Crio’s Q: Sporting All-Rounders

Boxing and Rugby League – now there are two sports where hyperbole rains like confetti.”Rabbs” Warren should call them both.

“Thugby”, as it has been decried, has been known for some stoushes, but the link between the sports has been dubiously legitimised recently.

“The Man” Mundine was a genuine League star and is now a boxing notable. Now, as manager, he’s declared Union convert and boxing protege Sonny Bill Williams the next Ali!

Despite this rubbish, it is quite an achievement by Sonny Bill to combine All-Black aspirations with pro-Boxing.

Such “all-rounders” are rare in today’s sporting landscape.

Who are the great all-rounders, past and present? And who, perhaps, could be?


  1. Elyse Perry is a wonder, though also, perhaps, confirmation that women’s sport is generationally apart from men’s (?).
    Nevertheless, look at her CV thus far. Go Elyse!!

  2. Derek Chadwick champion wingman for East Perth and WA. Opening batsman for WA. In fact for a while his opening partner was fellow East Perth star Ken McAullay. And at an earlier time Swan Districts star Keith Slater.

    Ric Charleswoth. Stubborn opening batsman for WA and best hockey player ever. Great fieldsman too.

    And I just glanced over my shoulder to view trophies I’ve won for cricket, footy, tennis, soccer and…… darts.

  3. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rocket says

    Keith Ross Miller – Test cricketer, St Kilda, Victorian & NSW football, daring WWII fighter pilot, punter, and dashing, debonair man-about-town – Nuggett had it all, plus he could mix with the princes and paupers (and Princesses!!!)

  4. Mick Jeffrey says

    There are way too many League players that adapted to Union and vice versa, the best may even be Brad Thorn who won premierships with the Brisbane Broncos and played for Queensland in League, and represented the All Blacks in Union (and may be packing down for this year’s World Cup).

    Of course, we know about Mike Pyke who’s claim to fame in Union was scoring a 90m intercept try for Canada against the All Blacks in Hamilton a few years ago.

    The Bulldogs had a bloke in the 30’s named Ambrose Palmer on the books. The same Ambrose Palmer who won a national boxing title (not sure which weight)

    There have been a number of basketballers that have tried their hand at footy like Dean Brogan who’s won titles with the 36ers and Port Adelaide. But the one all-rounder from NBA ranks that comes to mind is Charlie Ward. Ward won a Heissman Trophy for being the best College Football player in the mid 90’s, yet didn’t get drafted. He would then switch to Basketball, and was the starting Point Guard when the New York Knicks made the finals in 1999 (they got done by San Antonio 4-1, Andrew Gaze was edged out for the last roster spot for the Spurs by Gerard King but still got a ring).

    One other from America was Deion Sanders. He played baseball for the Cincinatti Reds (amongst others) and was a star defensive and special teams player for the Dallas Cowboys in the 90’s.

    And a mediocre all rounder…..Tennis Pro turned Golf Pro Scott Draper.

  5. Peter Bedford
    Craig Bradley

  6. Kevin Joseph Aloysius “Chuck” Connors

    2 Seasons with Boston Celtics in the mid 40’s

    Spent late 40’s early 50’s with MLB ‘s Brooklyn Dodgers & Chicago Cubs (not sure the Cubs teams he played for were MLB standard unfortunately)

    Lets not forget Rifle Man, Thrill Seekers, Roots


  7. Peter Flynn says

    Jim Thorpe:
    Olympic gold medals for the 1912 pentathlon and decathlon.
    Played pro gridiron, baseball and basketball.

    Eddie Charlton
    Snooker, billiards, rugby league, surfing, cricket and boxing.

    Charles (C.B.) Fry
    Played cricket and football for England. FA Cup Final for Southampton.
    Equaled the long jump world record and was also a top sprinter.
    Rugby union for Oxford and the Baabaas.
    Possessed a party trick of jumping backwards onto a mantelpiece from a standing position. This was mentioned by Stephen Fry on QI.

    Bradman was handy at tennis, squash and golf.

    Sobers played exceptional golf as a left-hander. And as a right-hander.

  8. John Butler says

    Mildred “Babe” Didrikson

    Star of track and field, golf and basketball back in the 30’s & 40’s.

