FitzSimons at a film premiere, February 2013
June 29, 1961 |
Wahroonga, New South Wales, Australia
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 Central Coast of NSW, near 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, studying government and political science, and resided at Wesley College from 1980 to 1982.
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.
In his 1991 autobiography On a Wing and a Prayer, former Wallaby winger David Campese criticised FitzSimons for starting a brawl in Australia's first Test against France in 1990. Campese wrote that:
|“||...I could have been caught up in the middle of a brawl started by Peter FitzSimons, which was a disgrace to the good name of rugby. It was quite obvious that Peter had played countless matches against some of the French players while playing for Brive and had a grudge to settle. He wanted to prove that he was an important player, big on the Australian rugby scene. But for those watching this shocking fight, like myself, it was not a pretty sight. I'm sure 39,000 people watching it with me would agree.||”|
In the same book, Campese further highlighted the importance of promoting the game of rugby union as "safe", and noted the difficulties rugby union has in promoting itself against the rival rugby league code:
|“||Mothers watch the news to see film of violence on a rugby field and it turns them off sports. That is why it was totally unacceptable for a guy like Wallaby international lock Peter FitzSimons to get involved in that massive fight at the start of the first Test against France at the Sydney Football Stadium in June 1990. While Fitzie was having his own private war he was doing the game and its reputation enormous damage. Maybe in France, where he played for some years, you can get away with all that because Rugby League is not a serious alternative in that country. It is different in Australia. Test matches are tough and you want to win, but brawls like that one risk the whole lot more than just the outcome of one match. If they turn even one family away from the game, then they have been too costly.||”|
In My Game Your Game, published in 1994, Campese further criticised FitzSimons for being a difficult room-mate by writing that:
|“||When it came to choosing room-mates though, Fitzy was always the last card on the deck. He has this habit of walking into a hotel room, tipping his bag upside down, and leaving his clothes in a heap on the floor. And there they stay. You walk in after him and think the room's been burgled. In 1990 during the tour of New Zealand, it got to the stage where no-one wanted to room with Fitzy. They were ribbing him about personal hygiene, and giving him a hard time about this and that, so I put up my hand and volunteered. I'd never shared with him before. If I had, I would never have offered this time.||”|
FitzSimons has written for The Sydney Morning Herald since 1988, and has been a sports columnist for that publication since 1987. He 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" in The Sun-Herald on Sundays, focusing on community activities and events in Sydney. Andrew Denton has called him "Australia's finest sports journalist".
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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.
Australian Republican Movement
FitzSimons, who has been a long-time supporter of Australia as a republic, was appointed in July 2015, as the head of the Australian Republican Movement. In August 2015, he said that he wants to reignite the issue.
FitzSimons' published works include:
- Tobruk. Pymble, NSW: HarperCollins Publishers. 2006. ISBN 9780732291563., 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.
- Kokoda. Hachette UK. 2010. ISBN 9780733626067., which recounts the numerous battles between Australian and Japanese Troops on the Kokoda Track during World War II.
- Charles Kingsford Smith and those magnificent men. Pymble, N.S.W.: HarperCollins. 2010. ISBN 9780732288198., a biography of aviator Sir Charles Kingsford Smith.
- A simpler time. Pymble, N.S.W.: HarperCollins Publishers. 2010. ISBN 9780730492511., a childhood memoir which relates his family history and honours the memory of his father and mother.
- Mawson. North Sydney, N.S.W.: William Heinemann. 2011. ISBN 9781742754581., on Douglas Mawson, Robert Falcon Scott, Ernest Shackleton and Roald Amundsen.
- Batavia. North Sydney, N.S.W.: Random House Australia. 2012. ISBN 9781864711349., on the fate of the ship Batavia.
- Eureka : the unfinished revolution. Random House Australia. 2013. ISBN 9780857981271., on the Eureka Stockade.
- Ned Kelly. Random House Australia. 2013. ISBN 9781742758916..
- Gallipoli. Random House Australia. 2014. ISBN 9780857984562. Retrieved 15 June 2015.
- Fromelles and Pozières: In the trenches of Hell. Random House Australia. 2015. ISBN 9781742759517. Retrieved 16 November 2015.
- The Great Aussie Bloke Slim-Down: How an Over-50 Former Footballer Went From Fat to Fit... and Lost 45 Kilos. Penguin Books Australia. 2016. ISBN 9780143781868. Retrieved 29 November 2016.
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He is or has been involved with several organisations as a patron or board member, including:
- Patron of The Russell Prize for Humour Writing, State Library of NSW, 2015
- 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
- Chairman of the Australian Republican Movement
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
- FitzSimons, Peter (9 November 2013). "Given time, great colleges learn to fix their problems". smh.com.au. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
- "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.
- Campese & Bills 1991, p. 117.
- Campese & Bills 1991, p. 166.
- Campese et al. 1994, p. 34-35.
- 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, 9 March 1987, p. 53.
- "Panelist: Peter FitzSimons". Q&A. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 26 February 2012.
- "Peter FitzSimons appointed head of Australian Republican Movement". The Guardian. 20 July 2015. Retrieved 3 September 2015.
- "Peter Fitzsimons reignites the Australian Republican Movement". ABC. 27 August 2015. Retrieved 3 September 2015.
- 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.
- "Is Religion a Con? A special evening with Peter Fitzsimons", 12 June 2012, The Independent Theatre
- McInerney, 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.
- Campese, David; Bills, Peter (1991). On a Wing and a Prayer. Queen Anne Press. ISBN 0-356-17958-3.
- Campese, David; Meninga, Mal; Jenkins, Peter; Frilingos, Peter (1994). My Game Your Game: David Campese and Mal Meninga Talk Football. Pan Macmillan Australia. ISBN 9780330356169.
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