Denis Keeffe – CEO
Denis Keeffe has over 25 years of senior management experience in professional Rugby League at the elite National and State competition levels as well as the National Basketball League (NDBL). Following his successful 10 years as the inaugural CEO of the Townsville Crocodiles, Denis was recruited by News Limited to the North Queensland Cowboys. As the CEO, and under his management, the troubled Cowboys franchise was transformed into a successful NRL club and became grand finalists within four years.
As Cowboys CEO, Denis rebuilt and repaired reputational damage suffered by the club (and the NRL), reversing poor on-field performances, lifting moral and completely turning around a dire financial situation.
Strict control by Denis — from budgeting and reporting to austerity and revenue-raising ventures – and visionary leadership enabled the Cowboys to deliver significant benefits to several stakeholders.
Forming what he described as “a progressive group” of professionals, Denis recruited an almost all-local team of players (and staff) from North Queensland. Empowering individuals within the organisation to perform, he established a leadership group of coaches and players who changed the culture of the Cowboys by engaging the community at all levels and embracing education pathways. With local initiatives such as the Cowboys adopt-a-school program, public health programs, and Indigenous community programs Denis also instituted new Club membership drives that focused on “safe, family, fun”, boosting paid support from 900 to 10,000 members in four Cowboy seasons.
Education was a cornerstone of the new Cowboys and vital to team development, according to Mr Keeffe, who developed programs with providers such a James Cook University. Among the top 25 Cowboys, who trained 2 or 3 times per day, 17 became enrolled in external studies (fees paid by the Club for players who passed courses). The other 25, or seconds, who trained 2 days per week, were compelled have a job and undertake training or be enrolled at uni/TAFE. Similarly, qualifications and continuing education were required among general staff.
High power international brands such as Toyota were brought on as major sponsors, government resources were secured to upgrade the stadium and the Cowboys established their own ticketing business which whilst providing benefits to the franchise provided many opportunities for community organizations to profit from the supply of such goods and services in Townsville.
After his success in rebuilding the Cowboys, Denis was appointed the CEO of the NBL program, the Cairns Taipans, a position he held along with others, including CEO of Events Cairns, an event management company. Coincidently with these positions, Denis launched the highly successful Northern Pride into The Queensland Cup. In January 2010, Denis Keeffe joined the well established CQ NRL Bid team as the inaugural CEO, and has recently assumed the role of the CEO of the CQ Leagues Club in addition to his Bid responsibilities.