Packing a scrum with ex-Wallaby Peter FitzSimons

Peter FitzSimons - Ex-Wallaby and Current-Heineken Drinker

Q: Peter, as far as we are aware you played 8 games for the Wallabies over a decade ago, and spent 5 years playing on the other side of the world in France when you were arguably in your best form. While this makes us all envious, I don't think it fully explains the high profile you have now as a sports journalist, author, MC and after dinner speaker (I believe you once 'sold' me a horse for $2,000 at a Roy and HG Melbourne Cup lunch). How have you managed to be so successful? Is it just a matter of making the most of your Wallaby profile back when you retired, or would you have always ended up doing what you are doing now? 

A: Certainly the Wallaby profile helped, but I suppose the key was that I discovered a passion the equal of, and in fact greater than, rugby - which was writing. From the first moment I was published in the Herald, I knew that was what I wanted to do, and other things like writing books and after-dinner speaking, etc have grown from that. 

Q: In our minds the 1991 World Cup has been the Rugby highlight of the last couple of decades. I understand that Bob Dwyer dropped you just prior to this. Does this play on your mind or do you look back on your rugby career and feel you achieved all that you could. 

A: Had things gone differently I might have played a lot more tests. Had they gone differently the other way I might have played none. I remain eternally grateful that I played the seven I did. I have no regrets from my rugby career, bar for a particular game my French team lost to Racing Club de Paris in the final seconds of a semi-final when our prop BLOODY WELL SCORED but the &*(*& referee DISALLOWED IT MOST UNFAIRLY .... but don't get me started. 

Q: Do you regret not playing for France? I understand there was some pressure on you to become "French" and do this. 

No. Had I played for France, I couldn't have played for Australia. They did ask me, but I declined as soon as it was made clear I would need French citizenship and this would have meant losing my Australian citizenship. From the moment I knew that it was an easy decision to make. 

Q: Importantly, could you tell us about the drinking habits of the Wallabies back then. Did the boys regularly enjoy beers with each other? Would you say that Australian Rugby Union players are generally beer drinkers? We have heard some outrageous rumour that it is more the leagies that enjoy the amber fluid, with the union players tending more for spirits and wines. Is there any truth to this? 

A: There were big beer-drinkers in the Wallabies when I was with them, but the Tour Secrets Act still applies all these years on - what happens on tour, stays on tour. 

Q: I was in France a few years back, and my host and one of his mates announced they were going buy some beers for the evening. Beauty, I thought, as we hopped in the car and drove for 1/2 an hour. Once in the supermarket, my host picked up one 6 pack for the 3 of us. I didn't say a word, but I thought a few. We then drove home, and he put the 6 pack on the couch, where it proceeded to get warm. I was finally offered one, and then two warm French beers, both of which went down like razorblades. And that was their night on the beers. Obviously there are some very hefty cultural differences at work here. Could you offer some insight into this after your 5 years in France. 

A: Ever heard of "wine?!!" They far prefer it! 


Q: I can't remember where I read it, but one thing you have written has stuck with me. You basically said that if you are not passionate about what you do for a crust, then you should get out regardless of the money. You said that a good test was whether you can put your head down in the morning and get so immersed in your work you put your head up and the day has gone. I think that struck a chord with me because I wasn't particularly passionate about what I was doing at the time. Do you still maintain this? Obviously the immediate downside of getting out of something you don't enjoy is that you no longer get paid. Is your message that the path to doing something passionate is worth what may well be a long (potentially never ending) journey of material poverty? 

I remember writing that somewhere! My point was that if you aint got the passion for it, why bother? As a younger person, keep going trying different things till you find something that puts your soul on fire. I was 25 before I discovered that I was a writer and up to that time I had tried many things that simply didn't do it for me - small business, bouncing, labouring, law and farming among them. Further, some of the dullest people ever are those who have "tunnel vision" for just the one thing and set their sights on being a surgeon by the age of 30 without ever questioning whether they REALLY want to be a surgeon, if you get my drift. 

Q: We are aware you are a francophile, and obviously as someone who writes for a living has an interest in language. What are your feelings about the "Great Australian Slanguage"? Do you have favourite Aussie expressions? Do you feel our language is danger of being lost / internationalised (read Americanised)? 
Yup, dude. I am saddened by the continuing "Coca-Colanisation" of our language. My favourite Australian expression is "a dingo's breakfast" which translates to "a bit of a scratch, a bit of a stretch, a bit of a fart and a bit of a look around." 

Q: Olympic President, Juan Antoino Samaranch, described Australia as "maybe the most sporting country in the world". You are well travelled, have lived overseas, and have reported on international sporting events. Do you believe this is true? If so, then why do you think this is the case, and how can it can be reconciled against the fact that I think we are rapidly becoming the fattest nation in the world behind America. Has the XBox replaced backyard cricket perhaps? 

It certainly has, except in our house where we have no X-boxes or Play Stations, or even Gameboys. I'd like to report that because of this my two boys are champion cricketers, but .... not yet. They're pretty damn good on the trampoline though. 

Q: Do you enjoy pubs? What are your pub picks in Australia? 

Not really much of a pub man I'm afraid! As a student I could be often found in the Grand Stand Bar at Sydney University Oval ... 

Q: Finally, what has your own relationship to beer been over the course of your life? Do you enjoy beer, and if so, tell us about your favourites. 

Don't mind a Heineken at the end of a hot day, but that's about it!

Peter FitzSimons writes for the Sydney Morning Herald and is the author of many excellent books. thanks Peter for taking the time to be profiled.

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Take a break from drinking like the author of this article did - Read why and how in his book Between Drinks: Escape the Routine, Take Control and Join the Clear Thinkers