  9. Denis Compton

  10. Jim Thorpe was a legend.

    At Stockholm in 1912, so the story goes, King Gustav fell in love with him and held a massive reception where he stood Jim (an indigenous American) on the stage and proceeded to laud him from the lectern. At the end of King Gustav’s long speech Jim was supposed to move forward and reply. He didn’t. Eventually he was ushered forward and when he got to the lectern, he gathered his thoughts. He paused, and then delivered one of THE great speeches of all time.

    “Thanks King” he said. And walked off.

  11. As it is Superbowl week, a couple from US sports…
    Bo Jackson (late 1980s):
    Major League Baseball for Kansas City Royals, and NFL with L A Raiders.
    Deion Sanders (early 1990s):
    2 Superbowls (49ers & Cowboys), Baseball with numerous teams including the Yankees & Braves.

  12. Forgot to mention Michael Jordan:
    As a basketballer: arguably the greatest of all time.
    As a baseballer: arguably the greatest basketballer of all time.

  13. And in the same vein (sorry Crio!):
    Rolfe Harris: champion wobble-board player, champion schoolboy swimmer!

  14. As a two-year-old the colt raced in Tasmania, where his name was Bagot. He won on three different tracks, but was then sold on the mainland for 500 guineas to J.O. Inglis, who changed the colt’s name to Malua.[2]

    In 1884, Malua won the Newmarket Handicap (6 furlongs / 1,200 metres) and Oakleigh Plate (5.5 furlongs / 1,100 metres) carrying 9 st 7 lb (60 kg; 133 lb). Malua’s jockey set a precedent when he took him to the outside (grandstand side) rail to win the Newmarket, a tactic not used before. The term “Malua’s track” was coined to name that portion of the Flemington Racecourse.

    After a trip to Sydney, where he won the Spring Stakes, Malua returned to Melbourne for the 1884 Caulfield Cup, in which he carried 9 st 12 lb (63 kg; 138 lb). He was not placed but finished strongly and convinced his connections to run him in the Melbourne Cup. He won the Melbourne Stakes and became favourite for the big race. Carrying 9 st 9 lb (61 kg; 135 lb), Malua fought out the finish with Commotion (9 st 12 lb) to win by half a length. Two days later he won the six furlong weight-for-age Flying Stakes on Oaks Day.[2]
    Malua…Australia’s thoroughbred all-rounder.

    Malua had a marvellous constitution and in 1886 carried 9st 9lb to win the Australian Cup. In 1888 he was switched to jumping, not so unusual in those days and he won the VRC Grand National Hurdle, ridden by his owner, Mr J.O.Inglis. Malua continued racing combining it with his stud career until 1889.
    This was an extraordinary horse that was able to carry heavy weights and defeat the best racehorses in top sprint and staying races.
    p.s. He sired winners of an Adelaide Cup and a Caulfield Cup. No “cooton wool” champs back then!

  15. sorry for stuffed formatting. Malua is an equine all-rounder at the top level.

  16. Damo Balassone says

    Re Jim Thorpe, it’s well worth watching “Jim Thorpe, All American” with the great Burt Lancaster playing the lead.

  17. Botham fits here. He was a competent soccer player and outstanding all-round cricketer.

  18. Peter Flynn says

    Supposed pugilist and wrestler to boot.

  19. Mark Schwerdt says

    And in the SA Great category

    Barrie Robran (I saw one of his few innings for SA)

    Neil Hawke

    Eric “Fritzy” Freeman

    Vic Richardson – Richardson was a gifted sportsman and excelled in other sports besides cricket and Australian rules football, including baseball (national and state representative), golf (state representative), tennis (state title winner), lacrosse, basketball and swimming (thanks Wikipedia)

  20. from The Guardian

    Chris Balderstone
    Football and cricket
    Combining professional football and cricket hardly distinguishes Balderstone. What does make him unique is the day in September 1975 when he turned out for Leicestershire during the morning and afternoon and for Doncaster Rovers in the evening. After a night’s rest, he returned to the crease to complete the most unlikely of centuries against Derbyshire and take three for 28 in a match his team won with five minutes to spare. After celebrating Leicestershire’s first county championship title, he ran out for Doncaster again the following Saturday. Balderstone became a first-class umpire on retirement. He died in 2000.

