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.