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.



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

Desperate times require desperate attempted remedies.
– Spiro Zavos. The Roar, 01,02/2016

SPIRO: Aussie sevens need some Quade Cooper lightning magic

Harry, great stuff. I was fascinated in your description of the All Blacks setting up their game plan with their drills,
in front of the Springboks coaching staff and players.

And the lack of preparation by the Springboks before the match was indicative, too, of the different mindsets between the two teams and their coaching staff.

Congratulations to yourself and to The Roar for bringing this memorable essay to our readers.

Losing in London: A Springboks fan's long day in the city

What does Dr Binoy Kampmark suggest be done about Russia’s gross involvement in illegal doping its athletes?

Reading this I get the impression from this article that other countries do doping too and, therefore, it is all too hard and especially so on Russia, so let it go.

I find this remarkably naive coming from someone who is supposedly expert in these matters.

The right thing to do is a root and branch expulsion of Russia from the Rio Olympics. And a systematic removal of all the guilty administrators in the various governing bodies from the perks-ridden sporting organisations they have corrupted.

Sir Sebastian Coe, who has serious questions to answer himself, should appoint a special commissioner with wide-ranging powers of investigation and handsomely funded to go fearlessly into every aspect of this systematic corruption and create criminal charges against everyone who is culpable.

As an independent commission that came up with the damning evidence inside of a year, remarkably fast and accurate investigating, was chaired by Dick Pound, this distinguished Canadian should be given carte blanche to run the follow-up investigation.

The privilege of exclusive blame: Russian athletics and the sports establishment

Highlander, that was a brilliant post. It nailed the two fetchers theory so effectively that Michael Cheika might have to (should based on your statistics) re-consider it going into 2016.

One change he could make is to require David Pocock to do more work around the field with his running, tackling on the wide margins, playing second fullback in the Read manner when the opposition puts up kicks, wins some lineouts and, in general, play more like a traditional number 8.

SPIRO: Can Cheika defeat the Rugby World Cup runners-up curse?

Even someone like myself who doesn’t follow AFL as an adherent to the faith might was moved by this brilliant account of an epic Grand Final.

I love the way Ross McMullin has woven all the different threads in the story, the football match, the on-rush of Gallipoli and the Western Front, club politics, old and modern, into a detailed and rich tapestry.

I would also recommend Ross’ epic book “Farewell, Dear People,” which has won The Prime Minister’s Prize for Australian History, as a beautifully written and plangent account of what Australia lost with the death in World War I of a cohort of young men of character, ambition and talent, in many different areas, who would have created a different nation from that emerged in the 1930s.

War, love and football: The 1915 VFL grand final

Johnno, it was in the article. 8 runs in two digs,

SPIRO: The day I faced up to 'Typhoon' Frank Tyson

How To Watch A Game of Rugby is an essay, rather like in form my 2011 RWC essay, but on the zen of rugby.

Of course, I would recommend that you buy it as I regard it
along with the RWC 2011 essay as my personal favourite piece of rugby writing.

As a teaser, you will find out something that happened on my wedding night …

How the Webb Ellis Cup was won in a land that rumbles: Pt 2

Hi Yogi

AWA Press in New Zealand published my book How To Watch The Rugby World Cup in 2011.

The book has an essay like the one you have just read on every RWC tournament. So there is an essay on RWC 1995.

I am sure that there are still copies of this book with Awa, or in libraries in Australia and NZ

How the Webb Ellis Cup was won in a land that rumbles: Pt 2

What makes the tautology in a sense worse is that the late Alex Buzo lived across the road from me and we often had chats about his penchant for picking up tautologies in the works of the master, Rex Mossop.

In defence, I could offer the weak explanation that I was trying to convey the image of a player stretched out on the ground as if he had been king-hit by George Foreman.

But I am afraid that somewhere up there where Alex is keeping the celestial book on classic tautologies, I have created an entry that will match the best/worst of the past.

SPIRO: SANZAR should have booted out Sanchez, not Michael Hooper

Buk:The hedgehog reference was to the Russian proverb that I quoted last week in an article, “The fox knows many things but the hedgehog knows one big thing.”

The point of the proverb is that someone who is very good at one essential aspect of a job/sport is generally more successful in his pursuit of victory than the fox who spreads his talents across a diversity of tasks and skills.

SPIRO: Wallabies and All Blacks to continue their winning way