Michael Marnewick is known to many of us as the brains (and passion) behind the best official rugby franchise website in the world, www.sharksrugby.co.za. One of the numerous perks associated with being a reasonably well-known sideline commentator is that I am occasionally asked to give my opinion about things, so when Michael’s début novel – entitled “Quest for Glory: Successes in South African Sport” – found its way to my little house, courtesy of the kind folks at Zebra Press, I considered it a real honour and privilege to provide my review of the work.
Let me start by saying this one thing: the amount of legwork (and donkey work) that has gone into compiling this treasure-trove of distilled wisdom is frankly immense. Having been privileged to share some of the author’s thoughts and swap the occasional email during the writing of his opus, I know some of the extent to which Michael has thrown his entire heart, soul and life into preparing this work – although I’m sure his wife and daughters will have noticed it far more! Michael has left no stone unturned in his quest to extract and consolidate the combined experiences of success from virtually every major sporting hero that South Africa has produced over the last 20 years or more. He has managed to find them all – from the old legends like Gary Player, Bruce Fordyce and Naas Botha, through to relatively recent heroes in Bismarck du Plessis and Herschelle Gibbs, without, of course, missing out on the stratospheric icons in between, including John Smit, Penny Heyns, Francois Pienaar and Baby Jake Matlala. I have some small amount of experience in the amount of effort (and dare I say hassle?) involved in getting to speak to the really famous and Michael has worked his network, painstakingly established over the last ten years, in order to get in front of the people whose voices really matter.
What is the gist of this work, then? Is it simply a bunch of interviews with the same bunch of men and women that, regardless of how legendary their status may be, have been interviewed many, many times before? The answer is that it is quite different to that, because its goal is different and far deeper than simple collecting and recalling anecdotes. Marnewick’s goal here is to attempt to define and crystallise exactly what it is, deep down, that has allowed those he has interviewed to attain success in their various fields. He begins by attempting to define a formula for success, a check-list of magical ingredients that must all be present, in the correct order and ratio, in order to propel a player, coach or team to the very highest peak of performance. He then systematically works through these ingredients or factors, and skilfully weaves the interview content around these threads. The result is a concise, coherent work that focuses on a single topic at a time and can thus be easily used as a reference when needed, despite being absolutely crammed with interesting anecdotes and personal accounts that reinforce each point he makes.
Those of you who know me will have come to realise that I am a rugby man through-and-through and that anything that has a flavour of Sharks rugby to it is likely to be right up my alley (to put it mildly). While this book is not a rugby book, per se, Marnewick’s clear love of the oval-ball game is evident and he is a passionate Sharks rugby man, with access to an enviable number personalities, both past and present, that have helped to make the Sharks great. Fellow Sharks fans will be pleased to know that Quest for Glory gives ample page-time to many of those who have served the black and white with distinction over the years, including Johann Muller, Bismarck du Plessis, John Smit, Mark Andrews, Bob Skinstad, Gary Teichmann, Brent Russell and current coach John Plumtree. Another familiar face who has added his wisdom is occasional Sharksworld contributor and mental coach Tim Goodenough, whose work behind-the-scenes with many pre-eminent South African sports stars (including the Sharks 2008 Super 14 side) is helping to overcome the psychological hurdles that so often impede athletes who have mastered the physical aspects of their chosen sport.
Quest for Glory is a must-read for anyone who loves sport – particularly South African sport – and has an interest in gaining a deeper insight into what has enabled so many of our heroes to attain success over their careers. Young sportsmen and women – those still at school or in the early stages of a professional career – would probably have the most to gain from the advice in the book, while parents, teachers and coaches – as well as social players of all levels – would do well peruse its pages too, because much emphasis is placed on the support systems that any successful athlete must have in place in order to attain greatness. Did I mention that it’s fascinating insight into the minds of so many South African sporting greats that, in addition to being a “workshop manual” for those in the game, it makes a great read for armchair enthusiasts like you and me?
All-round, a superb first book from a superb writer who will, I’m sure, go on to publish many more titles in the future.
Quest for Glory: Successes in South African Sport (ISBN: 978-1-77022-136-9) is published by Zebra Press and available from all good book shops for R182.95. You can buy it through Kalahari.net for the special discounted price of R145 by clicking this link.Tweet