Rabbitohs, Rusty, and Sydney Boys High again!

On Facebook I am, unsurprisingly, a member of the SBHS Old Boys’ Union Group. Last night a post on it being 25 years since the GPS Regatta was held on the Nepean at Penrith came up. I added my two cents worth: ” I am ancient enough to have seen SHS win the Head of the River — twice!” Which is true: 1957 and 1959.


1959: Bow, P W Shenstone; 2, I J Stewart; 3, I D Toll; 4, A J Skinner; 5, J A Campbell; 6, G F Cohen; 7, S R McGill; Stroke, W L Young; Cox, R G Caddy; Coach, A R Callaway, Esq

Last night too, I should add, the South Sydney Rabbitohs had a famous victory over the St George Illawarra Dragons. Yes, there is a connection — via Russell Crowe! Though born in New Zealand, Rusty did go to Sydney High as a boy. Here he is:


In that lovely 1994 movie The Sum of Us, Rusty wore a Sydney High Rugby jersey in the opening moments.

As you may have observed in that trailer. But here is a screen shot in case you missed it.

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I remember the wonderful Tony Hannon telling me about the day Rusty came back to the school to get that jersey.

Now as any  Bunnies fan knows, Russell Crowe is Rabbitohs through and through. What I didn’t know is that he tried to insert the Sydney High motto — veritate et virtute — into The Gladiator! Hat tip fellow Facebook SHS Old Boys’ member Drew Laidlaw Hoare, who wrote: “I’d heard many times the Russell Crowe ‘Veritate et Virtute’ Gladiator story, but had never seen the footage. Here’s the explanation for those interested:”

The relevant bit is in the first few minutes of that. But that is not all.  Drew went on: “There was also talk of him putting the motto on South Sydney Rabbitohs kit at one point but can’t find it. Here is a shot of him with it on the back of a jumper.”


And Rowing lives on at SBHS!

Music and natural beauty

I find Andre Rieu, the darling of many a person of my age, more than a touch saccharine. However, I am about to post TWO from his oeuvre! And the first is also Chinese! It is 經典名曲恩里克·托賽里《夜鶯小夜曲》- 安德烈·瑞歐樂團演奏 believe it or not! That is, Enrique Tosselli “Nightingale Serenade” performed by the André Rieu Orchestra.

The second Andre Rieu offering is the unofficial national anthem of New Zealand, with some lovely pics backing it.

Back to China, and the amazing Yellow Mountain, 黄山 Mt Huangshan — an area well known to my friend Michael Xu.  When I first saw paintings like this I thought that can’t be real — but wait until you play the video. It will be the most beautiful thing you see today, even given the beauty of the other two videos.


I’m in a Sydney High nostalgia state of mind…

You could think these are evidence of a student uprising at my old school and (much later) workplace!

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Not so! (The upper floor windows there by the way — one set is where my ESL headquarters were in 2000.)

They are stills from a 2014 video created by a then Year 9 student. On Facebook I said in posting it:

6 years ago — so quite a few here aren’t teenagers any more!

But also 9 years after I retired from active service at the old place. And now that is 15 years ago, and even scarier when I go back to my time as a student — well, 65 — SIXTY-FIVE — since I started there! I have become the ancient of days! How did that happen?

Yet I really am there in spirit, and that isn’t just the cliche of Old School Tie. I was never really one for that. All I know is there are some even on my Facebook list who will know exactly what I am talking about, and the majority of those who have linked to me on Facebook are certainly not crusty old conservatives.

One of them founded Get-Up! for heaven’s sake! So don’t jump to conclusions.

So I unashamedly revel in seeing these places that have been such a part of my 77 years! And take a little pride that I helped in the transition towards an affirmation that cultural diversity in the old place ain’t a bad thing after all, that inclusiveness and tradition can work together.

1950 Grounds 3

Have to note though that basketball courts on The Flat is a touch newfangled! Oh — and I checked “The Record” 2014. The maker of this video, Jason Huo, was in Year 9 at the time!

I would say they were working towards some major sporting event — a GPS one no doubt.  I have also seen video of a GPS Swimming Carnival where the drum and cheer squad — or a similar one — feature. (In fact it is pre-GPS Athletics!)

Meanwhile, see what you make of it. Oh, and the rather splendid grounds hark back to the site’s earlier role as the Sydney Zoo! You even see the famous Bear Pit at one stage.

NOTE: “And take a little pride that I helped in the transition towards an affirmation that cultural diversity in the old place ain’t a bad thing after all, that inclusiveness and tradition can work together.”

See for example For the record: the great SBHS race debate of 2002. See also Mossie matters, Aussie matters and The Mine and the Islamists: cause for concern?

The Art of War

In a Facebook exchange yesterday on Trump, the West and China, Michael Xu mentioned The Art of War.


Many a leader across many a culture has studied the Chinese classic.

