The Big O

The Life and Times of Olsen Filipaina

Pacific Revolution Pioneer

By Patrick Skene

To fans he was ‘the Galloping Garbo’, a shy working-class hero who thrilled crowds in between shifts as a garbage man. To opponents who dreaded facing his Polynesian power, he was a disrupter known as ‘The Big O’. To coaches and media critics, he was simply ‘Olsen the enigma’.

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Worldwide release May 28th 2020

“Olsen was a pathfinder, the first to show what Polynesians could do, and he was the face of hope for his community. He was a great player who was misunderstood, and this is a very important book to explain his role in the Polynesian rise in rugby league.”


Sir Graham Lowe

In 1980, a shy Maori-Samoan joined the Sydney competition playing for the Balmain Tigers, Eastern Suburbs Roosters and the North Sydney Bears. Whilst playing in Sydney he represented his beloved Kiwis and tormented the Kangaroos, introducing a Polynesian culture and power game that would revolutionise the sport.

The Big O is the story of Olsen Filipaina, a New Zealand Hall of Fame rugby league legend who was a reluctant pioneer for the Pacific Revolution – the influx of Māori and Pasifika players who today dominate the NRL.

It tracks Olsen’s story from his rise out of working-class South Auckland to overcoming depression, racism and cultural dislocation in Sydney, to the Cinderella story of his success for the New Zealand Kiwis.

Forty years after Filipaina burst into the Australian rugby league scene, Skene relates the tale of a humble and principled man who overcame barriers to dethrone the greatest player of all.


About the Author

Patrick Skene was born and raised in Sydney and writes stories on the intersection of sport, history and culture. His work has appeared in Guardian Australia, The Age, Inside Sport, and Footy Almanac.

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