Bonsoir mes amis!
In the current clime of Women’s World Cup, Aussie A and the ongoing sibling rivalry of NZRU and RA, I’m staying away from heavy topics this week and focussing on something more a little lighthearted.
To that end, I have been playing around with ‘Teams of the Week’ for a while now, not only in terms of the recently-ended Rugby Championship, but also just, well, because such train-spotting activities give me a modicum of enjoyment and help me pass the time in Teams/Zoom meetings that really should have been emails. And so I thought I’d share one or three of them for a bit of a laugh over coming weeks and to see what others thought.
And so for this week, I thought to pick an Australian Other Sports Rugby XXIII.
Now firstly, none of this is designed to mortally offend anyone. It’s a bit of fun only. And none of this can possibly be seen as either an indictment or a canonisation of anyone on a personal basis because, at the end of the day, I don’t know any of these people on a day-to-day or personal basis. All these observations are from afar and based solely on what is available in the crass-media.
Secondly, I chose these lads because I’d like to see them play. I didn’t choose them as ‘the best’ or ‘the greatest’ – although some of them undoubtedly were in their fields. Some of them have reputations of not exactly being really great people. But I reckon they all had truly transferrable skills and seeing them ‘do their thing’ in Wobbly gold would have been fantastic to see.
So, I may well be completely wrong in my assessments. But too bad. It’s my article.
Before progressing, I should give a few caveats/rules to selection in this the team;
- Obviously they must be Australian-eligible.
- This one is a men’s-only selection. I may go for mixed or women’s another time.
- I capped the mungo ballers at 4 AND selected only pure mungoes. No Souperism converts.
So with that in mind, chew this one over:
An Australian Other Sports Rugby XXIII.
- Derek Boyer. Strongman. 193cm and 145kg. ‘BigD’ was Australia’s strongest man from 2000-2011 and still holds a Guinness World Record for pulling a Kenworth truck for 100 feet in 2005. Pulls trucks = loosehead. Not much else needs to be said.
- Bill Lang. Boxer. 180cm and 90kg. He was the Australian boxing champion around 1910-1915. Defended his national title 11 times and only half of them under Queensbury rules – so the rest must have been bare knuckle. He also played Aussie Rules for Richmond. Later in life he was a publican and owner-licensee of the Victoria Hotel in Footscray. So being fit, tough, with good hands and good with a crowd, he’s exactly the sort of deviant hooker you want.
- Dean Lukin. Weightlifter. He is still Australia’s only ever gold medallist in weightlifting. 180cm and 140kg. Being from South Australia he played some Aussie Rules but was popularly known for being a quietly-spoken ocean-trawler fisherman. So big, has some ball skills, but more importantly he knows how to work hard, powerfully and in dark places that most can’t hack. Perfect tighthead composition.
- Andrew Bogut. Basketballer. Played centre (so the big man in the middle = lineouts). 213cm and 120kg. NBA Championship with the Warriors in 2015 and picked in multiple NBA selection teams of the 2010-2015 era. So big, tough, good hands and has been “to the show” so knows pressure.
- Luc Longley. Basketballer. Played centre (again, the big man in the middle = lineouts). 218cm and 120kg. Among a raft of other accomplishments, Longley won three straight championships with the Chicago Bulls from 1996 to 1998, becoming the first Australian player to win an NBA title and the only Aussie to have won three championships. So again, big, tough good hands and knows what is required to win in the toughest of arenas.
- Wayne Carey. AFL Footballer. 192cm and played at 97kg. Known as “The King” and hailing from North Wagga, the notoriously hard-headed centre half-forward is best known for his time at North Melbourne. In what can only be called a ‘checkered career’ he did achieve 2x AFL Premierships, 2x Leigh Matthews Trophies (AFL Players Assoc MVP), 7x All Australian selections (4 as captain) and is generally regarded among the best 5 Aussie Rules players of all time. So a big, fast, skilful, nasty bugger with little in the way of a conscience (allegedly). Perfect No6.
- Les Darcy. Boxer. 168cm and generally fought at 80-82kg. But he also held world heavyweight titles concurrently in a career spanning 1910-1916. 56 fights for 52 wins with 32 by knockout in 6yrs. So a fit, fast, tough brawler who knew how to win. This all makes him the perfect No7 to do more than just terrify opposing players – he will hunt their No10 down.
