushered in, turning the IRL from a “tuck shop operation” into a more sincerely committed and sophisticated organisation.
Grant was firm on making sure the IRL had a complex system and praised its current state, stating, “We’re transparent, members can trust us and we have no debt, we just don’t have enough revenue generation to really grow the sport. The calendar will change that.”
Speaking on one of his major contributions, he said, “We’ve been trying to get a calendar together for 20 years so I’m pleased to be able to do that.” He also alluded to the former World Cup’s impact on the game following the pandemic, noting that the challenges were sobering, yet constructive.
Under the new calendar, Australia, as the World Cup victors, will challenge New Zealand and Samoa in a tri-series event to close the season this year. Furthermore, Tonga will be the first Pasifika nation to embark on a separate tour of the northern hemisphere.
After losing France’s support as host for the 2025 World Cup, Australia has agreed to fill in as the host under Grant’s guidance. The event will now be delayed by 12 months. In addition, Ashes and Kangaroos tours will be reintroduced under the new schedule, which runs until 2030.
Grant’s decision to leave points to the pressure of balancing his full-time work and his responsibilities in the rugby league. He thanked several colleagues for their help during his term and declared his exit will make room for someone who can dedicate more time to advance the sport: “It’s a great role, but it’s ready for someone who has more time to invest in it and take us forward to execute the strategy we’ve got.”
The IRL is expected to announce a new executive chairman later this year.