When Phar Lap wasn’t busy winning Melbourne Cups and single-handedly feeding Australians during the 1930s depression, rumour has it the big-hearted chestnut once kicked hay in the face of strapper Tommy Woodcock.

Busted: Bradman was a head of his time but not always popular

That’s not to denigrate a legend, but to point out that the more oustanding the sporting superstar, the more likely they will have some kind of personality defect.

Overnight, journalist Ben Dorries broke the excellent story that players in the 1970s didn’t get along with Don Bradman, the cricket legend turned administrator widely regarded as the world’s greatest ever batsman. In fact, half the reason Kerry Packer’s breakaway World Series Cricket was so successful was because of anti-Bradman sentiment.

I never met Bradman, but I know several journalists and others who did, and many of them came away singularly unimpressed with the man. Again, that’s not to kick the proverbial hay in his face. Bradman was for the most part a deeply private man, who by most accounts spent as much time worrying whether he upset others as he did pondering the wounded egos of English bowlers.

In this respect, he can probably be classified as somewhere between dignified and a little abrupt. You decide. Either way, it’s who he was.

The interesting thing is, the more you look at the absolute top bracket athletes in any sport, or indeed the truly elite performers in any field, the more you see they all tend to have serious character flaws. From this, you can conclude one of two things.

Either a) they expended so much energy and time getting to the top that they simply didn’t have time to iron out some of their personality kinks along the way, or b) the success gene is an inherently flawed gene.

You might also throw in c) both of the above.

Believe me, I am never comfortable saying I have met this famous person or that famous person because it can come across as gratuitous self-aggrandisement. I’ll break that rule today and say I have spent time in a room with Shane Warne, Tiger Woods, David Beckham, Lance Armstrong and a host of other out-and-out sporting superstars over the years.

I met these people in the course of my work as a journalist, so again, let me say that I am not trying to seem important by association.

I merely list these names to say that each of these people are in their own way deeply flawed characters, and I think it’s no coincidence they were so bloody brilliant at what they did yet so imperfect as human beings.

All of us, of course, are a long way from perfect in our own special, quirky little screwed-up way.

But I think you can add a little emphasis to the word imperfect with sporting greats. Quite simply, brilliance in a field seems to sap people of some of the social nuance needed to get along in the world without pissing people off, or without making a goofball of yourself in one way or other.

Bradman was a religious man but was no saint. Who’s surprised? Not me. Who’s disappointed? Not me either.

Stumps will be called on comments on this post at 8pm AEST

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    • AFR says:

      01:19pm | 23/08/12

      Breaking news? Hardly. “Cricket in the 70s”, produced by the ABC years ago highlighted the players dislike of the Don, who treated the ACB like it was his own money. There have been several reports over the years that when he was playing, his teammates wanted little to do with him.

      It erminds of the new revelelation that Bowie and Jagger were getting it on - its only 30 year olf news.

    • SM says:

      02:06pm | 23/08/12

      old news indeed, dating back at least to when he passed away 10 odd years ago

    • Max Redlands says:

      02:31pm | 23/08/12

      @ AFR -yes that Bowie/Jagger story has been around forever and it’s also been discredited as being Angela Bowie (who started the story) doing some attention seeking. Same with claim that Jagger wrote “Angie” about her.

    • Inky says:

      01:21pm | 23/08/12

      So basically, I’m a terrible person because I’m awesome. I like it.

      Now I just need to find out what exactly it is I’m awesome at to get the fame and wealth that goes along with my disposition. I’m sure there’s something out there. Perhaps I need a reality TV show about my quest…

    • andrew says:

      01:22pm | 23/08/12

      of course if you talk about bradman in the 1970’s the average cricketer isn’t going to care for what he has to say - he would have been around 70 then. Yes they would respect his acheivements but would feel he should leave the game to the current players. I cannot think of a better current example of this than Dawn Fraser. Everytime she opens her mouth it is nothing more than a whinge about young people - shut up and get back to your retirement home.

    • Esteban says:

      01:26pm | 23/08/12

      The styory wasn’t “broken” yesterday.

