Graham Lowe’s knighthood announced in the 2019 Queen’s Birthday Honours ensures the Vodafone Warriors boast strong ties with New Zealand’s only two rugby league knights.
Sir Graham’s direct involvement with the club began in late 1998 when he and the late Malcolm Boyle joined forces with Tainui to buy the Auckland Warriors from original owner the Auckland Rugby League before Eric Watson became the new owner in late 2000.
Sir Graham’s award comes nine years after Sir Peter Leitch was knighted but, while both are known as rugby league men, they were recognised for their services in the community.
Unlike numerous All Blacks whose knighthoods cite “services to rugby (union)” the same is not yet true for the rugby league code.
Sir John Kirwan, for instance, was honoured for “services to mental health and rugby” in 2012 while Sir Graham Henry was awarded his knighthood the same year solely “for services to rugby”. Ditto others including Sir Bryan Williams, Sir Fred Allen and Sir Gordon Tietjens.
The late Bernie Wood, a well-known rugby league administrator and historian, put together an application in 2011 with the goal of having Graham Lowe knighted for his services to rugby league.
Eight years later, Sir Graham has been acknowledged “for services to youth and education”. Earlier in 1986 he was awarded the Queen’s Service Medal (QSM) “for community service” on the back of his coaching successes, principally with the Kiwis when he lifted rugby league’s profile immeasurably. In 2013 he was appointed an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM) “for services to the community”.
Sir Peter received the QSM in 1991 “for community service” and was knighted in 2010 “for services to the community and philanthropy”.
“We congratulate Sir Graham on his knighthood. It’s a tremendous achievement and well-deserved for all he is doing in the community,” said Vodafone Warriors CEO Cameron George.
“We’re especially proud as a club knowing the only two knights in this country associated with rugby league both have strong ties with our code and with the Vodafone Warriors.”
Sir Graham’s official citation published by the Cabinet Office, Honours Unit reads:
LOWE, Mr Graham Michael, ONZM, QSM
For services to youth and education
Mr Graham Lowe was appointed an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2013 for his services to the community, following his rugby league coaching career in New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom.
Mr Lowe founded the charity The Lowie Foundation, which initially partnered with the New Zealand Institute of Sport, and now operates through The Lowie Foundation Ltd and Lowie Institute Ltd to deliver a programme for teenagers struggling with school or looking for a vocational pathway to employment. The Graham Lowe Certificate in Foundation Skills Level 2 programme, also known as ‘Kick for the Seagulls’ has a strong focus on literacy and numeracy, using the language of sport as a hook to engage students back into education and improve their academic achievement. As part of the Youth Guarantee Scheme, it is delivered free to 16 to 19 year olds. The programme is based around the 12 Principles for Success, common-sense philosophies which Mr Lowe has developed throughout his own career. A pilot course was run in Kaitaia in 2014 and a 21-week course was trialled with NorthTec at Ngawha Prison in 2015. To date more than 200 young men at Ngawha and other sites have graduated the course with a Level 2 Certificate in Foundation Studies. The Lowie Foundation received the 2018 Corrections Partnership Award. Mr Lowe has delivered seminars to youth in various centres around New Zealand.