Peter John FitzSimons AM (born 29 June 1961, Wahroonga, New South Wales) is an Australian journalist and author, based in Sydney. He is a former radio presenter and national representative rugby union player.
FitzSimons grew up in Peats Ridge, New South Wales, in the rural outskirts of Sydney. He was the seventh and last child of Beatrice Helen (née Booth; 1920–1994), OAM, and Peter McCloy FitzSimons (1916–1992), a citrus fruit farmer who had seen active service in World War II as an AIF artilleryman. He attended Peats Ridge Primary School, and Knox Grammar School before accepting an American Field Service Scholarship to go to Ohio for a year. Upon his return he earned an arts degree at the University of Sydney, majoring in government and political science.
FitzSimons' club rugby was played first with the Sydney University Football Club and then with the Manly RUFC in Sydney in the 1980s under the coaching of Alan Jones. Between 1985 and 1989 he played with CA Brive in France for four seasons, becoming the club's first ever foreign player. He played seven Tests at lock for Australia between 1989 and 1990, debuting against France in Strasbourg in November 1989, on the Wallabies 1989 tour of Europe. Five of his career international appearances were against France. His final Test match was against New Zealand in Christchurch.
Fitzsimons has recounted how he was the only Wallaby (up to 2010) to have been sent from the field in a match against the All Blacks. The dismissal occurred when Fitzsimons was playing for an invitational South Australian side against the All Blacks at the Hindmarsh Stadium in Adelaide in 1992. Drew Mitchell was subsequently dismissed while playing for Australia against the All Blacks in 2010.
FitzSimons has written for The Sydney Morning Herald since 1988, and has been a sports columnist for that publication since 1987. He also regularly appears on the Australian Foxtel programme, The Back Page, hosted by rugby league journalist Mike Gibson. For the Saturday edition of the Sydney Morning Herald, FitzSimons writes a column titled "The Fitz Files" which looks at all the happenings over the past seven days in sport. He writes a more general version of "The Fitz Files" on page two of The Sun-Herald on Sundays, focusing on community activities and events in Sydney. Andrew Denton has called him "Australia's finest sports journalist".
In January 2006 he began co-hosting a breakfast radio program with Mike Carlton on Sydney radio station 2UE. He was brought onto the 2UE breakfast show in an attempt to boost the program's dwindling ratings. Mike Carlton was vocal in his opposition to having an on-air partner, but the move paid dividends with an immediate audience increase. However, the Mike and Fitz Breakfast Show still trailed a long way behind the number one program on 2GB, hosted by FitzSimons' former coach Alan Jones. After two years on Breakfast with Mike and Fitz, FitzSimons hung up the headphones to become a stay-at-home dad and focus on his writing.
FitzSimons' published works include:
- Kokoda, which recounts the numerous battles between Australian and Japanese Troops on the Kokoda Track during World War II.
- Tobruk, which tells the story of The Rats of Tobruk as they fought during World War II against Italian troops, then later the Afrika Korps, as they were led by then-General Erwin Rommel.
- Charles Kingsford Smith and those Magnificent Men, a biography of aviator Sir Charles Kingsford Smith.
- A Simpler Time a childhood memoir which relates his family history and honours the memory of his father and mother.
- Batavia (2011, ISBN 978-1-86471-040-3) on the fate of the ship Batavia.
- Mawson and the Ice Men of the Heroic Age: Scott, Shackleton and Amundsen, Random House 2012, ISBN 9781742752792, on Douglas Mawson, Robert Falcon Scott, Ernest Shackleton and Roald Amundsen.
- Eureka Stockade – The Unfinished Revolution, Random House 2013, ISBN 9780857981271, on the Eureka Stockade.
He has written the biographies of Ned Kelly, former Australian Labor Party leader Kim Beazley, Wallaby captains, Nick Farr-Jones and John Eales, WWII resistance fighter Nancy Wake and sportsmen Steve Waugh and Les Darcy.
- Patron of AFS Intercultural Programs, Australia, a student exchange organisation; he was an AFS student to the United States in the 1970s;
- Patron of the Newport Surf Life Saving Club which his grandfather helped establish in 1913;
- On the Senate of Sydney University 2009–2013;
- On the Board of the Sydney Writers' Festival since 2003;
- President of the Northern Suburbs Basketball Association;
- Patron of the Benjamin Andrew Footpath Library, devoted to getting second-hand books to homeless people;
- Council member of the Australian War Memorial since March 2012.
- Member of the ANZAC Centenary Advisory Board
FitzSimons is married to Nine Network Today Show host Lisa Wilkinson. They have three children; sons Jake, Louis; and daughter Billi. FitzSimons has identified himself as an atheist; he is an outspoken Australian republican and supports changes to the Australian flag. He is the younger brother of Dapto High School Principal, Andrew FitzSimons.
On 13 June 2011, FitzSimons was named a Member of the Order of Australia for service to literature as a biographer, sports journalist and commentator, and to the community through contributions to conservation, disability care, social welfare and sporting organisations.
- "Player profile of Peter FitzSimons". ESPN. Retrieved 3 October 2010.
- Mosman Sporting Wall of Fame: Peter FitzSimons' profile
- FitzSimons, Peter McCloy (profile at World War II Nominal Roll)
- Speaker Profile of Peter FitzSimons at The Celebrity Speakers Bureau
- "Match report: New Zealand Australia, 21 July 1990". ESPN. Retrieved 4 May 2014.
- "Peter Fitzsimons". Talking Heads. ABC. Retrieved 17 November 2013.
- "All Blacks urge refs to ease off". ABC. Retrieved 17 November 2013.
- His first article as a Herald correspondent was "From the Wilds of France": FitzSimons, P., "The survivors of la Besse still remember", The Sydney Morning Herald, (Tuesday, 22 November, 1988), p. 23.
- His first article as a Herald sports journalist was: FitzSimons, P., "French give Scots some pointers", The Sydney Morning Herald, (Monday, 9 March, 1987), p. 53.
- "Panelist: Peter FitzSimons". Q&A. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 26 February 2012.
- Fellows of the Senate: Peter John FitzSimons
- "Galleries: 1992 Weddings". Perth Now. p. 4. Retrieved 3 March 2014.
- Clune, Richard (25 July 2010). "Today show hosts a perfect match". Sunday Telegraph. Australia: News. Retrieved 3 March 2014.
- Tejszerski, Eva (30 March 2012). "Religion can't divide pastor and atheist". The St George & Sutherland Shire Leader Australia. Fairfax. Retrieved 3 May 2014. "The topic "Christian faith is blind to history, science and reason" was debated by media commentator and atheist Peter FitzSimons and Bible teacher Al Stewart."
- McInerey, Katelin (16 May 2008). "Dapto High celebrates 50th birthday". Illawarra Mercury. Fairfax. Retrieved 27 May 2012.
- "Peter FitzSimons AM". Australian Honours Database. Retrieved 13 June 2011.
- AAP (13 June 2011). "Former Wallaby FitzSimons honoured". ARU. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
- Homepage for FitzSimons' Sydney Morning Herald columns
- Official Peter FitzSimons' website
- Talking Heads, ABC TV (8 March 2010)
- Queen's Birthday Honours List (June 2011)