      Over the years I have heard Ian Chappell in multiple interviews lay most of the blame for WSC at the feet of Bradman.

      Ian Chappell has never been shy about making negative comments about Bradman.

      Unfortunately we don’t have the benefit of Bradman’s perspective because he was largely silent on the matter.

    • JR says:

      02:01pm | 23/08/12

      Because Bradman was involved in the administration of the game,players may not have liked him,that is generally the way.Ian Chappell’s dislike of Bradman goes back to his Grandfather Victor Richardson who he played didn’t like.So Ian Chappell would have been a big influence on the players in the 70’s being the captain for several years.But he also hates Steve Waugh and John Buchanan two of the most significant figures in our resurgence in world cricket.After listening to Ian ‘know all’ Chappell for the last 30 years on channel 9 I think Bradman would have been better company.

    • Jay2 says:

      05:13pm | 23/08/12

      The truth may be on either side or somewhere in the middle who knows, but we don’t have the benefit of Bradman being here to be able to address the story or accusations.

      From what I understand, Bradman wasn’t part of the ‘boy’s club’ of drinking , but preferred the company of a select few and his family, so based on that he probably wan’t held with warmth.
      Maybe if he indulged in the how many beers can ya’ down on an o/s trip he would have been a legend in the ‘mates’ dept.

    • Little Joe says:

      07:29pm | 23/08/12

      @ Esteban

      Maybe someone was born yesterday

    • Josh says:

      01:27pm | 23/08/12

      “Overnight, journalist Ben Dorries broke the excellent story that players in the 1970s didn’t get along with Don Bradman…”

      This is the biggest hyperbole ever! Ben Dorris did what? He simply watched Howzat on Channel 9. This wasn’t a breaking story. Bradman’s unpopularity among his teammates and players when he was a selector is quite well known. If you don’t know that you don’t Australian Cricket.

    • JoniM says:

      02:43pm | 23/08/12

      Spot on Josh !

      As one of my friends regularly reminds me, if Bradman was supposed to be the best batsman ever, how come he never opened the batting ?
      His theory is that Arthur Morris is in fact the best batsman ever, as he spent his whole test carreer covering Bradman’s arse by opening the batting against the best bodyline bowlers, and on uncovered wickets, averaging 46 and with 12 tons,  all to make life easier for Bradman ! Any wonder Bradman was not that popular with his team mates as a player or as an administrator !

    • Scuba says:

      03:33pm | 23/08/12

      If Arthur Morris had been opening during Bodyline, he would have been 10 years old - while he was a great batsman, I think it’s unlikely he would have been in Australia’s best XI at the time.

      For the record, Morris made his debut in 1946 (2 years before the end of Bradman’s career) - the openers during the Bodyline series were Jack Fingleton, Bill Woodfull, Bill Ponsford and Vic Richardson.

    • Wisden says:

      03:34pm | 23/08/12

      @ JoniM…..Arthur Morris played test cricket between 1946 and 1955. The Bodyline series was 1932/33….Arthur Morris was10 years old.

      Bradman retired 2 years into Morris’ test career…so how Morris spent his whole career covering Bradman’s arse is beyond me.

      Traditionally, a teams best batsman comes in at number 3, not opening.

      There is very little in your post which is truthful…..but don’t let that get in the way of your rant….

    • Esteban says:

      03:54pm | 23/08/12

      Joni. Bradman didn’t open because it has been standard practice to play your best batsman at number 3.

      Your openers need to be technically good in defence but the man with the most expansive range of shots and can execute those shots goes in at number 3. It has been that way forever.

      All batsmen had to play on uncovered wickets. You could argue that if the game started dry and subsequently rained on uncovered wickets that the openers had the best of it.

      Bradman averaged 99 on the same uncovered wickets with more centuries.

      If my memory serves me correct Bradman averaged 48 in the bodyline series. Far and away the highest for the series and interestingly matching Morris’ career average your friend quotes.

      The whole purpose of bodyline was to negate Bradman. The didn’t devise bodyline to negate Morris.

    • PW says:

      06:20pm | 23/08/12

      The No 3 also has to be able to open because openers often get out cheaply. If you can’t face the new ball you can neither open nor bat at 3.

