The Big O: The Life and Times of Olsen Filipaina
‘Olsen was a pathfinder, the first to show what Polynesians could do, and he was the face of hope for his community. He was a great player who was misunderstood, and this is a very important book to explain his role in the Polynesian rise in rugby league.’
– Sir Graham Lowe
Early 1980’s Sydney was an overwhelmingly Anglo-Celtic and hyper-masculine city that was manifested by the working class game of rugby league. Today the largest group of players in the National Rugby League are Pasifika and Maori who have culturally upended the game through an exuberant and powerful playing style and introduced a new culture through music, religion, tribal tattoos and the remittance of large salaries back to New Zealand and the Pacific Islands for redistribution among extended families.
Five years after the abolition of the White Australia policy, a reluctant Maori-Samoan pioneer joined the Sydney competition and introduced a Polynesian culture and power game that would revolutionise the sport.
To fans he was ‘the Galloping Garbo’, a shy working-class hero who thrilled crowds for the Balmain Tigers and North Sydney Bears in between shifts as a garbage man. To opponents who dreaded facing his Polynesian power, he was a disrupter known as ‘The Big O’. To coaches and media critics, he was simply ‘Olsen the enigma’.
The Big O is the story of Olsen Filipaina, a New Zealand Hall of Fame rugby league legend who paved the way for the Pacific Revolution – the influx of Māori and Pasifika players who today dominate the NRL.
It tracks Olsen’s story from his rise out of working-class South Auckland to overcoming depression, racism and cultural dislocation in Sydney, to the Cinderella story of his success for the New Zealand Kiwis enabled by the culturally competent man management of coaching legend Sir Graham Lowe.
Forty years after Filipaina burst into the Australian rugby league scene, Skene’s biography relates the journey of a humble and principled man who overcame barriers to dethrone the greatest player of all.
On sale in Australia, $39.99 RRP
Published by Mower (an imprint of Upstart Press, New Zealand)
Book website: http://www.TheBigo.Kiwi