But it got me thinkin’, seeing as though they are all American it must be well with in my antipodean rights to make a similar list of Australia’s toughest athletes of all time. We’ll call it the Hard Arse Hall of Fame and I think you will find that many of its inductees stack up against our North American brothers.
Here are the first 3.
Clive Churchill - Rugby League Legend and Lunatic
Jesus H. Christ, where do I start. How about with his dimensions, height: 5 ft 8 Weight: 73kg. Any one who knows the game of rugby league will attest that the average height and weight of the men that participate in this psychotic sport is significantly greater than Clive’s stated line (try 5 or 6 inches taller and 20 to 30 kilos heavier). Couple this with the fact that Churchill played in an era where the legendary ‘softening up period’ (i.e. break as many peoples jaws as possible) was mandatory, and his level of toughness is unquestioned. Take the following story as a prime example of the little masters courage/lunacy. (Oh, and by the way, he is also considered to be the greatest and most skilled man to ever play the game, think the Michael Jordon of Rugby League).
In 1955 Manly were playing Clive’s South Sydney at a packed Redfern Oval. Souths needed to win the match in order to make the Semi Finals and were up against the team that had dominated the competition all season. Early in the first half, Churchill’s arm was snapped in two by yet another savage tackle against his threadbare frame. Clive, broken and now seemingly useless, would have to go off right? Wrong. In 1955 nothing healed a snapped arm like an aspirin, a cup of water and CARD BOARD taped around the offending limb! That’s right, ya’ll, Clive instructed his trainers to tape cardboard as a splint around his arm and he continued to play. But wait, of course there’s more!
As the full time siren sounded Souths scored. Still behind by a point the Rabbitohs required the conversion to be kicked in order to win the game and advance into the semi finals. And who do you think the teams goal kicker is? You guessed it, our Clive. After remonstrating with his coach and calling all his team mates pansies for suggesting he should not take the kick, Clive calmly placed the ball in the dirt stepped back and slotted the sideline conversion straight between the posts. His blood and sweat soaked cardboard splint still intact, Churchill collapsed with exhaustion and pain. The Rabbitohs went on to win the premiership, and Clive continued to play!*
Jack ‘Captain Blood’ Dyer – Australian Rules Football Nutcase
I don’t know about you, but that nick name says it all for me. However, if you need more evidence to back up my claim of Hard Arsedness, ‘Captain Blood’ has plenty to go around. There are numerous stories about Jack’s legendary toughness and maniacal approach to the game. He would famously use as an excuse his inability to ‘turn off’ or ‘ease up’ after he murderously charged into a crowd of players during a match. Unfortunately the group included many of his own team mates who would subsequently lie prostrate on the ground. Jacks aggression obviously straddled team loyalties.
Need more evidence? How about thinking he had killed a bloke during a match! Its true, not only did Jack himself think he had killed him, but the medical officers at the ground thought as much after they checked the poor blokes pulse then placed a blanket over his prone body (head and all, like in CSI) and stretchered it off. This being the 1940’s (that most sensitive of eras) the game continued, all the while ‘Captain Blood’ thinking he had taken the life of some unfortunate sod who dared get between him and the pil. Luckily at 3 quarter time Jack was informed that the gentleman had recovered enough to be taken to a hospital. ‘Captain Blood’, relieved and in high spirits, knocked out two more players during the final term.
of Jack Dyer can be lethal.
(Similar to Clive Churchill, ‘Captain Blood’ was not only considered an inhumanely tough player but one of the most skillful of his era.)
Rick McCosker - Cricketer and Genius (not really)
If you are Australian and a cricketing fan you will no doubt know the story I am about to regale you with. If you are not and/or not then you're in for one hell of a Hard Arsed treat. Batting in the 1977 Centenary test match versus England, McCosker's jaw was rudely smashed to pieces by a rather fired up English fast bowler by the name of Bob Willis. Rick, bloodied and dazed is led from the field and many thought Australia's chances of success seemingly walked off with him.
Ye of little faith.
During the second innings, Australia were in trouble at 8 wickets down for not many. Cometh the hour, Cometh the Hard Arse. McCosker, with a wired up jaw and bandaged head strode out to the crease to face the fast bowling onslaught (remember, this was in an era before sensible safety equipment i.e. helmets). He ended up scoring 25 out of the teams total of 138 and his courage/stupidity is largely attributed to Australia's remarkable victory.Bob Willis school of dentistry.
*There are so many Churchill stories it was hard to pick one, but honorable mention must go to the following tale. During a test match in the late 40's, Churchill was knocked unconscious in a heavy tackle. Heavily concussed he non the less got up and continued to play. Not wholly remarkable on its own, i admit, until you hear that Clive apologised to his coach after the match for not being able to play due to his unconsciousness. The coach then informed Clive that he had in fact played the entire match. Churchill had absolutely no recollection of being on the field. He thought he had been out cold for the entire time!
Kurtis J Ousley