The stalled ALP preselection contest for the federal seat of Gilmore took a surprise turn yesterday when former South Sydney and State of Origin rugby league star David Boyle revealed his intention to stand.His announcement came amid growing rank-and-file concern over delays in the preselection process for the seat, which many claim is the result of a frantic search by party power brokers for a high-profile candidate to take on Liberal incumbent Joanna Gash, who has held Gilmore for 14 years.It will be the 50-year-old fitness guru's first foray into politics.At least two others have announced they will contest preselection - Neil Reilly, who was the ALP's Gilmore candidate in the 2007 federal election, and Culburra real estate agent Glen Sims.Labor fancies its chances in Gilmore.The seat has been held by Mrs Gash with a 4.1 per cent margin but a boundary distribution last year took in parts of Shellharbour, Albion Park, Barrack Heights, Kiama Downs and Jamberoo, which notionally favours Labor.Party insiders have told the Mercury that after Mr Boyle's intentions were announced, a decision to open nominations for the seat was now likely to be taken at a meeting of the ALP's powerful administrative committee on May 7.Yesterday, Labor's latest star recruit said he was aware that first impressions were important and his immediate priority would be to make himself known to the party branch members in the electorate.Mr Boyle said if he won the preselection battle he would push his business interests and roles with the Australian Rugby Union and other sporting bodies to the background to go on the hustings. When asked what he might bring to the voters of Gilmore, the former rugby league hard man replied: "New energy, new ideas and new resolve."Although Mr Boyle has always maintained an interest in political affairs, it was just a month ago that he was approached by his long-time friend and endorsed ALP candidate for Macarthur, Nick Bleasdale."When the opportunity came along, it didn't take me long to make a decision," Mr Boyle said.A tough no-nonsense style of player, he was a mainstay in a star-studded South Sydney Rabbitohs forward pack throughout the 1980s.He was a candidate for the 1986 Kangaroo tour and is regarded as one of the best forwards never to play for Australia.However, Mr Boyle did play in many representative games, including all three games of the 1987 State of Origin series as well as the fourth exhibition game which was played in Long Beach, California.Since his retirement in 1991, Mr Boyle has focused on sports fitness and has been strength and conditioning co-ordinator for NRL clubs St George Illawarra Dragons, Wests Tigers and South Sydney.In 1998, he completed a Masters Degree in Business Administration (Sports Management) at Lismore's Southern Cross University.Mr Boyle knows the electorate well and began his rugby league career as a Group 7 player.He has identified the key issues in Gilmore as tourism, roads, jobs and education."They are all integrated because better roads mean more tourism, which in turn creates more jobs in a region with higher than average unemployment," he said.
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