AFL Mackay competitions manager Josh Rhodes. Photo: Callum Dick
AFL Mackay competitions manager Josh Rhodes. Photo: Callum Dick

From full-time footy to mowing lawns: ‘You had to laugh’

HE PACKED up his life and moved two states away only to lose his job within a month and be forced to mow lawns to make ends meet.

It was not the introduction to Mackay Josh Rhodes had hoped for or anticipated but, in hindsight, he said it was a blessing in disguise.

The self-professed “footy tragic” moved from his native Victoria to Mackay for his first full-time role with the AFL, after various part-time gigs with AFL Victoria, the Western Bulldogs and Adelaide Crows.

In AFL heartland, Rhodes was a scout for the Bulldogs and Crows, combing through tape and combine records of the U18 TAC Cup, now the NAB League.

He also worked the GPS tracking for Vic Metro and managed their interchange throughout the U18 championships.

While all fantastic roles, they were not permanent. Rhodes knew he needed to cut his teeth in a full-time role and when AFL Queensland advertised for a competitions manager in Mackay, he punched his ticket north.

Rhodes touched down in Mackay at the beginning of February this year; before the end of the month, he had been placed on stand-down because of COVID-19.

“It was a bit of a rude shock,” he said.

“I told my mates back home ‘you’ve just got to laugh’, because here’s a bloke who’s packed up his life and moved two states north to work in AFL and is now mowing lawns in Mackay.”

With little idea if or when he might have a job to return to, Rhodes stuck fat in his adopted north Queensland home.

He knew when the dust settled, Mackay would need someone to help steer the ship once again.

“Being regional Queensland I thought rugby would have a bigger foothold than it does,” he said.

“I thought AFL would be much smaller than it is. I was surprised by how big the AFL following is in Mackay.”

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The best place to make mates in a new town is a footy club. With no official role tying him down, Rhodes joined Magpies and managed to make the most of a bad situation.

“It gave me a chance to see the landscape from inside the club, rather than from the outside looking in,” he said.

“It was definitely a blessing in disguise. Not only did it allow me to play footy, but also meet people here.

“I’d never been to Mackay previously. I didn’t know anyone. So it was very much a jump in the deep end sort of situation. It was awesome.”

Returned to his role as AFL Mackay competitions manager on November 1, Rhodes is now working hard to make season 2021 a success.

“Obviously this year was pretty crazy. We had a shotgun start, a shorter year, shorter quarters and everything else. Right now I’m just working through what next year will look like,” he said.

“The off-season is a lot of working with clubs and their facilities and seeing if there’s any areas of improvement.”

With the departure of Dan Cordwell in October, the development manager role is still vacant.

Rhodes said AFL Queensland hoped to fill the role in January or February.

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