Thomas Grant – Meet the Kiwi hoping to be the voice of North American rugby

Thomas Grant was one of the lead commentators and presenters for the Farah Palmer Cup
©Thomas Grant

Thomas Grant’s interest in commentating began at a young age. 

Early on, the New Zealander realised that an All Blacks jersey would not be in his future, so instead turned his attentions to the dulcet tones of Grant Nisbett and Justin Marshall.

At just 22, Grant has already shown an aptitude for the profession and is hoping to further his career in North America over the coming years. 

Currently working for Major League Rugby’s New England Free Jacks as a Management and Community Trainee, there is hope that the self-described sports “nuffy” will become rugby’s most recognisable voices on the continent.

While young in years, there is already a serious amount of experience to the kiwi’s name. It all began over a half-decade ago on a cricket trip to India with Otago Boys High School, the teenager lending his voice to video so parents back home could keep up with their children’s’ progress.

Soon after Grant would begin an internship with the Otago Rugby Football Union, where he would perform one role or another for four years.

While performing various administration roles, Grant would also commentate for club fixtures on Sky Sports Grassroots Rugby and was a lead commentator and presenter of Farah Palmer Cup matches as the premiere women’s competition in New Zealand began to establish itself further.

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It was not just in rugby that Grant was having an impact either. Starting out as a volunteer with the Otago Volts while still in school, a teenage Grant would be the ground announcer at the University of Otago Oval, that first game still ranking among his best memories.

“Just to be getting on the mic, entertaining a large crowd that are riding the energy of your voice, being at the Oval, you just want to carry on doing that,” Grant said.

“That debut will always be the most special one, but it has always been a dream of mine to see the world through sport and I guess I can say from doing that one role, I have been across the country.

Thanks to his efforts, Grant would be approached by New Zealand Cricket to be a contracted ground announcer and producer.

Working across the Super Smash competition, it was a major development for Grant, who was able to continue recognising his childhood dreams.

“It was my first proper contract,” Grant said. “So that was pretty wicked. I got to do all the home games and we got to travel all the way through central Otago and they were super epic productions to be a part of.

“Over the past two years it has morphed into being one of four ground announcers that travel around the country providing services.

“I was limited in that first season (as a result of Covid-19 restrictions in New Zealand), and this Christmas gone by, I was all over the country doing games. It has been epic really.”

It was through those links to Otago that Grant would make his way over to America. 

Tom Kindley, New England’s Performance Director, encountered the teenager while being an intern with the Union and embarking on his own journey to North America.

Bringing Grant in as a Management and Community Trainee, it has been an opportunity for the 22-year-old to learn about the rugby landscape in a country some 22 years behind his home country.

“It has been really cool as an intern to come over and learn all about American sports,” Grant said, “and the Free Jacks are still in their early inception and had a successful past couple of years.

“To be behind the scenes and looking at the inner-workings, I have learnt a lot over the past year and a half.

“I knew that coming here was going to add so much more to my toolbox, and I was going to learn things over here that I wouldn’t back home.

“Here, rugby is on the path to the World Cup (in 2031 and 2033), we have been developing academies and it has been super cool to learn about what builds things from the ground up.”

Thanks to his years of experience in commentary and venue announcing, Grant has been approached by MLR with the view to joining the on-air talent in 2023.

Potentially joining the likes of Dallen Stanford and Wendy Young in being a leading voice in the competition for the years to come.

Already having an in-depth knowledge of the sport and the competition after two years embedded with the Free Jacks, it is a step which Grant is excited for.

In the years to come, the opportunities may well continue to come, with North America set to welcome its first professional cricket competition this summer, Major League Cricket.

“There is a huge opportunity to be part of that MLR broadcast team,” Grant said. “I am really excited about the opportunity to be a part of that group.

“Drawing on those prior experiences in that New Zealand Cricket environment and with Otago Rugby is going to do me a world of wonders, because I feel comfortable going into that role.

“It is not like I will be going in with no experience with nothing to draw on. I have been involved with those calibre of productions and I know how they work.

“I put it all down to a little bit of luck. I was super fortunate to get those experiences at a young age while I was still at high school.

“I have a dream to call a World Cup Final. As cheesy as it may be, that is the dream. 

“I know that is a super ambitious thing for me to set myself, the opportunity to be a part of the broadcast team of an exciting league is the thing exciting me at the moment.”