Neil Bennetts (b. 1943) was born in Sydney and educated at Coogee Public School, Randwick Boys High School and Scots College. After leaving school he worked for Lawrence Publishing Company, which published a number of trade magazines and in 1966 launched the journal Epicurean on behalf of the Wine and Food Society of Australia. He then became a journalist with Cumberland Newspapers, a subsidiary of News Limited, which produced most of the suburban newspapers in Sydney. After about 10 years he left and established his own timber joinery business. In 1979 he married Deborah de Berg, the daughter of Hazel de Berg, whose oral histories were held in the Library.
From about 1960 to 1975 Bennetts was actively involved in ocean yachting. He took part in 16 Sydney–Hobart yacht races and in 1967 he was a member of the Australian team that won the Admiral’s Cup in England. Aware of his wide sporting interests and his friendship with many leading sportsmen, Hazel de Berg encouraged Bennetts to undertake an oral history project focused largely on outstanding sportsmen and sportswomen.
The oral histories recorded by Bennetts were purchased by the Library between 1975 and 1995.
The Neil Bennetts Collection consists of 86 recorded interviews, mainly of leading Australian figures in a wide range of sports. They include archery, athletics, boxing, bridge, chess, cricket, golf, handball, horseracing, polo, rugby league, rugby union, surfing, swimming, tennis, woodchopping and yachting. The recordings were mostly made in Sydney between 1975 and 1995. Most of the interviewees had retired from competition in the previous 10 or 20 years, but a few had ended their sporting careers in the first half of the twentieth century.
The following are some of the notable sporting figures who are represented in the collection:
- Athletics: Ralph Doubell, Marlene Matthews
- Cricket: Alan Davidson, Neil Harvey, Keith Miller
- Golf: Kel Nagle, Norman Von Nida
- Horseracing: T.J. Smith
- Motor racing: Jack Brabham, Jack Murray
- Polo: Sinclair Hill
- Rugby league: Keith Barnes, Reg Gasnier, Kevin Ryan
- Rugby union: Ken Cathchpole, Nicholas Shehadie, Dick Thornett
- Swimming: John Devitt, Ilsa Konrads, Murray Rose, Mina Wylie
- Tennis: Jack Crawford, Adrian Quist
- Yachting: John Anderson, James Hardy, Bill Northam.
In addition, there are interviews with sports administrators such as Phil Coles, Sir Adrian Curlewis, Sydney Grange, David McKenzie, Berge Phillips, Arthur Tunstall and Bill Young.
Bennetts also recorded interviews with a few people who were prominent in fields other than sport, including the aviator Edgar Percival, the journalist Simon Townsend and the cartoonist Jim Russell.
The Neil Bennetts Collection is held in the Oral History Collection. Sixty-six of the recordings are kept together at ORAL TRC 391, while the other 20 have various locations. All the interviews have been catalogued individually and some can also be listened to online.