      A good opener (like a Matthew Hayden) can bat expansively after taking the shine off the ball, but that’s a bonus. A No 3 who is vulnerable against the new ball is a liability.

    • Scuba says:

      01:38pm | 23/08/12

      No one will be “surprised” or “disappointed” with the story that Ben Dorries “broke” because this has all been known for donkey’s years.

      I don’t have a lot of time for Ian Chappell, but at least he was open in his dislike for Bradman prior to his death as opposed to Cosier opening his big mouth now.

    • sunny says:

      01:49pm | 23/08/12

      “Overnight, journalist Ben Dorries broke the excellent story that players in the 1970s didn’t get along with Don Bradman”

      I don’t think this was breaking news. I saw a cricket doco 10 or more years ago in which Chappelli told a few stories revealing as much.

      “a) they expended so much energy and time getting to the top”

      This is probably it (well that’s my theory anyway). To achieve what he achieved as a batsman, Bradman must have had cast iron concentration, probably developed from an early age. When you use so much brain power on concentration-intensive tasks, other characteristics such as empathy, joviality, and other social pathways get less brain power. Again this is just my own theory.

      “Who’s disappointed? Not me either.”

      Same here. He’s no less of a legend in my book, because of that story. It probably evens adds to his legend the fact he was such a tough nut to do a deal with.

    • Millsy says:

      01:50pm | 23/08/12

      Chappelli said years ago that Bradman was (in part) responsible for the atmosphere in which WSC was created. Quite frankly it’s not a “breaking story” at all.

    • Beckala says:

      02:02pm | 23/08/12

      I don’t even follow cricket and I knew this!!

    • Geronimo says:

      02:06pm | 23/08/12

      Some time ago ABC Radio broadcast a very down to Earth interview with Bill Brown about his experiences in the Australian 11 under Bradman’s Captaincy…If Aunty was to publicize the interview again today, the events of the 70’s would be considered irrelevant Schoolboy Stuff..

    • Ziggy says:

      02:07pm | 23/08/12

      I met Don Bradman through business dealings in the 70’s. He was perfectly OK as a person with excellent manners and easy to talk to.Quite formal in manner but this was business. No cricket or any sport was discussed. Being an immigrant from South Africa I certainly was not in awe of him simply because of his cricket reputation.(There are more important matters in life than cricket.)My impression of him was quite favourable. I too have heard over many years about how his own team mates found him difficult and even unlikeable. I have no reason to disbelieve this.Certainly the greatest batsman that has ever played the game.

    • Ret says:

      02:09pm | 23/08/12

      Please at least do a little research before describing something as “breaking news”. I wrote to Bradman in the late 80’s and received a lengthly hand written, and very thoughtful reply. He was an extremely intelligent man who was far more open in his thinking than many people realise. Naturally he valued his privacy, but his contribution to cricket and even our society, far outweighed that of a thousand tabloid hacks.

    • Mahhrat says:

      02:22pm | 23/08/12

      I’ve heard this a lot, and I think it’s simply self awareness and perhaps a lack of humility.

      He could have just been of the brutal honesty school of life, where if a thing is what it is, you say it as it is.

      He was the best, he knew he was the best, he was usually pretty right and so he saw no need to hide that fact.

      I suspect he was deeply private exactly because he understood that this would be largely misunderstood and that he’d rub people the wrong way, so he hid himself away rather than deliberately be a controversial idiot like, say, Jason Akermanis (who you can say what you like, but is one of the very best ever and has a Brownlow and 3 premierships to back that up).

      I think that speaks to the man’s class.  He let his batting talk for him, and it was a pretty clear message.

    • Max Redlands says:

      02:23pm | 23/08/12

      Anthony, given your knowledge of sport in general and Australian sport in particular your assertion this is “breaking news” is disingenuous, at best.

      As others have already pointed out, to any one who knows Australian cricket there is nothing new in this story.

