Chatting with some legends at The Roar’s Christmas drinks

sheek Roar Guru

By sheek, sheek is a Roar Guru

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    This is a sight we won't be seeing when India tour later this year. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

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    Last Thursday past at The Roar Xmas drinks I was thrilled and honoured to be chatting with legendary septuagenarians David Lord, Spiro Zavos and Kersi Meher-Homji. Also present was The Roar rising star writer Geoff Parkes.

    Let’s start with Geoff. I didn’t ask Geoff’s age but since we discussed many of the same familiar names from the 70s and 80s, I’m guessing he is somewhere in his 50s. I’m 60 so he is perhaps within ten years of my age. I trust I haven’t aged you too much Geoff!

    Geoff writes a weekly Monday rugby segment titled ‘The Wrap‘. I love Geoff’s writing style. He is knowledgeable, informative, able to deliver humour and in particular, is not afraid to be controversial if he feels a topic needs to be discussed in order to be resolved.

    I like bravery in writing and Geoff is brave and willing. I would describe Geoff’s writing in word pictures as knocking on the door firmly but positively. This contrasts with my word picture style of writing which is inclined to barge the door down!

    The legendary David Lord, age 77, was there. I hope he won’t mind if I say he is not in the most robust of health but the fire in the belly that made him such an icon journalist, reporter, writer and presenter in the 70s and 80s remains. Not to mention he was also a player agent and promoter.

    I was greatly humbled that David insisted on my presence at The Roar drinks. All I have achieved in my life is some small notoriety at The Roar. But what about David?

    Well, he captained Mosman at first grade cricket, for one. He kick-started the Rugby News magazine sold at suburban grounds for Shute Shield in the early 70s. He edited many editions of the Australian Rugby Yearbook.

    We’re just warming up. Also in the early 70s, David became one of the first, if not the first, player agents in Australia. He brokered the lucrative radio deal for Jeff Thomson in 1974, that saw him relocate from Sydney to Brisbane.

    Others of his clients included Windies batsmen Alvin Kallicharran and distance swimmer Steve Holland. There were many more but I don’t trust my memory to name them, including a leading golfer of the time.

    David was one of the first to be invited into Kerry Packer’s inner sanctum about the forthcoming WSC in 1977. But soon after, David fell out with Packer and was sidelined from the ensuring adventure that took the cricketing world by storm.

    Also in the 70s, David started an Australian cricket monthly magazine. He was one of the first to have reporters based in other countries providing information on what was happening in their neck of the woods.

    Every month Australian cricket readers would get snippets of news from across the ditch in New Zealand, India, Pakistan, South Africa and faraway West Indies and England as well as Australia, of course.

    In 1983 David might have gone close to achieving his greatest coup. He has the signatures of intent from 208 players from eight countries (26 per country) who were wiling to play in a professional world rugby tournament.

    David says the actual figure was 213 signatures and he will take those names with him to the grave, apart from those who have given themselves up previously. Even a devotee such as me won’t get those names!

    The only thing missing was a Packer or Murdoch to bankroll the event for TV. Some say that the IRB was so terrified by the prospect of David’s professional troupe that they set in motion the plans for the first Rugby World Cup in 1987.

    David also did the rugby segment on Channel Seven’s Sports World with Rex Mossop, in the 70s and 80s. For all of us 20-somethings in the 70s and 80s, this was compulsory Sunday morning viewing.

    David and his guests sometimes looked as if they had come straight from the nightclub to the studio, which was often indeed the case.

    Then there was Spiro Zavos, age 79, looking very sprightly and you would have to think his century here will be a formality.

    Which is a far cry from his only first class cricket game for Wellington, New Zealand versus England in 1958-59, or MCC, as they called themselves back then.

    This might have been Spiro’s “only” first class game but then, so few of us can say we played first class cricket. Spiro, who opened the batting, made ‘only’ 3 and 5 but he faced two of the finest fast bowlers ever to represent England, Fred Trueman and Frank Tyson.

    Anyone with an appreciation of cricket history will know how formidable Trueman and Tyson were. Trueman was the first bowler in history to reach 300 Test wickets and is an all-time great.

    As for Tyson, well, his nickname was ‘Typhoon’. I reckon Jeff Thomson is the fastest bowler I’ve seen in 50 years. But some old-timers who saw both Tyson and Thomson reckon Tyson might have been faster. All I can say is “wow”!

