Leeanne Grantham has played and worked all over Australia, but the Riverland always draws her back
Growing up in a sporting Riverland family was the perfect background for Leeanne Grantham and all she has successfully achieved in both basketball and business. However, the river has always had a hold on her, and she returns to visit family and friends and to de-stress whenever she can.
Starting life on a sheep station between Renmark and Mildura before an unfortunate fire saw her family relocate to Paringa, Leeanne’s life revolved around the typical sporting culture of a country town. With her Dad very involved in football and Mum taking on the running of the local gymnastics club, most weekends you could find Leeanne playing all varieties of school and club sport.
“It was such a huge part of our family’s life and my personal life, going to the football, playing netball, watching the asphalt basketball court being built near Renmark Oval in the day, and playing out there when it was forty degrees at 5:30, 6 o’clock in the afternoon with feet sticking to the tar, and the cars parked around the edge watching and beeping every score.
Those sort of memories for me will never go away, and they are most definitely my fondest memories.”
Sporting wise, basketball won out and at just 16 years old, Leeanne got a taste of the city staying with her aunt while she played state basketball. A year later, and with her parent’s blessing, she made a permanent move and started playing for West Torrens before moving to Sturt. With the start of WNBL, Leeanne was lured to Victoria where she played for Melbourne Telstars and CYMS/Coburg before moves to Brisbane, back to Coburg and finally home to North Adelaide and Woodville. During her career, she also represented Australia in ’79, ’80, and ’81.
With Leeanne’s solid grounding in sports, it was a natural progression to put her disciplines and sports psyche, honed under pressure situations on the court, to good use in the corporate sector. As a CEO, Leeanne has headed up WNBL, Australian Masters Games in Melbourne, Events SA, Football Federation of Australia (heading up the Women’s Professional League), Adelaide 36ers, and Community Football (connected to the SANFL) to name just a few. Currently, she sits on the boards of Commonwealth Games Australia, SA Netball, Cycling Australia, and Disability Sports Australia.
As a consultant for a global recruitment company, Leeanne now finds herself slowing down enough to spend more time visiting family and friends and appreciating the beauty of the Riverland.
“To me, the river is always a drawcard. I think Renmark/Paringa is one of the most beautiful parts of the river. There’s always bird life, there are all these little islands and river-ways that link up to the main river and [we love] just sitting in the tinny, cruising along, pulling into a river sandbar and having a barbecue.”
Leeanne has family in Renmark and Loxton and finds return trips will invariably involve bumping into and reminiscing with old friends, visiting favourite haunts, and discovering some new Riverland attractions.
“My husband and I always say to Mum and Dad ‘Oh, let’s go out to Wilkadene Woolshed Brewery.’ And sometimes we’ll go up there in a boat, pull up and away we go. Sometimes we’ll drive up, [especially] if there are too many people in the boat, then we’ll do both.”
Other places on Leeanne’s must-visit list included Banrock Station, Angove’s, and Mallee Estate Wines. She also finds time to get back to nature including some serious canoeing with her adult children and grandson.
“We really want to have a go at that with our adult children and our grandson. He's really keen to do it [canoeing], so we will do that on the shoulder of summer at some stage.”
Even though she lives in Adelaide, the Riverland is still home and will always be part of her life. The attraction is not just family, but the connection with the river, the fresh air, and the beautifully relaxing pace at any time of the year.
“There’s such a variety of things to see, taste and do — it’s a beautiful, relaxing place to go any time of the year to enjoy good local food, local wine, and friendship. It’s a very rounded place to go, and it’s only three hours from town.”
A life growing up in a sporting Riverland family was the perfect background for Leeanne Grantham and all she has successfully achieved in both basketball and business. The river has always held an attraction, and throughout her extraordinary sporting and corporate career, Leeanne has always regarded the Riverland as home and forever part of her life. That attraction is not just family and friends, but a connection with the river, the fresh air, friendship, and the beautifully relaxing pace of the Riverland region at any time of the year.
Leeanne Grantham, Australian basketballer, businesswoman, and Riverland Ambassador
music career, but the Riverland will always be home.