    • Bazza says:

      02:47pm | 23/08/12

      The real story here is that the young reporters of today are so far up themselves that they think they or their fellow reporters are the only ones who know anything about whatever they are reporting on. A good “journalist” would have researched his story before he wrote it and it went print.. Sometimes when reading the drivel these reporters are capable of producing you actually have to wonder if they know the topic at all. As our great leader said today on TV when being asked a question by a reporter, PM to reporter     How old are you, 32 said reporter, PM to reporter, when you get to 50 you might know something.

    • Sputnik says:

      02:50pm | 23/08/12

      Putting aside the point that it’s old news (that doesn’t mean it can’t be discussed anymore now, does it) I think it matters little - Bradman is an Australian hero because the man could bat. Whether he was a nice guy matters little, especially in a place like Australia, where so much importance is put results.

      I think if you want to look at it another way, there are a lot of sportsman who may not have excelled in their field, or at least not set the world alight with their talent, who are remembered quite fondly because of their attitude, or character, off it. Guys like Nathan Hindmarsh, Brett Lee, or Roger Federer (although in his case he could have been an *ss and still be remembered).

      I think this ties into the argument about sports people being role models - just because someone is awesome at sport, doesn’t mean they should be a role model. That said, it doesn’t mean they CAN’T be a role model either

    • AFR says:

      04:28pm | 23/08/12

      “Overnight, journalist Ben Dorries broke the excellent story that players in the 1970s didn’t get along with Don Bradman”

      Yes, Anthony you were suggesting just that.

    • Anthony Sharwood

      Anthony Sharwood says:

      02:55pm | 23/08/12

      Can I just say to everyone that yes, it has long been public knowledge that many people found Bradman difficult to deal with. I wasn’t trying to suggest this was news.

      However the fact that many of the players signed by Packer did so specifically because they had the shits with Bradman was news to me and many others.

      Subtle difference, and my fault for not making that clearer in the original copy

    • Inky says:

      03:02pm | 23/08/12

      To answer your question Ant. Yes, evidentally you can just say that. :D

    • Sputnik says:

      03:46pm | 23/08/12

      I was on your side Ant! I think its great to bring up bits of gossip like this for discussion every now and then. Just because it’s “common knowledge” doesn’t necessarily make it fact, and its fun to discuss what repercussions such ‘facts’ might have caused along the wayside.

      I also had no idea players signed with Packer cause they hated Bradman, and haven’t watched the show. I’ll be waiting till I can watch it on my own time, without adds, but that’s best left for another topic…

    • Scuba says:

      03:55pm | 23/08/12

      Ant, you don’t need to cover for the fact that Ben Dorries has now altered the opening paragraph of his story (except that the Herald Sun still has the original up) to remove the “explosive revelation” that players didn’t like Bradman and replace it with an opening about Bradman picking Greg Blewett’s father and therefore driving players to WSC.

      It’s not a subtle difference.

    • Esteban says:

      04:04pm | 23/08/12

      Anthony, They signed with WSC because Ian Chappellhad the shits with Don Bradman.

      Ian Chappell held great sway with the players including Lillee and Marsh who were doing the bidding of chappell.

      irrespective of general disatisfaction over renumeration there would have been no WSC without Ian Chappell.

    • Ret says:

      05:49pm | 23/08/12

      Still not correct Anthony. WSC came about because Packer wanted TV rights that were already owned by the ABC. Something very similar was repeated years later in a different sport. Rugby League. In both instances the frustrated media mogul established his own breakaway competition. Players in both sports naturally received large pay increases as a result. Bradman was no longer on the ACB by 1977.

    • iansand says:

      03:11pm | 23/08/12

      Success in sport requires monomanic obsessiveness.  It also requires a fairly colossal ego.  Outside of the narrow world of sports, each of those things are pretty significant character flaws.

    • Esteban says:

      04:08pm | 23/08/12

      I didn’t know Wayne Swann had success in sport

    • Ando says:

      03:13pm | 23/08/12

      “signed by Packer did so specifically because they had the shits with Bradman”

      I suggest money had something to do with it, disliking Bradman would have been a minor bonus.

    • stephen says:

      05:03pm | 23/08/12

      Money would have had a lot to do with it, and it is ironic that Bradman would have been disliked because he was also, supposedly, mercenary.

