Iconic Kiwi rugby league coach Graham Lowe knighted for work in education
David Long 11:32, Jun 03 2019
PETER MEECHAM/ STUFF
Sir Graham Lowe might be one of the most famous sporting coaches in the country, but the knighthood bestowed on him in the Queen's Birthday honours wasn't for anything he's helped achieve on a footy field.
The 72-year-old was knighted for his services to youth and education, with his Lowie Foundation delivering a literacy and numeracy programme to 12-19 year olds from disadvantaged backgrounds.
"I got a call from the Prime Minister's office to tell me about it, to see if I'd accept. I must have said yes 100 times!" Lowe said.
"I feel immense pride about it and the pride in itself is overwhelming really. I can't put it into words."
In 2013 Lowe was appointed an Officer in the New Zealand Order of Merit for services for the community, following his rugby league coaching career. In 1986 he was given the Queen's Service Medal.
But what makes this latest accolade all the more special for Lowe was that it came from the work he's done in education, rather than sport.
Sir Graham Lowe took his coaching philosophies from the footy field to the classroom.
"Rugby league and sport are really important and play a big part in our lives, but I'm a believer in supporting, helping and educating disadvantaged young people," he said.
"I always thought this could be done, simply by applying this around the 12 principles I have.
"I don't deliver the courses, I've just designed it, but I've got the polytechs to weave the literacy and numeracy studies around those 12 principles, which are based on the language of sport and that gives them a different way to learn something.
Manukau Institute of Technology general manager Nuddy Pillay, Department of Corrections chief executive Rachel Leota and rugby league coach Graham Lowe, at the launch of 'Kick for the Seagulls'.
"I'm sure the people who've been through the course have been able to use those simple coaching type principles to help with literacy and numeracy."
Those 12 principles are what Lowe based his successful sporting career on, a career which took him to head coaching jobs with the Kiwis, Queensland, Manly Sea Eagles and the North Queensland Cowboys.
Through his coaching skills, he developed a programme called Kick for the Seagulls to inspire students who've previously struggled.
The current programme has been going since 2013 and polytechs where it's been delivered say the results have been outstanding.
Sir Graham Lowe with students from Kia Aroha College in South Auckland.
Lowe said the motivation came from his experiences inside rugby league.
"I saw many times young people who were oozing rugby league talent, but they lacked a successful pathway because they didn't appreciate how important literacy and numeracy were in life," he said.
"So many of them missed out and when I combine that with many of the players I've coached, I owe so much to them.
"A lot of them came from these really disadvantaged backgrounds and I wanted to see if I could put something back in that area. That's what I've been really focused on for many years."
While Lowe has accepted the knighthood, he wanted to pay tribute to the numerous people who backed him with this programme and gave him the support and guidance to make it a reality.
Sir Graham Lowe coached the Kiwi All Stars against an Invitational team at Mt Smart Stadium in 2006.
"I really appreciate the people who have believed in me and supported me," he said.
"People used to say to me, when you're a coach you're teaching your players how to play.
"But I saw it differently, my players taught me how to coach.
"I find the same thing now. The players teach you about yourself and it's the same with the courses that are run. I'm finding out more about myself.
"With every class or course that goes on, I find a bit more out about myself. So I'm learning from them."
When coaching Manly, Sir Graham Lowe kept the club's Kiwi connections strong, with Tony Iro, Matthew Ridge and Darrell Williams.
Sir Graham Lowe has done wonders taking sporting ideas into the classroom.
Good on him. Despite what some say about him he’s done a lot for RL and in this instance, the community. Well deserved.