Former Wallaby Fitzsimons honoured

by staff

He towered over his peers as a player, is the proud author of numerous biographies and historical memoirs, and has a weekly sports column in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Now Peter FitzSimons, affectionately known as Fitzy, can add another gong to his collection, having been appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in the Queen's Birthday Honours list of 2011.

"I'm very very pleased, very humbled," the former Wallaby said.

It's no problem that he's a staunch republican because it's an Australian award, not one from the Queen, and in any case, he doesn't consider himself worthy of a knighthood, he jokes.

Mr FitzSimons, who is working on a biography about Australian Antarctic explorer Douglas Mawson, has also written biographies of former Australian Labor Party leader Kim Beazley, former Wallaby captain Nick Farr-Jones, WWII resistance fighter Nancy Wake, and sportsmen Steve Waugh and Les Darcy.

Sport was easier than tackling biographies, he admits.

"I knew what it was to win with the Wallabies and I knew what it was to lose," he said.

But when he took on the task of writing Kim Beazley's biography, "it was the hardest two years" of his life, he told AAP.

"I really didn't understand how a caucus worked," he said. "I had to get my head around all these things that Kim had done."

A monthly column he writes for Fairfax Media's Sydney Magazine reveals unusual aspects of the city in bygone days. In an upcoming column, he tells of women secretly playing games of two-up in bushland on Sydney's north shore during the late 1940s.

The quirky tales are sometimes passed on to him by readers, which he follows up with research.

"I'm a great believer in professional researchers. For my books I use professional researchers," he says.