Sunday, June 18, 2017


The doyen of  Australian turf  writing and   commentary , Max Presnell , has a book  called   Good Losers  Die  Broke  ready   to  sprint  out  of  the  starting box  next  month .
By Peter Simon
Max and  this scribe  were   cadet  reporters  on  the  newspaper , The Sun , Sydney,  back in the  l950s. The paper, sadly, ended up in the media knackery . His father ran the  popular  , very   busy  Doncaster Hotel , "a short stroll to "  the Randwick  Racecourse ,  where  some of the leading showmen  who  fielded at the Royal Easter Show  were "stabled " .  Young  Max   was  given free   tickets  to  attend  sideshows, including  boxing .

 In a recent  exchange of emails   between  us  we reminisced  ; he  well remembered the   colourful  Chinese  boxing  identity Rud  Key ,  " a  top fighter ",  from the  North Queensland  mining  town of  Ravenswood ,    who  sold tickets at the entrance   to the  Sharman Boxing Troupe  tent ,   mentioned  in  this  blog . Max  said  he  had seen  a photograph  of  Rud  in  a  book  a  long time ago  ... the hunt is on .

In his inimitable  style , Max  recalled  a  tense  episode in London involving gentlemen of the press , including  Kiwi reporter  Les (Slasher, also Thrasher )  Wilson ,  now residing  in  Queensland , known for  going  the  knuckle in various locations, including  Darwin, where he occasionally saved the Northern Territory News  edior  , Jim Bowditch , from  a   pub  scrap, one  memorable  thumping  partly  over  poor baby  turtles being  bombed  by  the  heartless  RAAF on  Quail Island  which resulted in  an  Irishman hitting the deck at the rear of  the Victoria Hotel .


We were having a drink at the Kangaroo Paddock in London around 1962 with Russell McPhedran (photographer) and Peter Curtain (formerly Melbourne Herald) when a huge Aussie dentist who could have packed down for South Sydney took exception to Slasher because a girl in his party was paying too much attention to him. Frothing at the mouth, the dentist, who had  five mates of the same size and temperament, had to be subdued by  the staff.

The manager, Kenneth J. Warren, an Aussie actor in London at the time, said he would give us five minutes start before  he let  them out of the cage. McPhedran being small and Curtain having limited footwork, I suggested  a   dignified retreat as  we were outgunned on every front.

Slasher would have none of it ,and was prepared to stand alone."Well," I decreed. "We will all get a good hiding." On being unleashed the dentist went to water. Slasher gave him a deserved verbal bake and when one of  his seconds attempted to break  it down Curtain interrupted:"Keep a mug's place or  I'll knock you right out". It was the only aggression I'd ever heard from him in over 40 years.

Max  continued...In my dotage I've been reflecting on what happened to some of my  mates. You went off  the radar and I note that you are now on Magnetic Island. You always had  an appetite for water and wilderness, partly referring to  me working  at Halvorsen's Boatshed , Bobbin Head .  I  can still recall your  tales of   crocodiles  in  dry creeks  from  the  Northern Territory days.

Max  now  writes a  weekly column for the  Sydney Morning Herald and  does a  podcast  for  ABC Radio National. 

UPCOMING : A racing anecdote  which  almost certainly will not be  mentioned in  the  Presnell  book .