Tom Brock Scholarship recognises passion for rugby on screen

01 January 2023

A Brisbane filmmaker with a passion for rugby league has earned fresh support for his mission to grow the Australian game's presence on the big screen.

CQUniversity student Lonnie Gilroy has been named the 2023 Tom Brock Scholar' with the national recognition set to support his creative research.

"As a rugby league fan and a filmmaker' I'm interested in whether 'rugby league' could be considered a sub-genre of the wider 'sports' genre'" he explained.

"What are the distinct narratives' characters and themes that might distinguish a distinct type of rugby league film' in contrast to typical basketball' baseball or other sporting sub-genres?

"The answers to these questions will illuminate the films that have already been made and inform the next generation of rugby league screenwriters."

As part of his CQU Master of Research' Lonnie is analysing Australian films including Footy Legends (2006) and Broke (2016)' and British classic This Sporting Life (1963)' and his findings have informed his new screenplay about rugby league.

The passionate Queenslander also hopes to present live readings of his screenplay' and to establish a travelling rugby league film festival.

The Tom Brock Scholarship is named after the first official Historian and Archivist of the South Sydney Rabbitohs and managed by the Australian Society for Sports History (ASSH).

It is available to postgraduate students' early career academics or independent researchers' for a topic relating to rugby league history or culture.

"With the Tom Brock Scholarship I am particularly interested in connecting my research and findings with the wider public – and especially' as the Tom Brock Bequest Committee demonstrates' the voracious community of rugby league fans who are fascinated by the academic study of the game'" Lonnie explained.

"I am sure there is equally a rugby league cohort who are intrigued by the sport's cinematic portrayals.

"Just as films about American football and baseball help tell a bigger story of American culture' the potential subgenre of rugby league films also helps focus the place of rugby league in ours."

The scholarship includes $3000 to support Lonnie's project' and Lonnie will present his findings at an ASSH conference.

CQU research supervisor Dr Liz Ellison said the scholarship recognised Lonnie's passion and hard work.

"Writing screenplays and conducting this type of research may seem pretty fun' but it's still time consuming and challenging!" she said.

"It's great to know the Tom Brock committee recognised the value in creative research like Lonnie's' which is perhaps a little different to the more traditional research the scholarship usually supports."

The Tom Brock Scholarship is aimed at encouraging original research on rugby league with a priority given to new and emerging scholars' and Bequest Committee executive officer Richard Cashman said Lonnie's project could generate exciting outcomes within academic' and in the general public.

"It is the belief of the committee that Lonnie's project opens up an unexplored front in rugby league research connecting the game to its place in Australian culture more broadly'" he said.

"The committee were impressed by the originality of Lonnie's proposal (and) we are hopeful that the scholarship can provide some assistance to Lonnie in fulfilling the ambitious' very worthy goals laid out in his project plan."

Lonnie's previous works include Toowoomba on Top of the World' a three-part documentary series about the formation of Toowoomba Rugby League and its all-conquering 1920s team' and Cities: A Century of Gladiators' chronicling the history of Cities Rugby League Football Club' Roma.

His passion follows a childhood immersed in the sport.

"My passion for rugby league comes from my family' in particular my grandfather and father' who were both involved in playing' coaching' refereeing' administrating in community teams'" he explained.

"I spent many weekends watching games and talking footy – and I tried playing as a kid but sadly lacked talent and toughness!

"But I have also always been really into movies and as I drifted into writing and filmmaking' my interest in rugby league remained strong' so combining footy and film seemed like a perfect fit for my research niche."

Lonnie regularly writes about rugby league for The Roar' and co-hosts pop culture podcasts I Miss You Man and I Only Like You and Movies.

CQUniversity's Master of Research is a course of supervised research and study' leading to the submission of a thesis' and is available over two years full time' or four years part time.