John Eales’ (pictured left, liftin the Bledisloe Cup) biography was among Col Hennessy’s favourite sports books he’s read. (Photo by Ross Land/Getty Images)
John Eales’ (pictured left, liftin the Bledisloe Cup) biography was among Col Hennessy’s favourite sports books he’s read. (Photo by Ross Land/Getty Images)

TOP 10: Col’s favourite sports biographies to read in iso

THIS special edition of the grandstand column is to help you find something interesting to read as the isolation period winds down.

The editor has given me permission to suggest my top 10 books of a sporting nature.

I have a collection at home of almost 200 books and most of those are biographies. Of that 200, the majority are rugby league players and cricketers. It seems anyone and everyone who has played for Australia writes a book these days.

Most are ordinary because they simply rehash their games and achievements and comment on other players and particular matches.

The ones I have selected cover a whole range of sports and they may not have all been bestsellers in their day but they had something to say other than 'here I am and this is what I have done'. I have put them in alphabetical order so there is no favouritism and I hope you can pick one or two up at the markets.

 

1. Craig Bellamy - Home Truths

THIS is a very honest and candid look at his time in Melbourne particularly.

It's a look at life, leadership matters, adversity, success and failure.

He has seen it all as you know but you have to admire what he has done for the club and the players who go there. I have a treasured cap at home signed by Smith, Cronk and Slater from 2012.

Coach Craig Bellamy speaks prior to arriving for a briefing session for players and staff at AAMI Parkin Melbourne, Monday, May 4, 2020. (AAP Image/Rob Prezioso)
Coach Craig Bellamy speaks prior to arriving for a briefing session for players and staff at AAMI Parkin Melbourne, Monday, May 4, 2020. (AAP Image/Rob Prezioso)

2. Bart Cummings - My Life

THE simple title says it all. Never one to chase the limelight, he has a record no one else in this list can match.

He was the Cups King for good reason. His Melbourne Cup wins span five decades from 1965 to 2008. Who can go near that?

Bart had his troubles with officialdom (suspension) and banks when he almost went broke, but he is officially an Australian legend when that word is overused.

Jockey Harry White holds trophy with horseracing trainer Bart Cummings (l) after winning the Melbourne Cup at Flemington Racecourse, Victoria, aboard racehorse
Jockey Harry White holds trophy with horseracing trainer Bart Cummings (l) after winning the Melbourne Cup at Flemington Racecourse, Victoria, aboard racehorse "Hyperno", 06 Nov 1979.

3. John Eales - The Biography

ONLY the author Peter FitzSimons could come up with that title. He is one of my favourite authors (another collection of mine) but he does do Eales justice.

Only recently he was one of only a couple of Wallaby captains not to sign that letter as a forerunner to Raelene Castle's departure.

He earned the nickname of "Nobody" because he was perfect in almost everything he did both on and off the field. He was voted in 1998 as the greatest captain in the world at the time, such was his respect.

Rugby great John Eales at the unveiling of his bronze statue, Suncorp Stadium, Milton. Photographer: Liam Kidston.
Rugby great John Eales at the unveiling of his bronze statue, Suncorp Stadium, Milton. Photographer: Liam Kidston.

4. Cadel Evans - The Art of Cycling

THIS is one of my latest reads. Its another honest appraisal of his time on and off the bikes.

I didn't know for instance that he had represented Australia at the Olympic Games in Atlanta as a mountain bike rider. In fact, for a long time he was torn between the two sports. His feats in the Tour de France are well documented and I was keen to read about his take on Lance Armstrong.

He spent a good deal of his youth on the north coast near Coffs Harbour.

Cadel Evans people ride Cadel Evans before the ride picture: Glenn Ferguson
Cadel Evans people ride Cadel Evans before the ride picture: Glenn Ferguson

5. Jeff Horn - The Hornet

THIS was an eye-opener as he truly is the boy next door in so many ways.

Every chapter has a relevant quote from someone like Richard Branson or Confucius to introduce that part of the story we all know so well.

