I’ve got a bloke by the name of Dane Carlaw to thank for the concept of this book; for my current occupation, in fact.

He wouldn’t have any idea of the significance of his contribution, but almost 10 years ago, he called my mobile. He was playing for the Brisbane Broncos at the time and in my role as sponsorship manager at the XXXX brewery, phone calls from professional sportsmen were not uncommon. I was the “beer bloke”, getting ”hit up” for cartons came with the territory.

“I need some beer for my sister’s 21st,” he advised a little sheepishly, and with pretty good reason. I’d never met Dane – knew who he was, of course – but had never spoken a word to him. The link with his almost-21 year-old sister was significantly more tenuous, not to mention the sixty or so friends who’d be helping her celebrate her birthday…. in just another thirty-six hours.

I tried to explain to Dane that the beer allocated to club’s sponsorship was generally reserved for more strategic matters, but to save face, I tendered a few cartons, which could be picked up at specific hotel.

The next day, which also happened to be the day of the party, my mobile rang again. It was Gary, another representative of the Carlaw family. He was at the designated hotel.

“I’ve picked up the cartons,” he reported. “Listen … any chance we can get the other ones cheap?”

There and then, it occurred to me. These guys really don’t have a clue. Here was a footballer, probably a good bloke, I wouldn’t know, earning five or six times the national average wage, making a request for free beer for a family event that had absolutely nothing to do with football.

But the most telling factor of all? It wasn’t even his fault.

Professional athletes are simply a product of their environment. It’s those on the periphery who shape them into who they are, and the way they behave.

Are they really going to pay for stuff when eight times out of ten, it’s offered to them for free? Not in this lifetime.

Welcome to one of the many fascinating aspects of professional sport. A select few living inside the bubble, lots of others on the outside, peering in, desperately wanting to be part of their entourage.

In a roundabout way, this explains why I have written this book: to help sports mad Australia better understand some of the off-field challenges faced by our sporting elite. And shed light on aspects of their behavior and thinking.

That said this book in some respects, barely scratches the surface. There are so many different avenues that could have been explored, further and deeper.

I want to thank all the people who took my call – more tha 200 athletes, many retired, quite a few still competing. On top of that, administrators, coaches, managers, sports psychologists, academics, corporate supporters, commentators, and sports journalists from around the country. In all, almost 400 people. Some were close friends from the beginning, others I’ve come to know better during the project, but every one of them has been generous with their time and thoughts.

Most were happy to be quoted, while others provided background information.

One retired champion thought the concept of the book had tremendous merit,but caution and humility steered him away from a heavier thumbprint. “Who am I to be telling other athletes what they should be doing and how they should be behaving?” he asked. For more than an hour, wisdom poured out of his mouth, but I promised him I’d not use a word. So I haven’t.

If the book appears Queensland centric, that’s probably because Brisbane has been the epicenter of my twenty-five year involvement with sport.

Logically, it’s where relationships and trust are strongest. But the intention was to have every major sport in every state included in some way.

I’d like to acknowledge the people behind the scenes, the very generous and knowledgeable Leon Nascon from Hayhouse, Simon Paterson from Bookhouse and Robert Stapelfeldt from McPhersons, two highly capable and enthusiastic individuals, and my editor Jenni Bird, always calm, always clever, always careful. I’m grateful to all of you. Special thanks to the eminently qualified Deidre Anderson, who I suspect in some aspects of professional sport, has forgotten more than I know. Also, John Eales, one of life’s true champions.

Finally, now this book is a reality, Dane, wherever you are mate, let me buy you a beer. I owe you one.

MB – Nov 2013