The Art of War is used as instructional material at the US Military Academy at West Point, in the course Military Strategy (470), and it is also recommended reading for Royal Officer cadets at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. Some notable military leaders have stated the following about Sun Tzu and the Art of War:

“I always kept a copy of The Art of War on my Desk,”  General Douglas MacArthur, 5 Star General & Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers in WW2.

“I have read The Art of War by Sun Tzu. He continues to influence both soldiers & politicians.” General Colin Powell, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, National Security Advisor, and Secretary of State.

Then I recalled that at SBHS way back in 2000 I was given the task of addressing parents of our students from language backgrounds other than English, especially those of East Asian background. Here is what I said. The issues of coaching and parental pressure were front of my mind. Note: there were other speakers/interpreters at the meeting, including a representative of the Korean community, and Ms Ursula Ng from the Advisory Centre for Australian Education. Her son, Yin Shum, was a student at SBHS in the 90s.

ESL and the Art of War — from my archives

A Talk to Bilingual Parents

I gave this talk at the first NESB Parent Night at Sydney Boys High in 2000.

There are times when I am quite proud to be an Australian. One of those times was late 1998 when I made friends with a backpacker named Kyohiko Kato from Sendai, Japan. Why was I proud? It was when he said he had come to Australia to develop an open mind: “big heart” is actually what he said. He went on: “When I came out of Sydney Airport and saw so many different sorts of people I knew I had come to the right place.” He was only visiting for one year and I suspect he had an open mind already!

Many people who come here to settle do so because here is different from their country of birth. Others come because their country of birth is no longer a good place to be. Others come to make money, or to give their family a better chance in life. There are all sorts of reasons. My great great-great grandfather came because the English Courts in Ireland told him to.

Whatever the reason, settling is never easy. I have read a letter written about 160 years ago by one of my ancestors. He said, “You know I don’t want to die in this country.” He did of course. A great-grandmother solved the problem by losing her mind and believing her home in Dulwich Hill was actually in the Lakes District of England.

Changing countries is an emotional thing. A Chinese friend was surprised to find that now, when in China, he feels Australian. Chinese people have even congratulated him on how well he speaks Chinese. But in Australia he feels Chinese. Here are your boys now. Here they are in a school and a school system that may be quite similar to, or very different from, what you knew, or what your friends and relations back home know. There is an interesting question: where is home?

Your language and culture aren’t just decorations: they are part of who you are. Australian governments officially recognise that now, and I hope more and more people understand it in practice. Your son’s future in Australia will be even brighter if he can be a complete person — one who knows where he has come from and is proud of it, but who also knows where he is and can move freely.

You want your son to do well. Everyone wants that, but maybe migrants want it even harder. So what do you do? How can you guarantee he will do well?

Well, there are no guarantees.

But there are some good ideas — and I have found some in a very old book that some of you will know. The book is old, but it is studied by soldiers and business students all over the world today. It is Sun Tzu’s The Art of War.

Sun Tzu says

The contour of the land is an aid to an army; sizing up opponents to determine victory, assessing dangers and distances, is the proper course of action for military leaders. Those who do battle knowing these will win, those who do battle without knowing these will lose.

Sun Tzu also says:

Therefore generals who know all possible adaptations to take advantage of the ground know how to use military forces. If generals do not know how to adapt advantageously, even if they know the lay of the land they cannot take advantage of it.

Jia Lin comments:

Even if you know the configuration of the land, if your mind is inflexible you will not only fail to take advantage of the ground but may even be harmed by it. It is important for generals to adapt in appropriate ways. These adaptations are made on the spot as appropriate, and cannot be fixed in advance.

I asked a student what I should tell parents tonight. He said: “Don’t say ‘Let your boys have fun and relax.’ They will just laugh at you.” He thought for a moment and then said, “Maybe you could tell them not to set goals their kids just can’t reach.” “Yes. I will tell them that,” I promised.

Well, now I’ve told you.

Don’t be afraid of setting goals. Don’t be afraid of encouraging your boys to work hard. But let us together learn the ground, and let us together — parents, students and teachers — make the right adaptations. Then we can win the battle.

Back to bushfires again….

Not literally today, which here in The Gong is particularly wet as we are experiencing the effects of the dreaded east coast low.

But you will recall that for almost six months from spring through summer the theme was bushfires. Here are just two pictures from that time, the first from November 2019, the second from December 2019.


Harrington NSW

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Dargan, near Lithgow NSW  — part of the Gospers Mountain fire


I raise all this because the ABC has an amazing online feature and set of documentary reports called Anatomy of a ‘mega-blaze’.

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That tree, deep in wild Wollemi National Park, was where it all began — struck by lightning, one strike out of 19.068 during a single spring storm.

