Book on pioneering Poly in rugby league released

New book about Olsen ‘The Big O’ Filipaina, a pioneering Polynesian in the game of rugby league now out.



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 game, he was a disrupter known as ‘The Big O’.


To coaches and media critics, he was simply ‘Olsen the enigma’.


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 the Samoan-Maori 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. He previously hosted an Aboriginal sports history radio program on the National Indigenous Radio Service and a boxing program on SEN Radio Melbourne.


The Big O is his first book.