    Spiro confirmed Tyson’s speed in the brief time he played him. Spiro reckons he never saw a delivery from Tyson but just hung his bat out where he thought the ball might be.

    And what did Spiro have for protection? Only his gloves, a ‘family jewels’ protection box, pads, his skill and wit.

    Spiro has written on rugby for the Sydney Morning Herald for nearly 35 years, submitting his last article Saturday yesterday. He will continue to write for The Roar.

    Spiro has an innate understanding of rugby. He is knowledgeable, informative, usually interesting and entertaining and where necessary, isn’t frightened to take on the establishment.

    Spiro has written many wonderful books on rugby, especially the Wallabies and their history, including their battles with the All Blacks for the Bledisloe Cup.

    Now we come to Kersi, age 77. Kersi is one of nature’s gentlemen, a quietly spoken, humble, genuine guy with a whimsical sense of humour and a deep love and affection for cricket.

    Kersi emigrated to Australia around 1970 and has written about 14 books on cricket. Perhaps his most poignant book was on the Waugh twins while other topics covered included all-rounders and cricket crises and controversies.

    Kersi’s association with David goes back to the 70s when he was co-opted to facilitate some of the ‘around the world’ reporters for David’s Australian Cricket magazine mentioned earlier.

    Kersi and I have tried to get together for lunch about once every quarter (three months). We have done this for about seven years now. Our other companion used to be the venerable Vinay Verma.

    Vinay died suddenly in 2011 watching a one-day match and after submitting his most recent article to the Roar. If Vinay were alive today he would be age 67.

    Vinay took the caricature of the Indian who could speak English better than the English to new heights. I can probably think of only a few who had the same command of elegant phraseology as Vinay.

    It was a wonderful afternoon in the company of great men and one most cherished absent friend. The only problem was that the venue, Hart’s Pub, with its wooden walls, was extremely noisy.

    I so much wanted to soak up the experience and knowledge of these great men, but next time, I will have to hope to do so in quieter surroundings!

    I salute you, David, Spiro, Kersi, Geoff and the absent Vinay.

    A former rugby lock, cricket no.11 bat and no.10 bowler, and surfboat rower. A fan of the major team sports in Australia.

    Getting hassled by a parent or partner about spending too much time playing video games? Now, you can tell them the story of how some ordinary gamers scored $225k for just seven weeks of work.

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    The Crowd Says (22)

    • December 12th 2016 @ 6:29am
      Warren Crowther said | December 12th 2016 @ 6:29am | ! Report

      Thanks sheik!

    • December 12th 2016 @ 8:55am
      Kersi Meher-Homji said | December 12th 2016 @ 8:55am | ! Report

      Thank you Sheek for the lovely story and to include me among the legends. I don’t deserve this honour but modestly accept it. Yes, Vinay was a likeable legend and one person I’ll never forget.
      It’s always a pleasure chatting with you.

    • December 12th 2016 @ 9:44am
      Paul Cleland said | December 12th 2016 @ 9:44am | ! Report

      Your comments on rugby in the past were always well informed, accurate, erudite, if not a little self serving at times, and sometimes very controversial. I miss those and would love to see you return especially as Spiro has hung his I-Pad and looking at the ages of others you mentioned we need some senior journalists or comment makers to lead with their knowledge as you always did, for the love of the game!.

    • Roar Guru

      December 12th 2016 @ 9:58am
      sheek said | December 12th 2016 @ 9:58am | ! Report

      Thanks Paul,

      Self-serving? I can accept being called controversial, but self-seeing is not a phrase I would use to describe myself. Although I guess like most people, I have my hobby horses, which is where the self-serving comes in, I guess.

      Otherwise, thanks for the kind comments. It’s difficult competing with the young hotshots who think they know everything.

      Ageing humbles us all. We realise eventually we don’t know anywhere near as much as we’d like to think we do & that there is actually so much more we don’t know.

      Part of sharing the background to David & Spiro, is to show these young hotshots so quick to shoot them down that they have achieved so much in their lives, certainly more than most of the rest of us.

      By all means disagree with David & Spiro, but they are entitled to respect for what they’ve achieved.

      • Roar Guru

        December 12th 2016 @ 10:34am
        PeterK said | December 12th 2016 @ 10:34am | ! Report

        Thanks sheek for the article.

