One-time footy bad boy John Elias has turned his life around to become a best-selling author and raconteur.
One-time footy bad boy John Elias has turned his life around to become a best-selling author and raconteur.

Elias to tell tale of revival

FIRST grade footballer by day and gangster-in-training after dark.

What’s most remarkable about the life and times of rugby league identity John Elias is how he managed to play so much quality football alongside the elite of the game, while leading a double life of crime.

There were 131 top-grade appearances with Canterbury, Newtown, South Sydney, Balmain, Western Suburbs, Eastern Suburbs, Avignon, Toulouse, Pia and Brisbane Souths, along with three stints in jail.

Elias believes his life as a criminal began to turn around after he took up writing as a means of therapy during that last four-and-a-half-year stretch.

Realising his life was going nowhere, he began a deep personal analysis. His writings eventually became Sin Bin: The Untold Story of a True Footy Hitman, which has become the runaway success in Australian publishing this year.

The book is into its fourth printing and Elias will spin more yarns at the Diggers Tavern, Bellingen, on November 5.

His appearance at the sporting luncheon has been organised by one-time Wests teammate Josh White, president of the Bellingen Magpies.

Elias will be accompanied at the luncheon by former NRL and State Of Origin coach Graeme Murray,

“When I put pen to paper during my last incarceration there was no intention of turning it into a book,” Elias said.

“The therapist said it would be good for the soul and when I started to look back on what had been written, I began to think there was something good in there.”

Some high-profile friends, including broadcaster Alan Jones and league coach Wayne Bennett, still felt there was a lot of good in Elias and encouraged him to get his life back on track.

“Eventually, the journalist Josh Massoud asked to look at the manuscript and it went from there,” he said.

“The decision was made early in the piece to give the proceeds to a worthwhile charity. So far, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital’s cancer unit has benefited by more than $50,000.

“This is something I’m very proud of. For all the scrapes I’ve been in, it’s satisfying to know somebody will be the better.”

Rave reviews for the book have prompted talk of a possible movie deal.

“The Chinese whispers are about and they reckon it would make a great film,” Elias laughed, possibly wondering if a certain Orara Valley actor might play the lead role.

In fact, there’s a connection with the Orara locality.

Elias is national coach of the Lebanon Cedars and remains proud of the team’s victory over Fiji Bati in the Axemen’s 2006 Sevens series.

“They were great days and I see plenty more ahead,” he said.

“I’m looking forward to returning next week and hope to catch up with a lot of people at the luncheon.”

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