- Tony Lockett. AFL Footballer. Listed at 191cm and 112kg (rubbish – more like 120kg). A true hard-man at full forward, “Plugger” was born in Ballarat and despite missing significant chunks of his career from injury and suspension (16 tribunal appearances) he is credited with single-handedly making poor sides at St Kilda and Sydney into genuine premiership sides. A Brownlow medallist, he is the most prolific goal kicker in VFL/AFL history and won the Coleman medal (most goals kicked) 4 times. So being a tough, no-nonsense scrapper with size and surprising skills who knows how score points makes for an imposing No8.
- Andrew Johns. A proper mungo and loig pick no1. At 180cm and 90kg, he is regarded by some as the greatest league player of all time. And, despite briefly flirting with the Warratarts in 2004, he didn’t ever cross the great divide. He made his debut at 19yrs when he scored a casual 23pts and was awarded Man of the Match, to which he went on to add some 21 test matches, 23 State of Origins and 252 1st grade games before retiring at the end of 2007. He was announced as the 8th Rugby League Immortal in 2012. Loved and hated by many alike, I don’t think anyone ever doubted his skill.
- Cliff Lyons. Again a proper mungo and loig pick no2. Born in 1961 in Narrandera, this absolute enigma of a player chalked up 391 1st grade matches from 1985 to 2000 including 309 for Manly (still holds the club record). 2 time premier with Manly, he played 6 State of Origins, 6 tests for Australia and 1 test for the Rest of the World (v Australia in 1988). He also was awarded 2 Dally M Medals and a Clive Churchill. A guy of sublime skills, endless time and Lloyd Walker-esque ability to make holes for other people to run through (especially Steve ‘Beaver’ Menzies), he was last seen captain-coaching Umina in 2001, but rumour has it he is still playing for a quid somewhere today.
- Patrick Johnson. Sprinter. Of Irish and First Nations heritage, the 178cm and 74kg flyer posted an astounding 6.69sec 60metres in 2001 and a 9.93 seconds 100m in Mito Japan where in doing so he became the first man of non African-descendent to break the 10sec barrier. Representing Oz at the Olympics, Commonwealth and World Championships, the man had serious wheels and is still the fastest Aussie of all time. So he was a true case of just get him the ball and watch him go.
- Gary Ablett snr. AFL footballer of the highest order. Known as “God”, the surprisingly small 185cm and 100kg (he always looked bigger), footballer whose individual accolades and achievements include the Australian Football Hall of Fame, the AFL Team of the Century, 4 time All-Australian and three Coleman Medals. He played 248 1st grade games and he remains Geelong’s all-time leading goalkicker, with 1,021 goals. In 2006, was voted the greatest Geelong footballer of all time. But to me his greatest accomplishment was winning the 1989 Norm Smith Best on Ground medal in a losing grand final side. The hard-charging, indomitable, fearless forward never won a premiership, so that makes him just the sort of mad hungry dog I want at 12.
- Greg Inglis. Again a proper mungo and loig pick no3, the 195cm and 105kg (yeh right) Dunghutti man created history in 2006 by getting Kempsey relocated to Queensland. Aside from that, the barnstorming centre cum full-back made his debut at 18yrs and went on to accumulate 267 1st grade games, 32 State of Origins and 39 tests. Anyone who saw him play – and run with such power and yet such light feet while being able to hit hard enough to put folks to sleep – would testify to wanting to see him play real rugby.
- Tim Cahill. Soccer centre-forward/striker, the 178cm and 75kg dynamo is recognised for his vertical leap (high-ball exponent) and general aggression and power particularly in the vicinity of the net. The guy scored. Lots. Mostly goals. This included 50 goals for Australia in 108 caps between 2004 and 2018. He is rightly regarded as one of the greatest Australian footballers of all time but I picked him because he scores and that’s what I want on the wing.
- Lance Franklin. AFL footballer and general all-round athletic freak, Buddy stands 200cm and 108kg and plays full ‘key’ forward. made his debut in 2005 and averaging 20.56 points/game ever since, he reached 300 AFL games in 2019 (currently 341) and 1,000 goals in 2022 winning 2 premierships along the way. And he ain’t done yet.
- David Boon. This cricketing legend stood 160cm and 80kg with a moustache only marginally less famous than his drinking skills. After making his debut in 1984 the portly ‘very occasional off-spin bowler’ was a fantastic top-order batsman, bloody reliable slips and fast-as silly mid-on fielder. He played 107 tests and 181 ODIs over a 13 year career while on the way to cementing his legend as exactly the sort of eccentric, irascible, hard-drinking nutjob everyone wants as their reserve hooker.
