Reviews

Greg Florimo, North Sydney Bears legend

‘‘I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the man who was more than a mate. Olsen’s presence to not only those close to him but to a much wider Polynesian community is truly awe inspiring. This story brings to light his influence on man and men.’’

Sir Graham Lowe KNZM, QSM

‘‘As soon as ‘The Big O’ arrived I started reading and didn’t stop until I had finished it.

During my coaching career and since, I have read hundreds of sporting type books and without doubt in my mind, ‘The Big O’ is the best I have ever read.
It tells of sacrifice, bravery, talent, love, ambition and pride and is a reminder to us all of what really matters.

Young Maori and Polynesians owe much to Olsen, because he was the pioneer in the game he loved. He personally opened the giant Polynesian sporting talent box that has allowed many since him to enjoy the rewards of playing professional sport.

I think author Patrick Skene has done a remarkable job of capturing not only Olsen Filipaina’s great personal story, but also, the dark and shameful ingredients that are sometimes reflected in our society that no human should be forced to endure. This all adds up to make Olsen’s journey before Rugby League, through Rugby League and beyond, awe inspiring.

I thank Patrick Skene on behalf of everyone who has ever witnessed or believed in the sheer magic and natural sporting talent these wonderful people known as Polynesians, are capable of displaying.

A book like this takes courage to tell and Olsen’s courageous story has been perfectly captured and delivered to the reader by a man who cares. It is spellbinding and should be read by everyone in the world that has a love of sport.’’

Geoff Armstrong, Stokehill Press

‘‘I reckon every rugby league fan from the 1980s has a memory of Olsen Filipaina. This is a good and important book by Patrick Skene.’’

Craig Norenbergs, SkySports New Zealand

“A Magnificent read by Patrick Skene… ‘The Big O’ captures a genuine NRL groundbreaker perfectly and vividly brings to life the rough edges of 1980’s rugby league. Fascinating stories!”

Kris Gale, Fire Up!, FBi Radio, and the Diamantina Media Network

‘‘In telling the story of Olsen Filipaina, Patrick Skene has not spun a great rugby league yarn, he has delivered a story of true cultural significance.
The book takes you back to the way Sydney rugby league was in the early 80s and the picture is not that pretty and somewhat unsettling.
To learn of Olsen’s story is to see how prejudice existed in many forms in the game and how it continues to present real challenges in the modern day. This book adds to the movement that seeks to make rugby league a truly level playing field and, to that end, we have much to thank Olsen for. ’’

John Coffey, Author, Journalist and New Zealand’s pre-eminent rugby league Historian

‘‘I found this to be arguably the most significant sports biography that I have read — and I reviewed scores of them during my 44-year newspaper career. Olsen’s unique story is one that needed to be told and Patrick Skene has done that splendidly.’’

Ian Heads, Rugby League Historian and Author of 40 books

‘‘The Big O’ is a study of great thoroughness and spans important territory with the profiles of the New Zealand and Australian Rugby League nations and their ways. It tells in compelling depth and detail the story of a truly unique footballer in Olsen, a man who emerges from the telling as someone very special in the larger Rugby League story …and an intriguing and unusual and admirable human being. It’s a great read – a fascinating study from its beginnings in NZ and one which should be of great value and interest to anyone who cares at all about the game.’’

David Trodden, Chief Executive Officer, NSWRL

“I have a large collection of sporting biographies, but I haven’t read one quite like ‘The Big O’. In one sense, to categorise it as a sporting biography doesn’t do justice to it, because it is much more than that. Rarely in my experience is an author able to weave the story of one sporting figure into the broader context of such an important development in the history of rugby league. Congratulations on such a great piece of work – a great addition to the library of rugby league literature. It deserves to be widely read and positively reviewed.”

Tony Collins, Author, Historian, Emeritus Professor of History at De Montfort University

‘‘No-one who ever saw Olsen Filipaina play rugby league will ever forget him. He crashed down on rugby league in the 1970s as if he was an astronaut from a superior civilisation. Nobody knew how to deal with him; even fewer could stop him. But off the field, Olsen faced a harsh, racist world almost alone, but survived to leave a legacy that has been inherited by generations of Polynesian rugby league stars. Now, in ’The Big O’, Patrick Skene tells the full story of one of the great rugby league players, a pioneer who laid the path that many others followed, and a man whose life symbolises the struggles and achievements of the Polynesian communities in Australia and New Zealand. ’The Big O’ is a fascinating book and essential reading for all rugby league fans and anyone interested in Polynesian history.’’

Terry Williams, NSWRL Historian

“Rugby league biographies come in all shapes and sizes but, like its subject, surely none has ever had the unique form of Patrick Skene’s new biography of Olsen Filipaina ‘The Big O’. Although Skene follows the usual chronological format, this book is as much a unique social and cultural history as it is the story of a man who was a tremendous player.

Travelling a new road is never easy but this book, lovingly crafted, shows why Olsen Filipaina is still a name that resonates with all rugby league fans.  Patrick Skene has done a wonderful job in telling a marvelous story that needed to be told in both Australia and New Zealand, but also for all those who care for the game, its heritage and its future.”

Johnno Duncan, Progressive Rugby League Podcast

‘‘The Big O is an absolute bona fide winner on every level. A fabulous portrayal of a fascinating career. I particularly loved the history lessons along the way that give Olsen’s experiences deeper context. It’s a real page turner. I swallowed it up in a flash.’’

Phil Caplan, Managing Editor, Forty20 Magazine

“ The Big O’ is a triumphant, clear labour of love that is so much more than an autobiography. Patrick, should be extremely proud.”

Jimmy Smith, Former NRL/Super League Player, Commentator and pundit

“As a Balmain Tigers fan growing up, I thought ‘The Big O’ would be a good read and a trip down memory lane. It was better than that. With the surge of Pacific athletes in the NRL this is an important document for all involved in rugby league. Well done Patrick Skene.”

Frank Puletua, NRL Head of Pacific Programs, Former NRL & Samoa player

‘‘Great work Patrick Skene! What an amazing story of courage and resilience – a true trailblazer for Pasifika players in the game.’’

Shane Price, Chairman, Auckland Rugby League

‘‘The Big O’ is fantastic. I’ve read it twice.’’