It was about time that cricketing legend Greg Chappell, arguably Australia’s most elegant batsman after Bradman, received an Australia Day Award. Chappell’s 2011 autobiography, Fierce Focus, is well worth reading, and Queensland readers would be particularly interested in chapter 14, “A more solid state”, which covers his switch to the Queensland cricket team and his move to Brisbane, from Adelaide, in 1973. It reminds us of just how much professional sport and, more broadly, our economy and society have changed since then.
Chappell wasn’t lured to Queensland by a lucrative contract as, before Kerry Packer shook up the game, contracts weren’t that lucrative. Rather, he came because the Queensland Cricket Association (QCA) could get him a job with an insurance company. Before the economic value of elite sport through television advertising and sponsorship was realised and tapped into, elite sportsmen generally couldn’t make a living playing sport. Here’s a snippet of what Greg Chappell wrote in Fierce Focus chapter 14:
The QCA had provided an apartment in Rosalie, an inner Brisbane suburb, but the main thing was a job. In Adelaide I’d been working with Coca-Cola Bottlers as a trainee manager. It was a franchise business and one of the most successful…
…In Queensland, however, Coca-Cola was a completely different business, run on a different footing, and there was no opportunity for me. Instead I went back into insurance with Friends Provident, an English company. They paid a guaranteed retainer plus commission, considerably more money than I’d earnt at Coca-Cola.
It’s funny to think there was a time when you could be an internationally renowned sportsman and still need to hold down a day job. Where were the juicy contracts, lucrative product endorsements, or Bollywood film opportunities back then? Of course, things changed a lot for cricketers when Kerry Packer saw the potential to cash in on the huge popularity of cricket a few years later, a tale Chappell tells later on in Fierce Focus. If you haven’t read Chappell’s autobiography yet, and you have any interest in cricket, or even in Australian history, I can highly recommend it.
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