Australia's Passionate Fans of Sport crop up everywhere even though often it costs a fortune in flights

Australia's Passionate Fans of Sport crop up everywhere even though often it costs them a fortune in flights.

To all Australians at home and overseas and to their inspirational Kookaburras and  Hockeyroos  and other sportsmen and women, wishing  you all a very Happy Australia Day and a great Olympics.

I cannot think of any national anthem with more specific, accurate  and specifically inspirational  words than “Advance Australia Fair.” It reflects the work to be done in the future ,  not simply on reverence for glories from the past. Interested and involved in sports through my cameras and journalism,  I see that , throughout my lifetime , those chosen to  wear the Gold and the Green , will always play with characteristic grit and will toil to advance Australia, and hence have a world class reputation for competitiveness and strong work ethic.  It is I believe genetic!

Nations evolve from a country’s  aboriginals. Never on any continent  sadly , have ancient native people’s been treated with the respect that their ancient  cultures embodied and richly merited and nor have the core values of living in complete harmony with the environment always been mirrored by settlers and their progeny in more recent times, forefathers originally forced off to, or attracted by, unblemished vast open spaces, rich natural resources and fresh opportunities .

Through migration, invasion or occupation nations emerge and progress  ; subsequent generations building on the foundations inherited from  the strengths and qualities that different previous cultures and earlier pioneers woven into the tapestry of the existing flag and give each country a sense of their own nationality.

Australia , curiously still not a republic, is like us a democracy but still technically also a token  constitutional monarchy. Structurally it has some of the vestiges of a colonial past , stability, systems and governance but without the oppressiveness and innate snobbery from what formerly held itself as a self appointed  Empire and “superior” culture, based on a monarchy and the awful (wealth gifted by accident of birth) aristocracy  that still under pins the “Pommy” class system here!

Australia is, it seems to me , a modern plutocracy,a land where through hard work merit is earned not given to you on a silver plate .Australia is so big, its the only country that is also a continent  and so far away from Europe. How national teams get together to train in such a huge country is an achievement in itself.  Happily lacking the self righteousness of  the biggest and loudest  democracy (the richest ,self appointed one as guardian of the free) Oz it seems to me leads by example not rhetoric  and let their athletes do the talking, australian sport is its finest ambassador, commanding respect around the world wherever they compete. They do not go all that way just to come second !

The 6th largest country in the world, the largest borderless country in the world, as well as the largest country wholly in the Southern Hemisphere it has  a  just third of the UK population and the population inhabit land over thirty times bigger in area than our relatively small but so densely populated little group of islands .

Australia  and other continents attract immigrants from the Old World , countries that  are still seen as lands offering a fresh start and new opportunities.  Oz actually has the 5th highest per capita income on the planet and significantly is a top place to move to as it is second highest in the human development index  globally behind only Norway and 26th places above dear old struggling little Britain. Yet , despite the nation’s almost excessive enthusiasm for sport, any sport ,  its legendary partisanship in terms of fans and even media reporting , and the opportunities to compete in any State, any sport, the obesity rate  is close to that of our little country. The majority of the land is still sparsly  populated  with 89% opted to urban dwelling.

Even with so much space and a total population relatively small, whislt wanting and welcoming more people in, the immigration policy is firmly picky and selection criteria  is nationally and  State specific. Specific Regional Migration (SSRM) is designed to ensure potential permanent residents will provide state and territory governments with the opportunity to influence the number and profile of skilled migrants settling in.  Here’s a link to more about Australia’s IMIGRATION CRITERIA    “Migrants may be selected on the basis of such factors as relationship to an Australian permanent resident or citizen, skills, age, qualifications, capital and business acumen. All applicants must also meet the health and character requirements specified by migration legislation.  All applicants for permanent entry to Australia must be assessed against Australia’s health and character requirements, which are designed to exclude any people whose presence in Australia would not be in the interest of the Australian community.”


I began the serious business of professional photography in 2004, ITU World Cup, Salford quays and that year had my  first major commission and it was to be my first encounter with world class athletes in any sport through the camera (as official photographer for the City’s Tourism and Leisure Department) and indeed my first ever triathlon. The women’s race was dominated that year by Australian residents , two on the podium were to become clients, the gold went to one, now  a lifelong friend and client (and a personal  inspiration and one of my ultimate role models as an athlete and a person.) Australia’s Pip Taylor, later a client, was also up there in the placings. Gold and silver went to two ex Pat Brits GB’s Liz Blatchford, a former client (whose parents formerly lived down the road from me in Wilmslow and her Gran still does) took silver, and Michelle Dillon took gold. I was never quite sure why Mish competed for GB and not Oz where she actually had her home, but it was something connected with being over looked by national selection processes if I recall correctly. The following year the City were in money saving mode and found a good amateur to do the job cheaper but I got a media pass and covered that and 2006 and 2007. I followed Michelle to London for my first London Triathlon, and the first time I had been to an inclusive mass triathlon event  when athletes with a disability were competing in the same races as all agers, the way things should be. Mish had a dodgy World Cup that year and would have given the 2005 London the elbow but she was contracted to have to do it.


