By Rob Spurr

No one can doubt Grant (“Tom”) Dooley’s commitment to Asian footy.

An accidental clash at the 2003 KL Asian Championships saw him rushed home to Melbourne to have multiple screws inserted into a fractured skill. Undeterred by his newfound notoriety at airport security checkpoints, he was back playing and coaching his beloved Jakarta AFC soon after.

That commitment was the midpoint in an illustrious career that began in HK in ’91, originally donning the unfamiliar Brisbane Bears colours as a precursor to the more famous navy blue of the Hong Kong Dragons.

 Grant wearing the famous, original Brisbane Bears colours in Hong Kong in 1991.

His Asia footy contribution was bookended by a long stint on the AFL Asia Advisory Board where Grant was the architect of the hugely successful AFL Asia Development Grants Program that has seen close to $250k allocated across our membership clubs since 2021.

With sponsorship programs as diverse as the regionally enhanced Auskick (Indokick and Vietkick), the formation of an Indian National Championships or a university program in Guangzhou, the application framework has provided a kicker to more than 20 initiatives in 10 countries since 2021.

Grant proudly displaying the Guangzhou Scorpions kit in 2011.

“I’ve always had the belief that the future of footy in the region is to develop programs and leagues driven by local participation. The Development Grants Program is a step toward making the game sustainable and was key to keeping the code active during the COVID period when many expats left the region” according to Grant.

An attraction to language, diversity and adventure has been the hallmark of “Dools’” career which kicked off in the Australian Navy and saw him occupy a number of regional roles with DFAT including Australia’s Consul General in Guangzhou, China. Along the way he played for, coached or created teams from scratch, such as the successful Guangzhou Scorpions.

Now firmly ensconced in hometown Melbourne, Grant runs the Breakthrough Victoria innovation hub for the Victorian Government and watches his beloved Blues and Williamstown Seagulls on the weekends.

That said, no one will be surprised to see him setting off airport security at an upcoming tournament in Asia sometime soon!

The victorious Jakarta Bintangs at the 2007 Bali Nines. Grant is bottom row, second from the right.

Rob Spurr is an AFL Asia Advisory Board member who is occasionally linked to the terrible pass that resulted in Grant’s skull fracture.