The good Lord shines with Green and Gold Greats
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For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been sharing company with 15 Green and Gold Greats. This has been a wonderful and uplifting experience. These greats were household names in the 1950s through to the 1970s. They chat with humour and good spirits about their careers and lives with David Lord.
What emerges from the chats is how down-to-earth these stars were (and still are), how much fun they had in their careers, how modest they were in their triumphs and, also, how determined they were to make a success of their careers.
Readers of The Roar will be familiar with Lord’s amazing knowledge of virtually every sporting activity.
Any number of sports journalists are the full bottle on their favourite sport, along with a couple of other sports. But Lord is unrivalled (as his columns in The Roar reveal) in his knowledge of sports and events that cover everything from horse racing, to cricket, tennis, all the major football codes as well as sports like swimming, squash, and golf.
You name it, Lord knows everything about it.
Along with this prodigious knowledge is another Lord characteristic: that is his ability to relate to the pressures and ambitions of the athletes he interviews. This ability no doubt comes from his own experience as a sports man.
He played first grade cricket as an all-rounder for Mosman (seven of them as captain); he was a first grade baseballer; a single-figure golfer; and an A-grade tennis player. As a schoolboy, he hurdled with some success, and was a rifle-shooting champion.
In a modern era dominated by a professional sport environment, Lord would have turned his sporting talents into a lucrative career. But this was hard to do, even in sports with some professional levels in them (as the interview with Johnny Raper, the prince of tacklers, suggests) and impossible in sports like cricket (as Arthur Morris wryly notes), athletics and squash (as Herb Elliott and Heather McKay point out in their fascinating interviews).
While he was trundling down his medium-pacers on Saturday afternoons for Mosman, Lord made his living as a sports journalist and hopeful entrepreneur. He was involved in the World Series Cricket break-out (break-through?), which professionalised cricket in Australia, for the better, in 1977.
But more famously, he almost professionalised rugby union (a game that had allowed a split in 1895 in the UK and 1907 in Australia rather than pay players) in 1983. Lord had contracts signed with all the leading rugby players of the time.
But before the era of pay television, he could not sign up a television broadcaster to carry the games to a viewing public.
It is widely acknowledged, though, that the rugby unions in Australia and New Zealand were so unnerved by Lord’s takeover bid that they set in motion a process that lead to the creation of a Rugby World Cup tournament in 1987.
There are many insiders who acknowledge that Lord is really the father (or is it the godfather?) of the Rugby World Cup concept.
All these qualities come out in these interviews.
Volume 1, which I’ve just enjoyed listening to, has this list of greats: Herb Elliott, Heather McKay, Arthur Morris, Bart Cummings, Frank Sedgman, Neil Harvey, Kel Nagle, Leigh Matthews, Betty Cuthbert, Johhny Raper, Ken Rosewall, Graeme Langlands, Ken Cathpole, Murray Rose and Ian Craig (the race caller, not the former Australian cricket captain).
I was going to list my favourite interviews, but whenever I started to put down a name, other names from the list presented themselves immediately. So what I will say is that every interview has its delights.
If you want to get an insight into, say, playing with Don Bradman, you’ll get it from Arthur Morris and Neil Harvey.
Morris gently points out that he is probably responsible for Bradman not averaging 100 in Test cricket as he scored 196 in the Australian innings where Bradman, in his last Test innings, scored a duck.
Morris’ runs ensured Australia did not have to bat again.
Incidentally, the CD carries John Arlott’s famous description of the Bradman duck bowled by a wrong’un from around the wicket by Eric Hollies.
Most of the interviews have highlights like this.
The tennis interviews, for instance, have commentaries from several famous Davis Cup ties.
What was it like trying to establish a professional tennis circuit and defy the autocratic management of Harry Hopman? The Sedgman and Rosewall interviews tell the story, and it is absolutely gripping.
Hopman, incidentally, was not regarded as a great coach by either Rosewall or Sedgman.
Talking about coaches, Elliott, an extremely bright man who finished his career after the Rome Olympics when he was 22 to study science at Oxford University, is interesting on Percy Cerutti, the ‘guru as coach’ who made the sandhills of Portsea an iconic feature of his training methods.
How do race callers remember the horses in every race?
The interview with Craig is fascinating on the discipline of giving an accurate and lively call. I am the only Greek I know who never gambles, but I must admit I was hooked on the discussion of the world of racing that Lord opens up with Cummings and Craig.
I could go on forever picking out good stuff from these interviews.
But the best advice I can give is to get the CDs and be taken back to a time when Australian sport champions were great on and off the field, and famous around the world for their sporting achievements and sportsmanship.
Their stellar careers live on, thankfully, through these series of sympathetic and thoughtful chats with the good Lord of interviewers.
To order a copy — Email: email@example.com
Spiro Zavos, a founding writer on The Roar, was long time editorial writer on the Sydney Morning Herald, where he started a rugby column that has run for nearly 30 years. Spiro has written 12 books: fiction, biography, politics and histories of Australian, New Zealand, British and South African rugby. He is regarded as one of the foremost writers on rugby throughout the world.
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