A fascinating array of Warrnambool and district legends feature prominently in John Craven's new book The Conquerors, an 800-page epic on who he considers to be the Geelong region's top-100 all-time great international sports stars and Brownlow medallists.
Locally-born Brownlow winners Alistair Lord (Cobden) and Paul Couch (Warrnambool) to Peterborough's world champion sculler Rebecca Joyce, Test cricketers Alan Connolly and Aaron Finch and Terang's 1936 Berlin Olympic Games 800-metre finalist Gerald Backhouse all rate highly in the book.
Craven reveals that even Geelong's VFL/AFL's inaugural Brownlow medallist Carji Greeves had a western district background. Greeves grew up on a farm at Skipton (Alan Connolly's birthplace) and attended Struan State School at Rokewood with another Cats icon, Team-of-the-Century captain-coach Reg Hickey.
Craven is best known for his 18-year reign as director of the Melbourne to Warrnambool Cycling Classic, the iconic race he immortalised with his acclaimed book The Warrnambool in 2015.
The former sportswriter says he wrote The Conquerors because of his captivation with the Geelong region's incredible record on the international sports stage.
He ranked his top-50, and then included another 50 in alphabetical order in a champion's gallery to give those athletics deserved recognition.
Craven rated Australian Test cricketer captain Lindsay Hassett the all-time great, followed by the mercurial world one-mile record-breaker John Landry and cyclist Russell Mockridge, winner of two gold medals on the same afternoon at the 1952 Helsinki Olympic Games.
The likes of Greeves, Lord, Couch, Joyce, Backhouse, Finch and Olympic triple jumper Mick McGrath gravitated to Geelong because of greater educational and sporting opportunities. Typical examples were Warrnambool region hurdlers John Chittick and Bob Joyce (Rebecca's father), who joined the Geelong Guild Athletic Club in the 1950s and subsequently gained selection in the Australian team for the Melbourne Olympic Games.
"Western district athletes bob up everywhere in Geelong's illustrious sports history," Craven said.
The Conquerors is online at caribou.net.au, or at Collins Booksellers Warrnambool and a range of district newsagencies from Camperdown, Terang, Peterborough, Koroit, Portland, Dunkeld, Lismore and Ironbird Port Fairy.
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