  21. It was in the same sport but Emile Zatopek was one of the greatest of all time – won the 5000, 10,000 and marathon in the one Olympics – 1952. Incredible.

  22. lee donovan says

    I know he was mentioned before but was Bradman once Aust squash champion.

  23. Lee, SA champ I believe…not National. Probably didn’t have the opportunity rather than skill.

  24. Graeme Watson.

    Todd Breman.

    Earl Spalding.

    Mick Malone.

    Bruce Duperouzel.

  25. I’d forgotten SuperDuper. Gets a run in “Golden Boy”.
    What was “The Earl” Spalding’s credits?

  26. Earl opened the bowling for WA. I watched one day at the WACA when Earl and Bruce Reid opened up… he was quick.

  27. Thanks Les. If you don’t ask you don’t learn.
    In another era Mitch Marsh would be prominent in this thread.

  28. Geoff March played five games for South Fremantle in 1978.

    And that reminds that Tim Zoehrer played a few games for East Fremantle.

  29. I mean Marsh

  30. A couple of other cricketing footballers (or vice versa):

    – Simon O’Donnell played 24 games for St Kilda (Keith Miller played 50)
    – The Big Ship, Warwick Armstrong played 18 games for South Melbourne (including the 1898 Grand Final)
    – (And SK Warne played U19s for St Kilda. There must’ve been something in the air around Albert Park Lake.)
    – Geoff Parker played cricket for Victoria and three games for Essendon

  31. Doug Gott and Robert Rose played cricket for Victoria and both cricket and football for Collingwood. Billy Picken just played for Collingwood (football and cricket).

  32. my first visit to the MCG was for a grade cricket game in about 1977 or 78. Hawthorn half forward flanker John Hendrie was a quick bowler for, I think, Hawthorn.

  33. Ed Carmine says

    As an AB’s fan first off good luck to SBW.

    – Jonty Rhodes (cricket and Hockey – Both for South Africa)
    – Robert Harvey(grade cricket for Fitzroy as well as 383 games in the VFL/AFL)

  34. Ray Lindwall also played 1st grade RL with St george.

  35. # 30:
    Jamie Siddons could also be added to your list…

  36. Andrew Fithall says

    Geoff and Darryl Cunningham, Gary Odgers, Jeff Dunne and Russell Tweeddale were all St Kilda footballers from Ballarat who also played State level basketball as juniors (up to under 20 level.

    Also from Ballarat, Stewart Gull, the brother of elite basketballer Robyn Maher, played football for South Melbourne and Melbourne and was also a competitive boxer.

  37. Sam Loxton was a prolific goalkicker back in the 40s for the Saints and also played Test cricket for Australia.

  38. lee donovan says

    George Young I think scored a century for WA in the final game of the season to secure the sheffield shield also a pretty handy footballer

  39. My votes go to Karmichael Hunt and Israel Folau. Whether they succeed or not, I applaud anyone that for whatever reason, gives NRL the flick in preference to AFL which is the real A league.

  40. Good for you Magpiefanatic. Footy has the word football (as it should in Melbourne) and now you want to claim the name of soccer’s elite Australian competition as well. And while you’re at it you want to give Rugby League the flick. You’re not pursuing a monoculture are you?

    Hunt and Folau represent the worst of code-switching. They are doing it for money and they’ve been encouraged by an AFL wanting to expand it’s market share. Very little of it is about sport. Your post actually insults those skilled individuals who’ve managed to excel in two sports for the sheer joy of it all.

  41. My my, you misinterpreted what I was trying to say Ian. In an attempt to defend myself I reply with the following:

    I was merely joshing about Folau & Hunt, stating in a jocular fashion that I detest NRL and I was only saying AFL is the real A league, in the sense that it is the #1 code of footy in this country.

    I was in no way intending to insult anyone, skilled or otherwise. If I have upset any NRL people so be it. I am tired of NRL mentality with their mundane, repetitive drivel in calling AFL, GAY FL, Aerial Ping Pong and the like. I am also sick of the paranoid pro NRL media in NSW & QLD who go on and on with this perceived ‘war’ between the NRL and AFL.