        Times are a changing, the anonymous internet killed manners and politeness (even civility) is from a bygone era.

        I don’t understand why so many have to personally attack the author’s for putting in time and effort on articles.

        Sure they may be wrong and at times poorly researched, they may have a consistent bias against styles on certain teams and so forth but critcise the article not the man.

      • Roar Guru

        December 12th 2016 @ 12:28pm
        mds1970 said | December 12th 2016 @ 12:28pm | ! Report

        Well said Sheek. An enjoyable article about an enjoyable evening; was great to catch up with some great people with passion for their sports and the words to say so.
        We’re a diverse group; different ages, different sports, different opinions. And that’s a good thing and having that variety keeps the site interesting.

        Rugby union isn’t my strong point; but, like all sports, it’s great to see the passion for it.
        I love cricket, and the way that sport is going can polarise opinion; but it ensures there’s plenty of content for The Roar at this time of year…..

        But Sheek makes a great point. It’s good to disagree and debate opinions. But it’s better when that’s done from a position of respect. Especially for people with a long & distinguished record in their sport.

      • Roar Guru

        December 14th 2016 @ 10:36pm
        Mick Gold Coast QLD said | December 14th 2016 @ 10:36pm | ! Report

        A fine account, Sheek, of a gathering of good men steeped in the history and evolution of our game (and of other sports) – thank you.

        I thought the “self serving” comment was both plain rude and demonstrably inaccurate – they speak in clichés, the omniscient young, and offer so little to the protection and enhancement of the institution of rugby. They may discover a quite different view if they had the opportunity to discuss minutiae post game with the likes of Peter Fenton, with drink coasters moved about the table to make his point as swiftly as he speaks (but they would need to find a Club game to attend first) or to have known, and argued the point with, the estimable Matt Laffin.

        Recently I read elsewhere that Brett Papworth and Simon Poidevin were old players reliving past glories, out of touch with the modern game, offered as good reason why they need not be heard in the current debate. The ignorance on display was simply outstanding.

        You express cogent views about rugby rather than throw your hands up in despair and I commend you for it. Box on, Sheek, and a Happy Holy Christmas to you.

    • December 12th 2016 @ 9:59am
      David Gordon said | December 12th 2016 @ 9:59am | ! Report

      G’day Sheek, I had brief encounters with David and Spiro and can attest that in my opinion both are great gentlemen. David I encountered as a would be fast bowler at a cricket clinic at Mosman oval back in the late 1950’s. I was a recently displaced north Queenslander coming to grips with the big smoke and as you can imagine not sure how Mr Lord would deal with me. He was quick to see that there was a disconnect between enthusiasm and ability but he kindly taught me how to hold the ball to better effect and to square the shoulders on delivery of my would be pace bowling. He obviously had better luck with my contemporary Dave Colley.
      Spiro was walking in my direction one chilly evening in Macquarie Street circa the mid 1980’s. As the follow up to Evan Whitton as SMH rugby writer he had big shoes to fill and their styles of writing differed markedly. I did a bit of a double take when I realised Spiro was there in front of me but regained my composure enough to stop introduce myself and ask him a question about one of his recent articles. I admit I had no idea if he was late for an appointment or would rather not have been shooting the breeze with a stranger in cold Macquarie Street but you would not have known. He was happy to answer my question and enquired about my rugby background. We shook hands and continued on our ways. My wife was somewhat taken aback but as I explained rugby has a universal bond. Cheers David

      • Roar Guru

        December 12th 2016 @ 11:34am
        sheek said | December 12th 2016 @ 11:34am | ! Report

        Thanks David,

        For sharing those memories.

    • Columnist

      December 12th 2016 @ 10:30am
      Geoff Parkes said | December 12th 2016 @ 10:30am | ! Report

      Sheek, thank you for the kind words, even if rising star is a bit of a stretch!

      It was indeed a very enjoyable couple of hours – I know you struggle with many of the changes in sport and society but this really only makes your pieces all the more valuable, as they always offer contrast, reflection, depth and learnings from history.

      Best wishes for the knee op and for a speedy recovery!

      • Roar Guru

        December 12th 2016 @ 10:39am
        sheek said | December 12th 2016 @ 10:39am | ! Report

        Thanks mate!

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