The Roar
The Roar

Spiro Zavos


Joined December 2006







Spiro Zavos, a founding writer on The Roar, was a long-time editorial writer on the Sydney Morning Herald, where he started a rugby column that ran 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.



Unlike Stephen Jones I applaud this development as it enhances the potential for winning rugby within the straitjacket of the laws. Since RWC 2011, the All Blacks have played 60 Tests, with 2 draws and 3 losses.

Where Jones sees the basketball analogy as a bad thing. I see it as the key to the present dominance of the All Blacks.

Smile coach Cheika, the Wallabies actually beat the Springboks!

Great article, 70s Mo, and another edition in the folio of outstanding long essays published on The Roar.

I’ve always believed that the early days of rugby union and rugby league in Australia would make a terrific television series.

There are a host of characters, endless intrigue and great storylines featuring iconic Australians like Victor Trumper and Dally Messenger, Edward Barton and so on.

What a great project for the Fox Sports network to get behind.

All Blacks, All Blues, All Golds: The birth of Australian Rugby League

Just as correction. The bat of my victim was slung around his NECK and not his knee.

Great cricketers the world forgot

My memory is that Haverford College in Philly was the home ground of Bart King. When I was studying at a university in Washington D.C. a team of diplomats took the bus from Washington to Philly to play the Haverford College side. I was roped in as a diplomat for the day.

My memory of the ground, this was the the mid 1960s remember, was that it was modelled on the old English village grounds. There were trees surrounding the boundaries. The pavilion was in Ye Old English mode. When you went in to change you saw jock straps, old gloves and other gear casually strewn around.

The cricket ethic sort of stopped there. The Haverford side seemed to me made up of baseball players. Most of them were dressed in Vietnam War gear with bandanas around their heads. They had wicked, politically correct wispy beards and they yelled and hollered whenever anything of moment happened.

I opened the batting with an Indian diplomat. Early on, I nudged a ball to third man and sauntered through for a run. My partner was even slower between the wickets than I was. The throw from the out-field came in like a rocket, hard, flat and fast. The diplomat was run out by yards.

The only wicket I got was when I bowled to to the last man in who was dressed in his battle fatigues and took his stance with his bat slung around his knee, in the baseball manner. A quickish yorker castled him before he could get the angle of his bat at the perpendicular.

In the dressing room, though, after the game I did notice material on Bart King whose influence still prevailed but whether this is the case now, who knows?

Thanks for reviving the memory of America’s greatest cricketer and arguably one of the great bowlers in the history of the game.

Great cricketers the world forgot

Thanks for this. Homer has nodded, once again, unfortunately. For Auckland please read Wellington. As you say, the dead rubber will be played at Auckland on 22 October.

A well-selected and well-coached Wallabies side will beat the Springboks

Harry, congratulations on a terrific piece of writing and a deep insight into what makes Michael Cheika run.

In the end, sport is about the people who participate in whatever the activity is. These people have a history, going back generations and into the present, that offer clues as to why they behave, play, coach and talk in the way they do.

The metaphor involved with linking the sinking of the SS Waratah with the sinking fortunes of the Wallabies and former Waratahs coach is brilliantly apt.

Linking Michael Cheika’s personal history with the history of the Maronite communities in South Africa and Australia provides a social history perspective and context for understanding what makes him what he is.

This is sports writing, or should I say writing, of the highest quality. It is a credit to you. The readers of The Roar (and dare I say it, Michael Cheika himself) are greatly indebted to you for creating this insightful essay.

Michael Cheika and the SS Waratah: A story of a Wallabies coach and a shipwrecked cruisliner

Brett, don’t forget that Mark Ella in The Australian last week made similar points about the Giteau Law players as I did, even more trenchantly than me, I might add. “(Michael Cheika) has made a calculated gamble by bringing back a legion of veteran Wallabies from France ,,, If they could not beat the All Blacks at the peak of their careers, how will they do it now?” he asked.

Perhaps “the credit for a Wallabies win” might be shared between me and Mark for inspiring the players into a victory. Is this not the role of commentators?

The talking points: Bledisloe 1

The combined height and weight of Paddy and Will Skelton might have made a decent-sized second-rower, I reckon.

Play for keeps: Consistent aggression the missing ingredient for our Wallabies

Pot Hale because you can’t understand what Hansen says, it does not mean that Hansen is not making sense with his comments.

Rust never sleeps: Can the out-of-form Wallabies win at Melbourne?

Mart, you are right. What Nathan Gray did was very wrong to interfere with the England player trying to catch the ball and restart play quickly.

He should have been penalised by Romain Poite and banished from the sideline.

Bad sportsmanship like that cannot be condoned.

There should also be some sanction from World Rugby, in my view.

Rust never sleeps: Can the out-of-form Wallabies win at Melbourne?

Arithmetic class for me, I fear. The three missed conversions cost the Wallabies 6 points, not 8 points.

It seems clear, too, that Eddie Jones out-foxed Michael Cheika with his Bodyline threats. As Paul Cully points out in the SMH, Cheika stacked a 6 – 2 bench to counter the threat of a juggernaut England pack and backline.He swallowed the Bodyline line.

Cheika stacked his forward reserves to counter the Bodyline threat

But when Horne went off, with only two back reserves, one of whom had to be a halfback, the Wallabies had no cover on the wings.

