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Revealed at last - the real Anthony Mundine, and how he 'punked' us for 20 years

Insights

Love him – or, far more likely, hate him – boxer, footballer and showman Anthony Mundine has left an indelible mark on Australian sport. Maybe it’s time we learned the truth about him, writes Michael Blucher

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So…the gloves are finally off, and the towel’s been thrown into the ring, never to mop another battered brow.

Thank the Lord, I hear you all say. No more stupid comments, no more outlandish claims. No more Anthony Mundine, over-stating, over promising, over playing his hand.

“The Man”, at least in boxing terms, is now officially “The Middle Aged Man”. He’s swung his last left hook.

The even better news? The public can now know the truth about Anthony “Choc” Mundine.

It was all one big elaborate ruse, an elongated made-for-subscription-TV performance crafted to syphon money out of punters’ pockets, into the coffers of Mundine Inc.

In short, sports fans – you’ve been played. Meticulously and monetarily, duped.

Mundine, the irritating, outlandish loudmouth, was in fact just a very shrewd businessman, forging a two-tiered emotional bond with his target audience – 97% haters, 3% admirers. Rough figures only, but you get the picture.

You don’t believe me? Go back through the annals – examine closely not just what Mundine said, but more importantly, when he said it.

The timing was always as impeccable as the content was predictable. And then came the public response, overwhelmingly negative of course, but a response all the same.

In a previous life, I remember being at a function with Gorden Tallis, one of Mundine’s greatest mates, a couple of days before a major title fight.

As the rubbery chicken was being served, Tallis showed me the text he’d just received from “The Man”. “I’ve got a beauty. You watch this one fly!” Mundine wrote, clearly licking his lips at the predicted fallout of his next carefully scripted bombastic claim.

And sure enough, 18 hours later … Kaboom! The verbal grenade is lobbed dextrously into public bars around the country, detonating, irking, reminding sports loving Australians just how annoying Anthony Mundine can be. How annoying he is.

And as per the plan, off they’d scurry to find their Foxtel remote, click “pay to view” and tune in, in anticipation of seeing Mundine get the crap beaten out of him. They wanted to witness every telling, bruising, blow.

Ching. Ching. Ching.

“You can almost set your watch by it,” Tallis confided at the time. “The punters are like putty in his hand.” The master piper, piping his merry money tune, all the way to the bank.

The real Mundine, “The Raging Bull” says, is nothing like that agitator of normally mild-mannered schooner drinkers.

Tallis relays countless contrary stories from their friendship, which began in the mid’ 90s when they were both briefly playing rugby league for St George.

The contradiction with Mundine’s public persona is pronounced. The real “Choc” is kind, compassionate, caring, respectful, restrained. And exceedingly generous.

A little more recently, a high-profile former CEO of an equally high-profile NRL club spoke of the time he received from Mundine four cheques, each ascribing $150,000. The $600K was to cover the debt of the club’s biggest star, who was in serious financial trouble. A real estate deal gone wrong – he was in a world of pain.

Mundine didn’t even play for the club. The bloke was merely a mate. “I remember photocopying the cheques – I don’t even know why,” the CEO recalled. “Probably because if I ever had to explain it, I needed evidence. Otherwise, people would have thought I was bullshitting. But it happened.”

One time rookie Queensland Origin star, now TV commentator Ben Ikin tells of arriving in Sydney to play for the North Sydney Bears – a wide-eyed kid from the Gold Coast who barely knew which way was up.

One of the first phone calls he received was from Mundine, offering assistance – “Let me know if you need help finding a physio or some decent places to eat. Big city – takes a bit of getting used to,” his new contemporary explained.” Wow. Thank you.

Again, not a club mate, instead a soon-to-be on-field rival.

Yes, in sport as in life, we don’t always finish with the credit we deserve. Some people don’t get enough, others, it must be said, are afforded too much. That’s just the way it goes.

From what I understand, Mundine was always very comfortable in the role of national villain. He brought it on himself, closely aligning himself with those who mattered, deliberately alienating those who didn’t.

“Divide and conquer”, I believe were the words of Julius Caesar, whichever weight division he fought in.

Finally, in the words of “The Man” himself:

“All the shit I talk, you have to build the fight. It’s the entertainment business,” he once said, explaining his combustible public image. “I just want to be remembered for someone that’s real, that speaks the truth.”

The funniest thing about that… for once, he was speaking the truth … until he started talking about speaking the truth.

Congratulations on a colourful and entertaining career, Choc.

I for one, eagerly await the first of your countless comebacks.

***

Good to see the old rugby engine room work horse, Greg Holmes, acknowledged for his enormous contribution to rugby during his brief but emotional return to Brisbane last week, as part of the opposing Western Force squad..

The son of a potato farmer from Warwick, Holmes was the heart and soul of the Reds scrum for 12 seasons, before packing up his boots and heading for Exeter in England, “to bolster his self-managed superannuation fund”.

Not my words you’ll understand – rather the interpretation of his front-row packing cohort, none of whom begrudge their former teammate a single pence. They couldn’t think of a more deserving, stiff-necked, cauliflower-eared beneficiary than Greg “Farmer” Holmes.

There’s a wonderful story involving the 27 Test Wallaby veteran, dating back to 2015 – Holmes’ second last season with the Reds. He and his long-time propping pal James Slipper were in the gym at Ballymore, patiently and painstakingly pursuing their “PB” squats.

In his 12th season of professional rugby, Holmes finally cracks the 150kg threshold – three reps none the less!

There’s high-fiving between the pair – persistence at last pays off. “Great work, mate! Go you good thing”.

A split second later, their attention is drawn to the lifting station two across. Some young islander kid, picking up an impossibly heavy set up dumbbells like it was a toothpick laden with Kellogg’s fruit loops. Vomp. Vomp, Vomp – 10 reps at 200kg.

Taniela Tupou, The Tongan Thor, just 18 years of age.

Holmes looks at Slipper. Slipper looks at Holmes.

“What’s the friggin’ point?” Holmes says to his loose-head buddy, the pair quickly concluding it was time for a shower.

And a coffee.

Don’t despair, Farmer. Regardless of the country, the league, the division, the grade, every rugby team needs at least one Greg Holmes.

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