nostalgia is a handy summer acquisition when it comes to helping true blue
sports buffs remain focused on their favourite past time during another very
busy holiday season. Josh King spent some quality time on the throne
this week with Great Australian Sports Champions.
Remember as a kid you'd be locked in the middle of a competitive battle with
one of your mates and nothing went your way? That's when a little verbal
bravado would let fly.
Much like an old locomotive train releasing some steam during an uphill
One of my favourite plan B phrases I had on-call 24/7 was the sarcastic yet
brutally effective line, "it takes one to know one."
Peter Fitzsimons has now released another compelling sports book (his 9th),
this time zooming in on the many "Great Australian Sports Champions"
he covered as a sports journalist for the Sydney Morning Herald during
And who better to cover such a topic then the former Rugby Union representative
who played in seven Tests for the Wallabies, who went onto become a champion
As I said, "it takes one to know one."
Mongoes (a crass title used by Union types to identify Rugby League associates)
will be delighted to know that 7 champions from the 13-a-side code have had a
sportrait reserved for them.
Those men to be inducted into the Fitzsimons Hall Of Fame (got a nice ring to
it eh?) courtesy of the established author's boisterous, melodramatic wit are
Reg Gasnier, Allan Langer, Glenn Lazurus, Tommy Raudonikis, Wally Lewis, Ian
Roberts and Frank Hyde.
While all but two of these greats have won Rugby League premierships, all
deserve their place in the publication for their individual contribution to the
'greatest game of all'.
One went onto to coach (Raudonikis - Western Suburbs) while another
(Hyde) found his forte off the football field, calling the game on radio
for 40 years. The variation in the way these personalities succeeded in both
sport and in life is a hit.
Names like Greg Norman, David Boon, Cathy Freeman, David Campese and others
also occupy a place in the hearts, minds and souls of spectators, regardless of
which code they could not live without.
Respect in the sports world is acquainted with few boundaries and this ethos is
the common theme which threads together the careers whom the author pays
tribute to in the 622 pages of deeply felt personal admiration.
Warning! Warning! Warning!
Do not be deceived by the title. The book embraces not just those who collected
an abundance of championships, but also the colourful yet highly unorthodox
characters with their own unique catch cries and impressive self-imposed
Perhaps the author himself and others didn't grow up dreaming of selling pies
and carrying 30 kilogram dogs from Campbelltown to Sydney between Midnight and
9am like the 'Flying Pieman' did.
Yet it was these strange acts of spontaneity which stimulated a compelling
question many Australians wanted writers like Fitzsimons to answer. Why?
Some of the high-quality diction will result in some readers forking out a bit
more green for a translater (aka a dictionary) but the good-willed humour and
larrikin wit more then compensates the patient bookworm.
There are some glaring omissions from the Sportraits including names synonymous
with success such as Ian Thorpe, Ray Price and Mark 'Jacko' Jackson and this
will raise eyebrows and incur either a touch of sorrow or a twitch of inner
But overall Great Australian Sports Champions is if anything a great
lesson for aspiring sportwriters on how to tackle high-profile talent. A
valuable read if not a contagious summer tonic.
(Raises Glass) In the words of Darryl Kerrigan....."This is going straight
to the pool room."