    The only AFL news in the Sydney papers over the past 3 months has been all the negative negative stuff, Fevola followd by the constant St Kilda dramas. Not a word on how the Swans and GWS are preparing or faring. GWS only gets a mention when they go on about the ‘war’ theory.

    Now that I have gone completely off topic…I will say no more

  42. Not much burley req’d Ian!
    Would you accept Rex Hunt as footballer and fisherman?

  43. Politics is sport, isn’t it? If so may I cite:

    Justin Madden
    Imran Khan
    and Jesse “The Body” Ventura

    Back to the real game: Has Warnie been acknowledged here?

  44. Rick, you conceding Poker as a sport?

  45. Mmm, I’ll have to hedge my bets on that one. Still, worth considering.

    I paused, reflecting on my father who was a pretty good golfer (4 handicap at his best; first hole in one at Drouin GC), top notch pool player, trained with South Melbourne and couldn’t be beaten at Hookey. But Poker? The jury’s out.

  46. Rick,
    Part of a very long story….. We ended up at a two-up school near Jens’ pub in Mt Gambier one June (freezing, Epsom Derby night mid way thru the then 3 day Carnival)when the police arrived with noise complaints. “No appreciation of sportsmen”, commented the host!
    I tended to be a “sport needs a ball” philosopher…helping my dismissal of swimming amongst other dubious claimants.
    Betting needed horses or cards in those simpler days. Or flies crawling up a wall.

  47. #36
    was it one of those Cunnihgham boys from Ballaarat who drove trotters as well?

  48. Magpiefanatic/Rod — I don’t see much AFL bashing on this site — just a general sense of tolerance and plurality and an obvious and appropriate leaning to footy. Maybe you should take your fight to the heinous Sydney tabloids. It’s wasted here.

  49. #48 Ian
    I have read alot of your commentary on this site and have found you to be very even handed in your approach. I’m not sure what has irked you with Magpiefan/Rods views. I do feel that he wasnt ever trying to have a crack at NRL. He was simply pointing out that NRL players are moving across the divide and signing with AFL teams. When an NRL team has the capacity to entice an AFL player to do the reverse I will shout the bar at The Clyde for a week [*conditions apply].
    I was in Sydney last autumn when the SMH ran an expose on the parlous nature of capital and assets held by all of the warring parties in RL [NRL, NSWRL, QRL, NSW Country RL, Queensland Country and (its true) the ARL, which has nothing to offer anyone about anything but continues to exist like a sucker fish on an ailing toad fish, et al. In total the RL industry made the AFL Kangas & Dogs look affluent.
    The SMH very rightly compared that mess with the highly corporatised AFL which is cash, cashflow and asset rich but also extremely aware that the family in the outer or the loungeroom is still relevant. The AFL is not the perfect model but compared to the NRL and its sycophantic media [or is that owners] and Cricket Australia and its spinning numbnuts, the AFL tracks pretty well.

  50. #43 Rick. Even if I accept your definition of politics as sport I am not sure that your nominations fit Crio’s criteria. To be an all rounder you have to be reasonably good at both sports. Madden did quite a good job with the Commonwealth Games but his performance as Planning Minister was an absolute Barry Crocker. It was one of the factors that cost Brumby the last elections.

    I’m not a student of Pakistani politics but Imran Khan seems to have had a lot less impact as a politician than he did as a cricketer.

    Very few footballers have suceeded in politics. Phil Cleary acheived a bit as an Independent, Brian Dixon did a pretty good job launching the Life Be In It campaign in the seventies and Nipper Tresize was a fair Minister of Sport in the eighties but that is probably it.

  51. Alovesupreme says

    If I haven’t missed him somewhere, I’m surprised Max “Tangles” Walker hasn’t got a guernsey, as he wore one in 93 matches for the Dees, Lesser cricketers from an earlier era, were notablke footballers Alan Aylett and Neil Crompton who both represented Victoria (opening bats?). Neil Crompton was quite a good footballer but he’s doomed to be remembered for a single kick which won Melbourne the 1964 premiership. It was particularly noteworthy because in those times of rigid team line-ups, he was playing back pocket, and had followed his man down the ground to arrive at centre half forward, normally a heinous crime to be so far from one’s designated playing position.

  52. Max Walker played 85 games for the Dees. Unless you are counting reserves games. And speaking of the Melbourne rezzies – I think, but it could be apocryphal, that Brad Hodge played one game for the Dees’ twos.

