A ‘grizzled 69’ and the art of sports writing

One of my local Op-shops has recently become the magic pudding of great sporting books. Of course I’m not going to say which one but lately, in amongst the piles of Max Walker doing mostly legal things with animals and Chappelli having various types of laughs, have appeared many gems. This includes Bernard Whimpress’s hen’s tooth like ‘The South Australian Football Story’ and Ashley Mallett’s autobiography, ‘Spin Out’, which is worth it for the back cover alone.


There was also pretty much every book Gideon Haigh has ever written. All for the price of a few minutes in the work-house. Part of me sincerely hopes that these books’ owner has recently shuffled off the mortal coil; nothing personal, mind. I just can’t imagine looking at that well curated collection and thinking I no longer wanted it. Naturally it was my duty to offer all these wonderful books a new home and I can confirm they have settled into the bookcase nicely.

Today I finished reading Haigh’s ‘The Border Years’, his 1994 summary of the bloody wonderful career of the bloody wonderful Allan Border. As you would expect it is a brief but nuanced investigation of the way Border transformed his own leadership and Australian cricket in the process.

I was taken with what a tough job it must be to come up with new ways to describe an innings. Particularly when you’ve got 265 test and 252 ODI innings to work with. Of course it turns out Haigh’s pen is as mighty as Border’s Duncan Fearnley and he passes the description test with his usual aplomb.

Here is an almost complete list of the way he describes Border’s innings in the book:

Haigh descriptions of Border innings

A ‘grizzled 69’ and a ‘kill or cure 110’ – great, right?

Cricket isn’t the only sport where there is a need to find new ways to describe common things (wins, losses, goals etc) and there is only one Gideon Haigh doing the rounds (surprising ‘The Boys from Brazil’ remake notwithstanding). So, who else makes an art form of this and where should a thesaurus be liberally applied?

Personally, I think people need to come up with different ways to describe a footy player’s sudden influence on a game other than ‘All of a sudden Garry McIntosh was everywhere’. Let’s find new ways to describe it and many other things in our world of sport in 2016 with Gideon as our guide.

About Dave Brown

Upholding the honour of the colony. "Play up Norwoods!"


  1. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    I’m envious that you found Bernard’s book. I knocked back the chance to buy one for $40 down Brighton Road way; bet you paid a lot less than that.

    I’ve found the Savers place near where I’m now working to be a similar gold mine. On the one day I picked up 70s books by Thommo, Redders, Stacky and your Rowdy book. There’s a couple of Gideon’s that I’m keeping my eye on (the 07 and 09 Almanacs are looking a bit unloved). The main difference is that you seem to be reading yours, mine are just decorations so far. They might get a run once I finish Elvis Costello’s book.

    Nothing beats “bundled out” for unimaginative descriptions of tennis losses; I wonder what Gideon could come up with?

  2. Back when KB commentated on the tele did anyone ever kick a goal that wasn’t “hammered home?”

  3. Dave Brown says

    One of the joys of the O-bahn, Swish. 30 uninterrupted minutes for the reading.

    And don’t get me started on ‘within x points’ when they mean ‘x points behind’. 5 points is within one goal or even one straight kick but it is not within five points. Comment Wally May…

  4. thecheese01 says

    Not sure what I enjoyed more out of “grizzled 69” or that photo. Death heat. Great read Dave. I’ll work on the Gary McIntosh description but on short notice “more possessions than the Ghostbusters franchise” has made me chuckle in the past. Perhaps “McIntosh is now trending” has a chance?

  5. Gideon Haigh says

    I wrote The Border Years at my kitchen table in eight days, Dave. I’m surprised it’s even intelligible. Glad it’s found a good home.

  6. Luke Reynolds says

    Like the bloody wonderful AB, this was a bloody wonderful read DB. Second hand bookstores are also bloody wonderful.

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