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Peter FitzSimons
FitzSimons in 2010
FitzSimons in 2010
Born Peter John FitzSimons
29 June 1961 (1961-06-29) (age 60)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Occupation
  • Journalist
  • writer
  • radio and television personality
  • former rugby union football player
Education Knox Grammar School, Findlay High School
Alma mater University of Sydney
Genre Non-fiction
Years active 1987−present
Spouse
Lisa Wilkinson (m. 1992)
Children 3

Peter John FitzSimons AM (born 29 June 1961) is an Australian author, journalist, radio and television presenter. He is a former national representative rugby union player and has been the chair of the Australian Republic Movement since 2015.

Early life

FitzSimons grew up in Peats Ridge, in the Central Coast of New South Wales. He was one of seven children. He attended Peats Ridge Public School and Knox Grammar School before going in 1978 to Findlay High School, Ohio, for a year as an exchange student on an American Field Service Scholarship. He then completed an arts degree at the University of Sydney, residing at Wesley College from 1980 to 1982.

Career

Rugby

FitzSimons first played club rugby with the Sydney University Football Club and then with the Manly RUFC in Sydney in the 1980s under the coaching of Alan Jones. Between 1985 and 1989 he played with CA Brive in France for four seasons as the club's first foreign player. He played seven test matches at lock for the Australian national rugby union team between 1989 and 1990, debuting against France in Strasbourg in November 1989, on the Wallabies 1989 tour of Europe. His final Test match was against the All Blacks in Christchurch.

Former Wallabies winger David Campese criticised FitzSimons for starting a brawl in Australia's first Test against France in 1990. Campese labelled FitzSimons' actions "a disgrace to the good name of rugby" and asserted that "he was doing the game and its reputation enormous damage." Campese cautioned that if such fights "turn even one family away from the game, then they have been too costly".

Former Wallabiesbackrower Willie Ofahengaue said of FitzSimons: "He's a big character. Funny guy. Talkative. One thing I remember about rooming with him was he used to get his suitcase, tip it up and pour everything out on to the floor. When it was time to go home he would chuck everything back in any old way. Fitzy was a real roughie, but he is married now so he must have changed."

Journalist

FitzSimons has written for The Sydney Morning Herald since 1988, and has been a sports columnist for that publication since 1987. He regularly appears on the Australian Foxtel program The Back Page, formerly hosted by rugby league journalist Mike Gibson and now Tony Squires. For the Saturday edition of The Sydney Morning Herald, FitzSimons writes a column titled "The Fitz Files" which looks at all the happenings over the past seven days in sport. He writes a more general version of "The Fitz Files" in The Sun-Herald on Sundays, focusing on community activities and events in Sydney. Andrew Denton has called him "Australia's finest sports journalist". On the 25 September 2001 he wrote a thought provoking opinion editorial piece titled Memo world: try saying sorry to avoid a sorry end.

Radio

In January 2006 FitzSimons began co-hosting a breakfast radio program with Mike Carlton on Sydney radio station 2UE. He was brought onto the 2UE breakfast show in an attempt to boost the program's dwindling ratings. However, the Mike and Fitz Breakfast Show still trailed a long way behind the number one program on 2GB, hosted by FitzSimons' former coach Alan Jones. After two years, FitzSimons quit to become a stay-at-home dad and focus on his writing.

Community and political activity

FitzSimons is or was involved with a range of community organisations. At the University of Sydney he was a fellow of the Senate from 2009 to 2013, as well as Pro-Chancellor, a patron of The Russell Prize for Humour Writing, State Library of New South Wales, since 2015 and chairman of the Australian Republic Movement since 2015. Additionally he served on the council of the Australian War Memorial and founded the Cauliflower Club with Nick Farr-Jones.

In the lead up to 2019 New South Wales state election, FitzSimons began a campaign to prevent the demolition of the Sydney Football Stadium and Stadium Australia. He began by launching a petition in late 2017 on Change.org that reached approximately 220,000 signatures prior to the election as well as numerous editorial articles decrying the demolitions. The stadium issue became a major element of the campaign with Labor leader Michael Daley calling the election a "referendum on stadiums". On 5 December 2017, FitzSimons remarked on Twitter that the incumbent Gladys Berejiklian government could "bulldoze and rebuild three new stadiums, including Parra, for $3Billion – on no demand – or they can win the next election, but they can't do both."

On 23 March, Berejiklian and her coalition were easily returned to government, with political commentators suggesting that the issue did not resonate with the wider community of the state. The campaign had a minor success however, as the Government changed the original plan for a complete knock down rebuild of Stadium Australia, and instead would go ahead with a billion dollar refurbishment. The refurbishment would also be cancelled, although no funds were allocated to any grassroots sports facilities as FitzSimmons wished.

Personal life

FitzSimons is married to Australian journalist and TV presenter Lisa Wilkinson. They have three children and live in Sydney.

FitzSimons has identified himself as an atheist and a republican.

Honours

On 13 June 2011 FitzSimons was named a Member of the Order of Australia for service to literature as a biographer, sports journalist and commentator, and to the community through contributions to conservation, disability care, social welfare and sporting organisations.

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