For twenty years I’ve been watching England cricket teams humiliated by the likes of the Chappell brothers, Allan Border and Steve Waugh, Australians so gritty they order their sandwiches with sand in. There wasn’t much respite in other sports: the 53rd most populated country in the world was fourth in the medals table at the Athens Olympics, Lleyton Hewitt is a Wimbledon champion, and the Socceroos beat England 3-1 at Upton Park in 2003. And supposedly, or so the team-sheets kept telling me, these losing Englishmen were representing the nation.
In the summer of 2005, I decided I didn’t need to be represented because I, in fact, am me, so I set out for Australia on the well established priniciple that if you want something doing . . .
And took it upon myself to beat the Australians, single-handedly, in any sport they cared to mention. I ended up at the heart of the problem, as I saw it, in the Sydney suburb of Manly, where I took on Australians at lawn bowls, shooting, golf, swimming, surfing, running, spectating, betting and quiz.
Not surprisingly, with the Australians fatally undermined in their heartland sporting community of Manly, England regained the Ashes. I was not awarded an MBE.
‘Beard has some previous form in the area of rubbish sport: his Muddied Oafs, published three years ago, is one of the funniest rugby books you will find. He retains his comic form on his Australian quest . . . Beard and his Manly pursuits clearly saved England in 2005. Where the bloody hell is he now?’
Andrew Baker, Daily Telegraph
‘I’m not sure he found what he wanted, but he had plenty of fun not finding it.’
Independent Best Sports Books for Christmas
‘Because Beard is a writer rather than a sportsman, it’s actually a fne read, combining social history with humour, travelogue with sports biog … Perfect for when we’re struggling at the MCG.’
London Evening Standard
‘Despite being written by a Pom, it’s (whisper it) a hilarious and thoughtful book.’
‘peculiarly English . . . going to Australia to take on the locals at sports . . . Beard does this with dry humour and aplomb.’
‘An extremely funny part-travelogue, part-self discovery and part-investigation into how the 53rd most populous country became world beaters.’