He was underrated when he won the world championship but I hope his connections don't overrate him in his latter years. He should retire.

Boxer Jeff Horn on the Strand. Picture: Evan Morgan
Boxer Jeff Horn on the Strand. Picture: Evan Morgan

6. Kim Hughes - The Golden Boy

MY favourite cricket book. We all remember that tearful resignation at the press conference and I really felt sorry for him. The clique of Lillie, Marsh and Chappell really made it hard for him (he wasn't their choice) but he played three of the all-time great innings for Australia and it was at a difficult time.

It refers often to the 'bad old days of Aussie Cricket' and his difficulties with Packer.

Politics and sport certainly do mix in this account.

Australian cricket captain Kim Hughes (l) and Indian cricket captain Shivlal Yadav exchange caps at Adelaide Oval, 25 Jan 1981. They will both celebrate their birthdays on 26 Jan. (Pic by unidentified staff photographer)
Australian cricket captain Kim Hughes (l) and Indian cricket captain Shivlal Yadav exchange caps at Adelaide Oval, 25 Jan 1981. They will both celebrate their birthdays on 26 Jan. (Pic by unidentified staff photographer)

7. Craig Johnston - Walk Alone

AN APT title given the Liverpool song and the fact he set the pathway for future stars like Tim Cahill and Robbie Slater to chase their dreams.

He went over there as a 15-year-old and was terribly homesick. The legendary Bobby Charlton told him he was wasting his time but he stuck at it and went on to kick the winning goal in the 1986 FA Cup final. While it is a bit of a chronological account it's a great read and interesting to note he was in the news recently with how he thinks the A-League should be run.

Craig Johnston playing for Liverpool FC in 1984.
Craig Johnston playing for Liverpool FC in 1984.

8. Elysse Perry- Perspective

THIS is my favourite (and latest) book. I am in awe of this young lady. She is the only person to have played in both a soccer and cricket world cup.

She was only 16 when she made her international debut in 2007.

While she gives the usual account of her life growing up and reflects on her childhood and career, it's the rest of the book that stands out. It's almost a Life Skills coaching manual and I would recommend it to your children or grandchildren. She spends chapters talking about such things as dreams, work, resilience, acceptance, opportunity, balance and perspective. Do yourself a favour and have a read.

Australian sports star Ellyse Perry pictured at News Corp in Surry Hills for the Sun Herald. Picture: Richard Dobson
Australian sports star Ellyse Perry pictured at News Corp in Surry Hills for the Sun Herald. Picture: Richard Dobson

9. Rod Laver - A Memoir

A FACTUAL account of our best ever tennis player. I think he would have won another grand slam or two if he wasn't caught up in that professional era.

I knew his family in Rockhampton, where they owned a sports store and they were all gentlemen.

He is Roger Federer's hero so that's good enough for most. Even a few years ago when the two had a hit-up at the Australian Open it was a sight to behold. Quite emotional really.

Tennis legend, Rod Laver appears in an Uber Eats TV ad.
Tennis legend, Rod Laver appears in an Uber Eats TV ad.

10. Jim Stynes - My Journey

APTLY named because it traces his journey from Ireland where he was a Gaelic football star to the Melbourne Demons AFL club. It also traces his journey through his battle with cancer which took his life far too early.

His highlights included winning the Brownlow Medal and playing 244 consecutive games for the club. When he finished playing he went on to become president of the club as well.

Most noteworthy, however, was his work via his charity, Reach, which aimed at helping young people reach their potential. For this and his overall respect he was twice voted Victorian of the Year.

 

Melbourne v Geelong. Melbourne's Jim Stynes in Demons colours.
Melbourne v Geelong. Melbourne's Jim Stynes in Demons colours.

 

My apologies to fans of Dawn Fraser and Raelene Boyle, two of our greatest Olympians who were 'robbed' of gold medals for different reasons. Their stories are unique but this is not a list of our best sportspeople. It's the books and the message within



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