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No Helmets Required The remarkable story of the American All Stars By Gavin Willacy

Release date: 10th June, 2018
Publisher: Pitch Publishing

List Price: £12.99
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Looking for a completely different type of sports book? No Helmets Required is likely to fit the bill.

A gripping read that has everything, from Eddie Waring meeting Bob Hope, an American rugby player called Tony Rappa, who toured France in 1953 before opening a restaurant in California, and a guy of Ukrainian descent who, having cadged a ride on a Royal Australian Air Force plane, watched a rugby league game at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) and was thereafter determined to introduce the sport to the USA.

No wonder this little-known story, which took author Gavin Willacy a decade to complete, has attracted Hollywood’s attention.

Central to the drama is Mike Dimitro, one of eight children whose parents fled Ukraine and settled in Pittsburgh, Ohio.

Mike was a sporting protégé who represented his school at baseball, football, boxing and wrestling. He won three Golden Gloves boxing titles in three different states (at different weights) and won a football scholarship to Alabama University. He served with the US forces during World War II and it was during this period that he hitched that ride to Australia. Captivated by the ‘speed, passing and ball control’ of the rugby league players on display, Mike “had seen the future.”

The ten years Willacy spend researching this tale is evident throughout – from the foundation supplied by his comprehensive introduction, to the extensive newspaper and magazine clippings that pepper the text and what you might call the core story itself, namely arranging rugby league tours of Australia, New Zealand and France by American Football stars who had never played the game.

Not everything went according to plan for Dimitro and the drubbing he took in Australia’s Sunday Sun & Guardian, which called him “a shoestring promoter [who] can’t pay his fares” put the proposed tour in jeopardy, yet still this single-minded man got his players Down Under.

It was only when they arrived in Australia that Dimitro’s squad were given a crash course in rugby league’s rules, yet they recorded a handful of victories in between getting hammered at the SCG.

Undeterred, Dimitro took another All Stars squad to play in France, after which he was involved in protracted attempts to get rugby league off the ground in the US.

No Helmets Required has been called a ‘strange tale’. Your reviewer would prefer ‘inspirational’.


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