Almanac Book Review: ‘Stories for Harry & Ray’ by Michael Sexton



Michael Sexton’s latest book is dedicated to his grandfathers Harry and Ray, both of whom helped the author become a journalist.


This collection of over forty short stories has a dominant South Australian sporting theme, but Sexton also lends his very engaging touch to encounters with Muhammad Ali, Alex Jesaulenko and George Best.


Opening the batting through a yarn with Neil Kerley at his home on the banks of the Murray, stories about well known subjects such as Doug Nicholls, Ken Farmer, Peter Darley and Geof Motley are leavened with interesting facts uncovered by Sexton.


On the other hand, stories about the likes of Neil Davies, Glynn Williams, Mick Rivers and Graham Nicholls are fascinating reads, despite the reader perhaps having little prior knowledge of the subjects.


An afternoon with Grenville Dietrich unfolds at an unlikely venue, where the conversation ranges from Adelaide’s best value schnitzels to a Tuesday night state game at Footy Park in 1986.


Tennis is given a good run. An extended piece on Barry Phillips-Moore is another highlight, would appeal to both South Australians of a certain age (mine and beyond) but also to those who would be unaware of his career across three decades. The extra mile that the author takes with his subjects provides Stefanos Tsitsipas a chance to reconnect with his grandfather’s Olympic Games achievements.


Bradman and Hookes are obvious cricket inclusions at first glance, but yet again Sexton uncovers some new perspectives. Tales of Stan Wilson, Barry Jarman and Bhagwat Chandrasekhar are brimful of thoughtful insights from a human rather than just a sporting angle. The Jeff Hammond and Duleep Mendis pieces are a joy to read. Lionel Tennyson was a name new to me, but Sexton weaves an absorbing story of his SA origins into his fuller life story. The story of South African Athol Rowan’s Test cap and how it came into Sexton’s possession is yet another high point.


A section entitled ‘ANZAC’ is beautiful to read. I was not familiar with former West Adelaide player Mark McGrath at all, more power to Sexton for bringing it to life. Bob Quinn’s legend cannot be overlooked either.


George Best’s night out at an Elizabeth pub is a rollicking tale as Sexton reminisces with two of his South Australian opponents from one night in 1967, Nilo Rusalen and Peter West.


Historian John Lysikatos and his encounters with Ian Chappell, the grandson of John’s recent subject Vic Richardson rounds out this uplifting collection.


The theme of Stories For Harry and Ray is humanity as displayed through sport – Sexton has delivered this in spades. This is not just a book for those with an interest in South Australian sport. Readers will find a multitude of very readable, very rewarding pieces.


Thanks Harry. Thanks Ray.


Thanks Michael Sexton.



(Copies can be purchased from




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About Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt

Saw my first SANFL game in 1967 - Dogs v Peckers. Have only ever seen the Dogs win 1 final in the flesh (1972 1st Semi) Mediocre forward pocket for the AUFC Blacks (1982-89) Life member - Ormond Netball Club -That's me on the right


  1. A considered and thoughtful review Swish. ‘Stories for Harry & Ray’ is story telling at its best and like all of Sexton’s work, deserves a large audience.

  2. Kevin Densley says

    Nicely put together review, Swish, with a touch of elegance in the prose. Made me want to have a look at the book concerned.

  3. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Thanks Barry

    Ta KD – you are probably unaware that A Touch of Elegance immediately evokes Sir Les Patterson for many Croweaters.

  4. Hayden Kelly says

    Bought the book when it was published last year .It is a good read even for a non Croweater like myself .It has my recommendation

  5. Daryl Schramm says

    I look forward to purchasing and combining.

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