What is athleticism? Simply put, it is having the capacity to perform physically with a high degree of speed, strength, power, endurance, dexterity and coordination. A demanding list, no doubt. But what about the athletic big men of Aussie sport?
So, where do the more sizable athletes rate in the annals of Australian sport?
And who are the most athletic Aussie big men ever?
Arthur Beetson: Power & Endurance
A big guy and powerful athlete: Arthur Beetson
Measuring 188 cm and tipping the scales at 105 kg, Artie Beetson was a big man gifted with superb ball handling skills as well as natural athleticism. Considered the best rugby league forward of all time, Beetson was renowned for his strength as well as his endurance.
Despite whatever they threw at him, opposing teams knew what was coming. Making it look effortless, Big Artie would shrug off tackles, spin and offload the ball to a teammate.
His performance in the 1974 Grand Final with his beloved Roosters against arch rivals Canterbury Bankstown was a dominant display of what a rampaging forward can do. He finished the game with an amazing 12 offloads (four times higher than the average 21st century NRL forward per game!), helping his team take home the silverware.
Over the years, Big Artie gained a reputation as a poor trainer. In fact, the coach of the Kangaroos, Ian Walsh, once publicly criticised Beetson's fitness.
But Big Artie was just saving himself. When it came to game day, he really knew how to turn it on.
Indeed, there was no denying the big man’s imposing presence and athletic prowess when he walked onto the field. The physical strength and mental endurance he exerted within a game could lift his team mates, as he so often did when playing rep footy.
There was nothing quite like watching the big man take up the ball in full flight, leaving opponents in his wake.
R.I.P Arthur Beetson (1945 – 2011).
Mark Hunt: Power & Speed
Combining size, power and speed: Mark Hunt
Born in New Zealand, but now living in Australia, surely qualifies the ex-UFC fighter as Australian, right? Well, if we can claim Phar Lap and pavlova from the Kiwis, then it’s only fair we get Mark Hunt too!
Standing 178 cm tall and weighing in at 120 kg, Hunt is a very dangerous and skilled brawler who also possesses an iron chin. He has amassed a record of 10 wins by knockout from his 29 professional MMA fights.
However, what many don’t see is how athletic the big man is. His athleticism is best exemplified by his gruelling training regime leading up to each fight. Yolk walks, farmer’s carry, sled drags and hill climbs. These old school training methods form the backbone of how Hunt strengthens his body as well as his resolve leading into fights.
His training work ethic would put many a gym junkie to shame.
Because of his intense training, Hunt is able to go the distance and drag his opponents into deep waters as the rounds progress, setting them up to deliver one of his trademark, blink-and-you'll-miss-it, walk-away knockouts.
He may lack chiselled abs, but rest assured Mark Hunt is a very fit and fast big man.
Daniel Faalele: Strength & Agility
Man Mountain: Daniel Faalele
He stands 206 cm tall and weighs 181 kg. He's only 19 years of age, and Daniel Faalele is the biggest and youngest guy on this list.
You’ve probably never heard of him before. However, this Melbourne-born youngster is destined for great things.
Big, strong, quick and agile. The big man's athletic potential is setting tongues wagging with NFL coaches lining up to recruit him. Despite never having played a game of gridiron, IMG Academy, the elite sporting High School based in Florida snapped him up in 2017 because of his imposing size and incredible athletic potential.
He now plays as an offensive tackle for the NCAA D1 team Minnesota Gophers.
What makes this XXXL size shirt-wearing athlete so impressive is not so much his stature but the remarkable way he has used his adaptability to slot seamlessly into making an impact in a top-tier College team.
Daniel Faalele represents the next generation of big guy athletes. He is a big man who carries his extra bulk effortlessly, using it to his advantage on the sporting field.
So, there you have it. Some big, athletic Aussie men who destroy the myth that you have to have single digit body fat to be good at sport. This should be proof enough that it is okay for big guys to take their training seriously.