They get married today- wishing them every happiness!

I have sold images and provided them  for a number of World Class triathlete websites and magazines over the years but Mish is the only world class athlete ever to hire me to cover an actual race on their behalf. Back then professional triathlon had reasonable funding but all the world travel  ate up what cash there was and few had enough to get in a professional. Michelle at least helped me out and made a further trip to london’s Excel centre  worthwhile, on  top of the chance to meet up with her and share one of those all two brief chats you get with athlete ships that pass in the night  and the great one’s dragged away by the TV media post race. Thrilled I was and so proud when dear Mish stormed it, left the rest behind and took gold! When you love and respect someone as much as I do Mish, for who she is and what she represents as a person not just as a formidable athlete and now, retired from the international scene through injury, outstanding coach, when they win it feels like your sister won. It is family.

I am so not mainstream, independent minded, a freelance , can write a bit too, and  if you do things your own way, break the rules a tad to get a new angle , get closer to the  athletes and what  they are actually about , the athletes might respect you and recognise the difference in the stuff you do for them behind the camera but you remain marginalised by the establishment and its the safe option normal suspects that get magazine and agency commissions and governing bodies. You may get a grunt of recognition as they pass at one of these do’s but little more. I anm still in touch with Mish and support her new coaching business and report from time to time on athletes she trains and mentors and , for example, keep up a dialogue with them via Facebook. I also report when I can on their achievements through my honorary journalism for womensportreport.com. Highlight of the other year w as Mish winning coach of the year and her athlete Jodie getting World Young athlete of the year all voted for by the people that know, the triathlon community itself. For that I interviewed Mish, over the net as she w as in Queensland and we had a nice feature and front page cover for the website I work with. I always go out of my way for people, regardless of how much it brings in but it is such a privilege to work with people you genuinely admire but who also appreciate the work you do on their behalf.


THE WONDER OF OZ From the touchline where I have photographed and reported on a range of sports, I have noted that cultural differences come into play. You know instinctively that anyone selected in any sport from Australia is going to give any team a hard time! You don’t go to the trouble of flying half way across the world with a view to coming second. Nationally OZ celebrates its athletes and welcomes winners. No, “after  you George”  was never an option.

Australia’s Swimmers

From my early years I only excelled or participated willingly in one sport from the age of about thirteen or fourteen and I used to get books from the library about swimming and my role models were pool athletes like Dawn Fraser (and John and  Ilsa Konrads, themselves  the children of Latvian parent immigrants from the 1940’s.)  I was actually pretty crap at front crawl sadly but used Kondrads unique hands grasped behind the back style of racing start. I had  technically a brilliant breast stroke , haven’t swum now for a few years, but have a souvenir  of those earlier happy mid to late teen years of club swimming in the shape of a very small chip to one of my front teeth ( having finished a pool race with so much umph I kissed the pool side teeth first.)

Wheellchair Basketball and Field Hockey

As far as other international sports I have covered , Oz players have figured in some, World Netball, Wheelchair Paralympic world Cup Basketball and , back in 2006, watched and photographed my first full international field hockey final , the Samsung Women’s World Cup in Madrid. That was a tense final as  you’d expect, the Oz mental toughness means if you want it you have to come and try and take it because giving it away is not  in their makeup. The Dutch took the gold with Maartje Paumen’s flick putting it out of reach for Australia but the Hockeeyroos as you would expect never let up until the final whistle and it could have gone so easily the other way if the Dutch too had not stayed so focused. Here are a few from my image stock archives  of Australia’s 2006 WC squad WIZARDS OF OZ . Currently Oz men’s hockey, the  Kookaburras,  is setting the global gold standard but the Hockeyroos, not that high in the world rankings are improving again , and are  always going to be a threat and always will be to the top teams when they come on to the pitch in 2012 in London. The will to compete and win is genetic, as constant as Ayres Rock.

Well , thank you Australia , such an important member of the world sport family and for providing me with great subjects for my work and sending such inspirational people over here to compete. Advance Australia,  Fair dinkum.

Happy Birthday Australia!

Leave a Reply

Translate »