Sunday, 1 January 2012

Peter Roebuck: Is this the final, damning truth? Can it be any clearer?

Sadly, the one of my New Year's resolutions is falling down around my years as I write. I promised last night to leave the Peter Roebuck situation alone, not to harp on about the sad suicide of a fine cricket writer with a dark side.
But my twitter mate Arthur Matebula ( changed all that when he sent me a link to Adam Shand's piece on Roebuck, printed in the New Year's Day edition of the Melbourne Age in Australia.
On the day of his death, and given the circumstances surrounding his plunge from a sixth floor hotel window, I watched all the glowing eulogies drop. What a great man Roebuck was, they said, waxing lyrical about how he was never scared to tell the truth. Bollocks. So I wrote, tagged "The Eulogy Nobody Will Have the Courage to Publish".
I also took the time to warn the Johannesburg Star's chief sports writer Kevin McCallum not to eulogise too glowingly about a man convicted of abusing three South African teenagers. He chose to ignore my advice and told readers of his once-respectable tome to wear black armbands at The Wanderers for Roebuck when the second Test between South Africa took place a few days later.
The response to my blog and subsequent warnings was immediate and overwhelming.
McCallum blocked me on Twitter, the rest of the cricket writers, Australian and South African, accused me of homophobia and bitterness. Go to the blog now. Read the 200 comments that came in. Many of them were disgusting but delivered from behind the coward's shield of anonymity.
Most were from cricket lovers, some were from transparently sent by cricket writers I have frequently shared a press box - and a drink - with.
The truth is contained, emphatically, in Shand's lengthy, carefully researched piece
You hope for apologies in these situations. When you get it right and everybody else gets it so badly wrong. You hope people will appreciate the courage it took to write that blog that day. And you hope that they will finally recognise the logic behind it.
How can we eulogise about a cricket writer who preyed on young men, using his status as an international globe-trotter to attract young men? I'd always suspected it, but the manner of his death was final confirmation. And I couldn't have been the only person who realised that.
A man who set up charities and a home near Pietermaritzburg to further his warped, perverted habits, so clearly revealed by Shand's piece had to be exposed.
But no. Apologies are scarce. Instead, the great and the good of cricket held a major commemoration of Roebuck's death at Sydney last month before the Test match against New Zealand.
His estranged family in England have used the alarming silence on Roebuck's true nature to launch an anti-South African tirade, suggesting the police were in some way responsible for his death. I must question their motives.
And just today, Luke Alfred writes a piece in the South African Sunday Times, completely missing the point and lauding Roebuck for his attack on Zimbabwe and their president Robert Mugabe.
Of course, those attacks were motivated by Roebuck's need to impress his young, penniless Zimbabwean students at Straw Hat farm in Pietermaritzburg, an attempt to further his perverted empire.
Roebuck got away with masquerading as a kindly old buffer for years, as the Age proves today. His mates in the cricket-writing clique chose to ignore his procilivities, choosing to see them as mere eccentricities.
A former public school boy with a penchant for handing out hidings? No. More than that. The bloke was a predator, a manipulator of helpless youngsters who depended on him.
That's the truth. I'm glad I wrote it. Ashamed of those who chose to ignore the evidence, preferring to eulogise about his undeniable cricket writing skills.
So to Howard Donaldson, Malcolm Conn, Kevin McCallum and the rest, read and
Then tell me if I was right. And apologise. You can find a link to do just that immediately below this blog. And don't hide behind the anonymous tag to have another blast. Nobody should stoop so low.


  1. Neil,

    I took the time to read through the comments on your previous blog post on Roebuck. I also re-read your blog post.
    I don't believe I posted anything at the time but if I did I would have used my name.

    You may well be misunderstanding what has irritated some people
    a) First up you did not break any story, you rehashed what had already been written. There were no new facts or opinions in your article. Your posturing about 'being right' and therefore how others were by default wrong is no less than blind arrogance. I, for one was not wrong. I did however choose not to get too poisonous until the facts had emerged.

    You on the other hand chose another path. That's your right. It's my right to see you as a tad sanctimonious.

    b) Many people, including myself, knew about Roebuck's dark side (it had been written). We also surmised that there was more to suicide & that it was probably linked to his dark side. Having said that many people focused a little more on his qualities in the time period immediately post his death. We waited for the really good articles to emerge where the journalist had done some proper research. Adam Shand's article fulfils that well researched tag. Adam's article is a lot more damning than yours but his is better written, better researched, just better. I did not find his article remotely unkind.

    Read your article again and ask yourself whether you really contributed anything new to our knowledge?
    Adam Shand added to my knowledge and understanding. Your article did not.

    And now you strut about as though you had picked all the winners on race day?

  2. Sorry David, don't even know who you are, certainly never lumped you in with the misinformed who chose to rail at a bit of honest reportage. Sorry you didn't find it interesting. 66,000 others did. Shand's article is brilliant but written months after my early effort and subsequent explanations. That's journalism. His article isn't remotely unkind? Have you read it? As for strutting around, I'm watching Arsenal... Roebuck is one of several contentious issues I deal with every day. No time for strutting, just making sure I get it right.

  3. I am a gay South African sportsman and was appalled at the bile spewed at you after the "eulogy" article and it's sad, but not surprising, to see that no apologies have been forthcoming.
    I grew up in a sport-mad family and went to a sport-obsessed school. I have dealt with homophobia all my life. Yet under the macho posturing of sportsmen and organisations there lies unplumbed depths of hypocrisy. I could tell you endless stories about overt homoerotic behaviour that I have witnessed in locker rooms, showers, on sports tours, etc. My conclusion is that most self-identified heterosexual men are extremely curious about gay sex and most have probably had some form of homosexual encounter during their lives but would rather die than admit to it, let alone admit they enjoyed it. I think Roebuck's death and your article has struck a very raw nerve for many....and they hate you for it. Pathetic really.

    Thank you for having the courage to write the truth.

    (Apologies for remaining anonymous. A.H.)

  4. Thanks AH, by all means email me on, be interested to hear more. I had dealings with Justin Fashanu, England's only confessed gay footballer before his tragic demise. I admired him for his honesty. Sadly, nothing much since on the football front. Or cricket for that matter. Sometimes I sit and think "statistically one in nine people are homosexual and there are 22 players out there so..." I have not a homophobic bone in my body... only a thirst for the truth. Hope that comes across. It was hard to write the Roebuck piece in a tone everybody could accept...

  5. I was disgusted by all the accolades given Peter Roebuck. I think racism played a big part in everyone's ability to ignore one basic disgusting fact. Instead they felt "How dare anyone challenge the integrity of my fellow white public schooler". If Roebuck was an black man, I don't think we would have witnessed the same glowing character reviews of PR by any means. The one basic fact was that Roebuck caned 3 boys, then inspected their wounds and proceeded to hug some of them. This is not the act of a normal homosexual man, but rather a sick individual. Neal Collins in not a homophobic, but instead a predator-phobic. I am surprised that very few people making comments showed any signs of being predator-phobic. That's just plain disturbing.

    -- Victor Cooper --

  6. Thanks Victor, after all these months, vindication. So true what you say. Still being vilified by some journalists over this. But it was the truth. Sad but accurate. Are you on Twitter? Can't find an email address to reply personally.

  7. It's all just so, so sad - mostly the need for people on both sides of the argument to sharpen their moral credentials on this story. Your cheering for your own cleverness is awful as is the silence from his former friends who preferred to look the other way.