  53. Peter Flynn says

    Vale D Baldock.

    From M Flanagan in this morning’s Jimmy Page:

    Baldock was a gifted all-round sportsman, representing Tasmania as a batsman in cricket and becoming a successful racehorse trainer.

  54. Didn’t list coaching!?

  55. #49. Chalkdog — no question that footy is run well in a corporate sense (and a number of other senses).

    I guess I think code-switching (for money only) is a kind of betrayal. I expect Hunt and Folau to fail and this failure will mean a net loss for both codes. If they succeed they will make footy look like a game any old body could pick up. I wonder what that will do for the kids playing footy through the pathways. I see the enticement of RL players as a big slap in the face for them.

    Imagine if some mega-rich idiot had offered Gary Ablett five times the Gold Coast money to play soccer with Melbourne Heart and he’d accepted. Now imagine if I said, “My vote goes to Gary Ablett. Whether he succeeds or not, I applaud anyone who for whatever reason, gives footy the flick in preference to soccer which is the real football.”

    As a footy fan, you would be annoyed by that sentence, I imagine. Perhaps that enables you to undertand why I (as a soccer and RL fan) was a bit miffed by the original version.

    This is why I was sure Rod was having a real crack at RL. My apologies if I’ve misread his post.

  56. Flynnie,
    I loved Stuey’s response to being nominated as a Legend at the Saints. Triple Brownlow, team of the century and only premiership centreman, he was sincere in saying that he was not worthy….there was only ever one St. Kilda legend – The Doc.

  57. #55 Ian
    Hypothesising about G Ablett jnr playing soccer ahead of AFL is quite alarming. Mainly bacause its not your call what code he plays [or mine].
    My reality is that its mainly RL players who are taking the bucks and running [to Union, AFL and UK/Euro RL clubs] at a rate of knots. Only hasbeen AFL hacks [like Glenn Manton] talk up the change of code/sport thing.
    And RL is a mess. ALeague is doing its best to stay viable and RU is OK. Cricket is in limbo. Baseball is weird and basketball is a game kids should play alot but adults should be banned from playing.

    I really lost interest in soccer about 25 years ago watching Arsenal v Leceister @ Highbury play out a dull 1-0 game. Arsenal scored in first 10 mins and that was it. Paint would dry more attractively.

  58. Chalk,
    Those were awful games at “boring, boring, arsenal” but I still enjoyed the edge…pretty wild days in English Football then!
    GAblett would be fine. Never off-side when you just run around behind a ball winner to receive!

  59. Crio
    and on that very day I wanted to go to see West Ham v Liverpool {3-4 with the visitors getting the last 3] at Im forever blowing bubbles land…but no, all the experts said youll never get in and the violence. Its burned in my brain that the Sunday papers commented on the alarmingly small crowd and the complete lack of agro..probably because the game was worth watching.

  60. Don’t remember that game specifically….my main haunts were Stamford Bridge (The Shed) and Loftus Road.

  61. 43 / 53
    Doc was also a state Labour politician.

  62. 60. Crio,
    this has nothing to do with the topic, but…
    A mate of mine from Burnley tells a great yarn about the time he and some mates were at a huge Cup tie, fifth round or something. The ball gets booted into the crowd, more specifically into my mate’s arms. Quick as a flash he pulls out a texta from his pocket and autographs the ball before throwing it back onto the pitch. The rest of the match is played out with my mate’s signature clearly visible on the ball, and the t.v. commentator continually ruminating over which dignatory/ celebrity etc has signed the ball prior to play, and the sheer inappropriateness of it all.

  63. Chalkdog

    RL players are hardly running to AFL. The big fish (Inglis) would have been the third and I think he saw the stupidity of the idea.

    Also RL players *are* going to RU and they *are* returning after a big payday. Not sure that the picture you paint of rats leaving the stinking ship is on the money.

    The main reason Ablett would never leave footy is because he’s pretty good at it and he’s committed to the game (but not the club?) I suppose. At present he’s in the top 5 players. If he went to soccer (god forbid) he be in the second 50,000. So, yes, it’s an absurd hypothesis — but since when were hypothesese supposed to be realistic?

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