- Mark Hunt. UFC/mixed martial artist. The 178cm and 120kg (yeh, nah, try 130kg at least) ‘Super Samoan’ has at times claimed to be Samoan, Kiwi and Australian. But for today’s purposes he can be an Ocker. With a rolled up professional fighting record of 75 fights for 44 wins including 23 by knockout, his career saw fights in unforgiving arenas such as K1, Pride, UFC and a couple of stints inside. Known somewhat infamously for his ‘walkoff’ style (knocking someone out and just walking away before the referee declares the fight over), the guy has just the sort of power impact you want off the bench in the last 20min.
- David Foster. Professional woodchopper. This 198cm, 160kg Tasmanian behemoth wowed crowds for years by smashing axe heads through 12″ logs in under 8 seconds. Starting in 1978 alongside his dad and later with his brother, he also had a highly successful solo career in which he is possibly the only athlete in any sport to ever win over 1,000 individual titles. Dave held world championships of one sort or another for 21yrs straight in a sport where not just explosive power, but staying power is critical. By all reports a naturally quiet guy, but a noted public speaker and charity organiser when called on, he’s exactly the sort of massive power unit you want rolling off the pine with 20min to go. And would be handy in the boat-race I would say (alongside Boony and Derek Boyer by all reports).
- Mark Schwarzer. Soccer goalkeeper. Standing 194cm and 90kg, Schwarzer is regarded as one of the greatest Premier League goalkeepers of all time. He made over 500 Premier League appearances and also won 109 caps for Australia between 1993-2013 including selection in two World Cups. His professional career began in 1990 and ran until 2016, although his inclusion is somewhat contentious as he didn’t ever score a single goal. Not one.
- Jeff Thomson. Cricketer. Fast bowler. Every team needs a proper unpredictable lunatic coming off the bench. And with his 160km+/hr effort against the West Indies in 1975 – without the training, refinements and benefits of modern sports science – the right handed ‘slinga’ from Greenacre fits the bill nicely. Known for preferring to bowl full-tossers at whatever poor schmuck was standing in front of the stumps he clarified his penchant one day by simply saying “Yeh, bouncing makes them slow down a bit. So if I’m gunna put my beer down, I want it to be good.” After his test debut in 1972 (v Pakistan), his last of 51 tests was in 1985 although apparently he was still regarded as the fastest bowler in Queensland as a coach in 1992 at age 42.
- Kostya Tszyu. Professional boxer. Born Konstantin Borisovich Tszyu in Serov, Russia, in 1969 and emigrated in 1991 after competing in the amateur world championships in Sydney, the “Thunder from Down Under”, the technical wonder stood 170cm tall and fought at 64kg. Over 34 recorded professional fights he recorded 31 wins (25 by knockout) for 2 losses and one no-contest. His list of titles is simply too big to go into. But his reputation for blindingly fast hands, work ethic and dedication to training and ‘his craft’, alongside his obvious ability to look after himself in a scrap, makes him the perfect reserve No9.
- Darren Lockyer. The last of the proper mungoes to make my selection and loig pick no4. 178cm and listed as 85kg, he’s a bit on the light side, but no one who ever watched him play could doubt his vision, his svelte skills and his ability to identify and exploit an opponent’s weaknesses. He made his debut in 1st grade at 18yrs and racked up 38 State of Origins and 63 tests plus 4 premierships, 2 Churchill Medals and 355 1st grade games before retiring in 2011. So he has boots and could play. He was always one of those rare folk who just seemed to have time to execute whatever he wanted to so I was always particularly sorry Lockyer was not ever tempted to make the transition to real rugby. I think both he and Lyons would’ve been special.
- Craig Foster. Soccer midfielder. Known for being a dedicated trainer and reliable under pressure, Fozzy played professionally from 1988 to 2003, including for the Socceroos from 1996 to 2000. With 9 goals from his 29 appearances for the national team and 268 other grade appearances, Foz is likely better known these days for his human rights advocacy work alongside his calm, rational sports-reporting and commentary for SBS. As a good trainer who is a decent human and sensible commentator I think he’d be a welcome addition around the Wobbly landscape.
So there’s a chat-starter.
Am I wrong? Who doesn’t deserve to be there? Who was I egregiously disrespectful towards in leaving out?
Let me know your thoughts below.