When Brendan Flynn first walked in the door of the Sports Super Centre he thought, “Wow, we’ve got a lot of work to do.” And immediately he set about doing it.
The Sports Super Centre was built as a training base for international athletes before the Sydney 2000 Olympics. After the Games, it transitioned into its role as a legacy facility for the community. Brendan has been charged with revitalising its place in the community, and shaping it as a modern centre of excellence for students and athletes up to and beyond the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.
“My dream for this place is that it becomes the number one education and sports excellence facility in Queensland,” Brendan says. “I also want to reignite the centre’s profile as a national and international sports venue.”
It’s a labour of love for Brendan. Born in Adelaide and having worked most of his life based in southern Australia, Brendan admits Runaway Bay was the last place he thought he’d find himself living and working. However, when a former employee came across the job advertised, he immediately thought, “This is the job for Brendan”, and forwarded it on to him.
Brendan grew up with a passion for sport, mainly athletics, basketball and AFL. He represented South Australia and Australia in basketball at a junior level, and when he was 15, made an elite AFL squad. He remembers a conversation he had with his dad at the time.
“We sat down and I asked him if I should continue on with AFL or basketball. He said to me, ‘Son, AFL could take you to Melbourne. Basketball could take you around the world.’ And it did – I’ve been to five Olympics and two Paralympics, I’ve travelled the world and I’ve met and worked with a lot of great people.”
Brendan started his career in Canberra as the Australian Institute of Sport’s (AIS) head basketball coach. In 1984 he became the youngest ever Olympic basketball coach at the age of 31, taking the Australian women’s team to the Los Angeles Olympics where they placed a creditable fifth place.
He later moved into sports management, moving back to Adelaide to manage the establishment of the AIS base there, set up the Commonwealth Bank Cricket Academy, and manage the AIS’s elite cycling team.
In the late 90s he moved to Sydney and became the General Manger of Sport for the Australian Paralympic Committee, and then went on to become the organisation’s CEO during the 2000 Summer Games, and 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City.
After “too many years of travel”, Brendan’s career took a change of direction, moving into the not-for-profit sector as COO of Odyssey House, a drug and alcohol support and rehabilitation centre.
He applied for the job of Sports Super Centre Director in April 2013, and after a process of five interviews, started in the role on 8 July, 2013.
“I started my career in sport and I want to end it in sport,” he says, hinting that he plans to see out his career here and sees this task as his crowning achievement.
The changes he’s made so far are visible on the surface, from the revamp of Sports Walk and the half-million dollar refurbishment of the Indoor Pool, through to the rebranding of the Education Services Department which is on the way to becoming recognised as Queensland’s premier leadership and excellence camp facility.
And there’s plenty more going on behind the scenes. Under Brendan’s leadership, the Sports Super Centre is on its way to fulfilling, or even exceeding, its potential.
“We’re making progress,” Brendan says almost 12 months into the job. “We’re involving members more in the decisions we make for their centre, and we’re engaging more and more community partners including council, local clubs and other institutions.
“We’re working hard to create a new culture within the centre. We’ve got less than four years until the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games in which time we want to make this a world class facility the Gold Coast can be proud of. And also make sure it lives on well beyond that as a real usable asset for the local community.”