Centre court or centre square?
John lives in Sydney with wife Lillan, 16-year old son Michael, a
curly-coated retriever Kunzulu Jedda, and a geriatric moggie called Socky.
John originally grew up in Melbourne. That may explain why he follows
Aussie Rules football and is a keen supporter of the Western Bulldogs.
John also spent some early years living in Brisbane and some later years
living in Canberra.
John competed in the junior tennis tournament circuit in Melbourne. He
once had his photo on a Spalding racket — the Junior Gonzales. The
closest John ever came to centre court glory was in 1988 — Winning an
Australian Scrabble Championship in function rooms at the Melbourne Park
Tennis Centre. John played badge tennis for the University of NSW and
Aussie Rules football for the University of Queensland. Nowadays,
John keeps reasonably fit with regular swimming, jogging and table
Games of chance & skill
John spends occasional Tuesday evenings at Pub Trivia in the Bradbury
Inn. On a bigger stage, he has appeared six times on the quiz show Who
Wants to be a Millionaire. It took him that many attempts to get a
stint in the "hot seat". John won more money than he usually does at
Scrabble — but really entered for the challenge and excitement.
John played C grade chess competitions in NSW in the 1980's — Great for
analytic thinking and mental stamina. John has also chanced his hand in a
few backgammon tourneys. He claims backgammon encourages risk-taking and
is a good training exercise for Scrabble players.
The language of study & work
John has a Master of Arts degree (ANU) in German and is fluent in
French, German and Dutch - which he speaks at home with wife Lillan (who
is an Amsterdammer). John has occasionally played Scrabble in foreign
languages but tends to confuse his ZIGS and his ZUGS*...
John has just completed a Masters of Information degree at the
University of Technology Sydney. Most of his working life John has spent
as a Medical Librarian. He is presently Director of Library Services at
St. George Hospital in Sydney. He has also worked as a grape gatherer,
cherry picker, gardener (at NSW Government House), encyclopedia salesman,
electronic publisher, school teacher and statistician for Myers
Team Australia 2003 Player
John discovered competitive Scrabble back in 1979 when he bumped into
the first Australian Champion Neil Cartledge at a party in Sydney.
Over a friendly game John was intrigued by Neil's ability to conjure up
seven letter words and create strategic structures across the board. Soon
after John gave up playing chess tournaments and started learning all the
fours in the Concise Oxford dictionary. Regular practice sessions
with Neil led to John's first major event - the NSW Championships at the
Sydney Morning Herald building in 1979 won by Joan Rosenthal. The
following year John helped start the Sydney Scrabble Club and his 25-year
career in "rack wrestling" began.
Game highs & lows
In 2001, John become one of only a handful of players to have played in
all of the first six World Scrabble Championships. John's highlight was
his tenth place at the World Scrabble Championships in Melbourne in 1999.
John grew up a block away from the Carlton Crest (the venue for the WSC).
He felt that was his stomping ground. John's most satisfying victory was a
second round comeback win against Brian Cappelletto (US Champion) after
trailing by 142.
John's career lowlight happened when suffering jet lag in the 1993 WSC
in New York. He nodded off to sleep against the World Champion Peter
Morris in the middle of a match - then lost in a close endgame.
Favourite words which John has played are:
FURBELOW; WAIWODES; FANTASIAS — a 9-letter connecting play through a
floating A and S. John's highest Tournament game score is 728 achieved
against John Barker in 1983 (he also has achieved two other tournament
scores over 700).
John has clocked up many kilometres in pursuit of top-level Scrabble
competition. This has included a couple of trips to USA playing under
OSPD-only conditions. John has also honed his skills against international
opponents via the internet (his pseudonym is "Koala").
Thinking globally, acting locally
John would love to establish a world governing body for Scrabble,
similar to FIDE for chess players. He dreams of a well-accepted,
contemporary word source determined through player input. Indeed, he
has initiated a web-based Universal Word Dictionary to work towards that
John would also like to see the Schools movement take off in Australia
and for Scrabble to get more publicity and sponsorship worldwide in the