“By the end of the Black Summer, the Gospers Mountain blaze accounted for half of the mega-blaze at 512,142ha, the Kerry Ridge blaze 323,900ha, the Little L Complex 169,834, the Three Mile fire 45,944ha, and the Grose Valley fire 19,920ha….”

Just before Christmas 2019:

With catastrophic conditions again forecast for December 21, Premier Berejiklian declared a second State of Emergency.

Thousands of firefighters were now in the field, as strike teams from interstate and overseas joined the battle.

“The first thing you experience is the ember attack,” Mr Burley said.

“It’s like a snowstorm but embers, and then the colour of the sky turns to orange, then dark.

“It’s like sitting in front of an oven.”

Volunteer firefighter Stacey Kent was with her RFS team on the fire’s southern flank, trying to stop it crossing the Hawkesbury River and making a run into Sydney’s northern suburbs.

“Just walls of flame, and like, as far as you could see, from the treetops to the sky was just orange, no matter where you looked,” she said.

“If it crossed the river, it was going to be catastrophic.”

By then, emergency management officials at all levels of government were planning for the worst.

The ABC can reveal extensive preparations were made to evacuate thousands of residents from Sydney’s Hornsby and Hills districts….


We became accustomed but not inured to signs like that over spring (that one is from spring!) and summer 2019-2020.  I had several relatives affected by this and other blazes — yes, there were other mega-blazes — including my cousin Ray Christison of Lithgow who wrote at the time:

“Big day for an old bloke. Thanks for everyone’s thoughts and support. I just want to clarify something. I’m not in the RFS and was working yesterday as a museum volunteer. I have considered joining the RFS over the years but know I would be allocated to a communications role.”


So do visit that latest ABC offering. I conclude with poet and Blue Mountains resident Mark Roberts who in commending the ABC site on Facebook said:

Remember how Andrew Bolt, Craig Kelly and the hordes of other experts claimed there was an army of arsonists moving across the country lighting magazines as a political act to prove Climate Change? The Gosper’s Mountain fire was started by lightning strike 19,068 in a single storm. Later strikes expanded the fire. I expect the apologies are already being written.

Further to Mark’s comment see Media Watch 3 February 2020.

ROWAN DEAN: Unprecedented bushfires? Unprecedented drought? No, this Australian summer has been the summer of unprecedented stupidity. Never before have we had to suffer such idiocy in public debate and political commentary, nationally and internationally, in relation to two of the most common and predictable occurrences in Australia’s climate cycle, drought and bushfires.  

– Outsiders, Sky News, 26 January, 2020

Hello, I’m Paul Barry, welcome to Media Watch.

And welcome to Groundhog Day, where the loudest voices at News Corp are adamant that the summer’s terrifying bushfires have nothing to do with climate change.

Or, if they have, there’s nothing we can do about it.

And, as always, welcome back to News Corp’s team of hand-picked, highly-paid columnists and TV hosts on Sky, who are leading the chorus:

PETA CREDLIN: So, let me deal with the issue head on. Does climate change cause these fires? No.

– Credlin, Sky News, 20 January, 2020

CHRIS KENNY: … So that’s the key. The drought. And if drought can’t be blamed on climate change you can’t blame the fires on climate change, especially when so many are deliberately lit …

– The Kenny Report, Sky News, 11 December, 2019

ALAN JONES: What’s burning in Victoria are eucalypts. What’s burning in South Australia are eucalypts … When are we going to wake up and stop using this as an excuse to justify the climate change hoax?

– Richo & Jones, Sky News, 29 January, 2019

Passionate denial that the bushfires should make us act on climate change runs right across the Murdoch media in this country reaching an audience of millions….

Yes, Alan Jones, that famous expert on bushfires and climate change, has now left radio 2GB and hawks his voice on Sky In The Dark where he displays his credentials on epidemiology and public health — all backed  by the same rigorous study. Not bad for a fellow BA Dip Ed! I envy him the depth and confidence he brings to those calm and rational conclusions on such knotty matters, as follows.

I have spared you the voice.

The longer politicians fail to mention the vast majority of all coronavirus cases are mild and over 99 per cent of people will recover, the longer “they will deserve the contempt that the public feels towards them” says Sky News host Alan Jones.

Mr Jones said the public are “ropeable and rightly so” over the handling of this virus by our political leaders. He said “Dodgy Dan” won’t answer the questions the public wants answers to.

Neither the Victorian Premier, nor NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, will tell the public “how many of these cases are mild and how many are critical”.

Mr Jones said the best way moving forwards is for Dan Andrews to “resign today,” but instead more fear is being spruiked, this time in the form of the wearing of face masks in the state.

He also added residents in New South Wales are being told to be on “high alert” by Premier Berejiklian. “Well I will tell you who is on high alert … the voter”.

Such ineffable wisdom! Oh bow down, people, before the Mighty Al! Rarely has so little been said so loudly to such maleficent effect!  He really is a master! Of crap….