Rust never sleeps: Can the out-of-form Wallabies win at Melbourne?

Just a slight correction to this. Under the system I put forward, each country has a team with a home quarter final. That team is the home side that has the most points at the end of the round robin of the tournament.

This adjustment is important for commercial reasons. It mean that at least at the quarter final stage each country, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand has a guaranteed final.

The final quarter final spot goes to the next team from any of the conferences with the most number of points.

Then there are five wild card teams selected from their position on the points table.

The 2016 Super Rugby finals system is designed for an African winner

From from old bugger to the real Old Bugger, a paplable hit. A brainstorm on my part. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

Can the Waratahs beat the Brumbies to the finals with bonus points?

Apologies to Leolin Zas for getting his name wrong. I of all people should be aware of Z.

Michael Cheika attacks "the Wallabies are doomed" media calls

The King’s Cup 1919 was played between army teams from Britain, Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

Age must not weary the memory of the 1919 AIF Rugby Originals

Paul and Patrick, a memorable long essay that gives us the essence of Tibby Cotter, the man, the cricketer and his times.

One of The Roar’s best!

"Are we downhearted? No!" The legend of Tibby Cotter

Sean, thank you for this brilliant and moving account of the war service of Dr Herbert Moran, a giant of Australian rugby and medicine. It was moving to read that the slaughter became almost too much for Moran to endorse, although he stuck to his determination to see the Great War through to its bitter end.

Dr Moran later became a Macquarie Street specialist treating cancer patients with the new radium treatments.

ANZAC DAY: Rugby men from the front

Re the drop goals in the 2015 RWC final, it was Dan Carter who made the two strikes, of course. Thought I would make this point before I was accused of believing that Jonny Wilkinson was an All Black.

Is Liam Gill the best all-skills Aussie number 7?

Rohan Hoffman is an Australian referee and therefore was a neutral in the match you instance.

Should Jaco Peyper have refereed the Stormers-Brumbies match?

Carlos get ready to eat your words. Owens did review the video evidence and then awarded the try.

Should Jaco Peyper have refereed the Stormers-Brumbies match?

How many SRU players have gone on to play for the Wallabies in the last 10 years?

The SRU is the peak of the pyramid for amateur rugby.

Bob Dwyer lays the boot into the ARU over Sydney club rugby

1. Train Without A Station and Brett McKay do not seem to understand that the Sydney grade sides are the bottom of the pyramid for the Wallabies.

They are NOT the top of the pyramid for amateur rugby.

2. At the top of the pyramid are 40 or so current Wallabies.
Below this top, are the 250 or so Super Rugby players
And below this level, as the 4,000 or so club players in the Sydney/Brisbane grade club competitions

3. If the argument is that Super Rugby and the Wallabies don’t need
resilient and strong grade club competitions in Sydney and Brisbane, please details the number of Super
Rugby players and Wallabies the grade club competitions in Melbourne and Perth have delivered?

4. And please detail how many Wallabies and Super Rugby players a concentration on western suburbs
league-playing schools and women’s rugby will deliver to Australian rugby?

5. Bob Dwyer is right. The Sydney grade club competition for over 100 years has been the foundation
block of Australian rugby, and will remain so for decades to come unless the ARU contrives to destroy the
clubs and, with them, the strength of the game here.

That is the indisputable truth about Australian rugby which anyone who knows anything about the
game in this country understands.

6. I have a modest proposal for the ARU. Reduce head office/board expenditures by $1 million and
give this to the Sydney and Brisbane clubs to continue their quest to produce great rugby players and
enthusiastic and dedicated supporters of the rugby game.

Bob Dwyer lays the boot into the ARU over Sydney club rugby

The draws in the past have also been problematical. Perhaps it is time now for SANZAAR (now with an extra A apparently) to put people in charge of the draw who know something about the rugby and cultural histories of the relevant participating nations.

This presumes, of course, that SANZAAR itself has this sort of elementary knowledge.

Readers of The Roar will know that I have been deeply unimpressed with the managerial expertise of the now SANZAAR.

Andy Marinos’ first moves, including the introduction 3-try plus bonus point system, do nothing to suggest that improvements are on the way.

Incidentally, when it comes to the views of an administrator and a successful coach on how a particular initiative will work out in practice, I’ll go with the coach.

2016: A year of living dangerously for Super Rugby

Gavin Mairs of the UK Telegraph, a respected rugby writer, has just named his 8 best number 8s in world rugby:
1. Kieran Read (NZ) 2. Sergio Parisse (Italy) 3.Taulupe Faletau (Wales) 4. Duane Vermulen (SA) 5.Louis Picamoles (France) 6. Billy Vunipola (England) 7. Samu Manoa, the USA number 8 described as “the greatest USA player ever.” 8. James Heaslip (Ireland).

As David Pocock played at number 8 in the 2015 RWC this suggests that this very good loose forward is not rated as highly in the UK as he is in Australia.

Give Pocock a year off and develop Hooper, McMahon and Butler

Sam, thanks for this.

Richie Gray, as you say, is the breakdown expert, not Richie Guy who was a NZRU chairman and All Black.

Wayne Smith’s intervention was in 2004, not in 2007.

The Eddie Jones dickhead policy faces its first test