    • Max Redlands says:

      03:22pm | 23/08/12

      Ok fair point Anthony but again I would say that knowledge of the players dislike of Bradman has been around for a while and that such dislike was around before the Packer “revolution”.

      Packer gets the acclaim for the “revolution” but, in reality , tho he may have funded it, he didn’t start it.Player dis-satisfaction with their lot (and the Adminstration) began in earnest after the 1970 combined tour of India/South Africa when Bradman was still head of the ACB and Lawry was captain.

      By the time Packer came along Bradman was no longer on the Board tho he was still wielded heavy influence as the head of the South Australian Cricket Association and through the weight his name and reputation carried.

    • Ben says:

      04:08pm | 23/08/12

      >>When Phar Lap wasn’t busy winning Melbourne Cups and single-handedly feeding Australians during the 1930s depression…

      He won more than one Melbourne Cup?

    • Steve Putnam says:

      05:51pm | 23/08/12

      Correct, in 1930. At 11-8 on he wouldn’t have fed too many people either.

    • Swamp Thing says:

      04:25pm | 23/08/12

      Bradman - still a great Aussie, even if he was a cross-dresser who ‘batted for the other side’. It’s a pity that in his day he had to hide that.

    • pete says:

      04:29pm | 23/08/12

      Journalist finds newspaper from July 1969 and reports that man landed on the moon.

      What a scoop!

    • Jay says:

      04:45pm | 23/08/12

      Yes Bradman was a legend, but he was a hypocrite as well. During the Bodyline series he locked horns with the establishment when they refused his request to write for a newspaper during the tour. It was the middle of the depression and cricket did not pay enough to live on. Sound familiar?
      The Board refused to move and Bradman was prepared to resign and honour his contract with….Frank Packer! In the end Packer released him from his contract but still paid him. Forty five years later Bradman was the establishment and he seemed to have forgotten what has occured to him.
      You see it was ok for Bradman to make a stand, but no one else was allowed. Bradman should have been the first person to get on the players side.

    • Esteban says:

      05:47pm | 23/08/12

      Well Jay that is a very good point indeed.

    • Little Joe says:

      07:28pm | 23/08/12

      @ Jay

      No .....

      1) Bradman signed a contract to write for a newspaper which was perfectly legitimate as he wasn’t making money out of playing sport.
      2) The ACB found out and said he couldn’t ... changing the rules
      3) Bradman said that he had signed a contract, therefore couldn’t play for Australia.
      4) The ACB caved in!!!

      So it was totally different and nowhere near the same situation ..... a bit like Tony Greg having his personal sponsors.

    • MarkS says:

      06:06pm | 23/08/12

      So Bradman was a tool. Not news or very surprising. Elite sports people often are. I really do not get this urge to place them on a pedestal of moral or ethical virtue.  Being about to hit a ball with a bat well makes you an excellent batsman, not an excellent bloke.

    • Bear says:

      07:12pm | 23/08/12

      Bradman was a nasty religious bigot – the famous incident of his refusal to play with Catholics should be better known. Ideal man for administration considering his open contempt of a significant part of the population. Imagine an administrator today who was openly bigoted against Australians of Indian origin.

    • Little Joe says:

      07:19pm | 23/08/12

      Breaking news from the man who didn’t know what Australia’s two most populous states are!!!! Bradman was a great man who played in many testimonials to increase the ‘gate’ for retiring players.

      Let’s put some thing into perspective -

      1) The man played cricket though the depression.
      2) The man caught trains to Sydney for selection games.
      3) The man didn’t make that much out of the game!!!

      Bradman would have looked at the current Australian Team and probably thought, “What a bunch of whingers!!!”

      “Fly to London for the Ashes. LUXURY!!! We took the slow boat.”
      “Was your career interrupted by a World War?? How many of your teammates went to war??
      “You got $2400 for playing the Ashes. LUXURY!!!”
      “You have personal sponsors. LUXURY!!!”

      Now here you are playing for Australia ...... and complaining!!!

      I bet he, in his venerable ageing years, didn’t like the young whipper-snappers tearing apart the game he loved. The same Jacobites that can’t even select a decent Australian Cricket Team!!!


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