Harry Rowston: Son of a Gun

By Rod Gillett


Binya Boy Harry Rowston has staked a claim for the NSW Emerging Talent award following his sparkling AFL debut for the GWS Giants against the West Coast Eagles in Round 2.

The award is named after former South Sydney star Jimmy Stiff who won the best player award at the ANFC interstate carnival in Sydney in 1933. Last year the award was won by dashing Sydney Swans defender Nick Blakey.

Rowston grew up on a sheep-grain farm in south-west NSW 45 kms from Griffith. His father Phillip, better known as “Rowdy”, currently operates the 7,000 acre property which has been in the family for over a hundred years. He was bagging grain when I called.

However, his three sons are all tradesmen/apprentices although Harry’s building apprenticeship is now on hold while he builds a football career in the AFL.

And they are all good footballers!


Elder brother Jack is captain of the Griffith Swans in the Riverina Football League while Ben is recovering from a knee reconstruction.

Father Phillip played for the Sydney Swans 1992-93, and then back home at Griffith from 1994-2004 and then again in 2007 including the drought-breaking 2003 premiership as well as three best and fairests and a stint as captain-coach. He coached Barellan 2005-06.

His father, Kevin (pictured below with son Phillip), played for Griffith under the idiosyncratic former South Melbourne ruckman Don Keyter from 1959-61 topping the goal-kicking with 46 in 1959. He then returned to Binya which had merged in 1955 with Barellan and played in the 1966-67 premiership teams. He was named at full-forward in Barellan’s best ever team.  

And Kevin’s grand-father Joseph Rowston played for Mirrool in the Ariah Park and District league between the wars..


On Harry’s mother’s side there is also a fine football pedigree. Her father Jack played for Binya alongside his brothers Les, Joe and Bill (who was the father of Carlton’s 1964 Brownlow medallist Gordon Collis).

Harry also began his footy at Barellan in the juniors before going into Griffith where he also began his journey with the Giants at the Academy, then going to Wagga for training twice a week.

At age 15 he went away to boarding school at Assumption College Kilmore where played in the school’s 1st XVIII. In Years 10 and 11 he played in the school holidays for Echuca Under 18s in the Goulburn Valley League through a connection with his father’s old Swans team-mate Andrew “Dicky” Thomson and for Queanbeyan in AFL Canberra as a result of ties with old NSW AFL boss Ron “Chook” Fowlie.

Harry’s breakthrough moment with AFL recruiters came at last year’s NAB Under 18 Championships in Adelaide playing for the Allies when he was awarded the MVP medal. He also played for the Giants Academy last year (below with father, Phillip).


He was drafted with pick 16 at the 2022 national draft by the Giants but not before an audacious bid by his father’s old club, the Sydney Swans, which was matched by GWS.

His father told me that it didn’t worry him which club he went to, “Harry would have gone anywhere, but he was happy to go to the Giants because he already has some mates there from the Academy”.

“He is very determined, very internally-driven to be the best he can” Rowdy added. His former Swans teammates would claim the apple hasn’t fallen too far from the tree in the orchard on the family farm.