First Review: Bastard Boys

The Waterfront Strike of 1998 is the battle ground of the ABC’s next landmark drama, Bastard Boys.

It may not sound like a particularly sexy setting but it is high in drama, emotions, politics, and especially performances.

This mini-series is vast in scale, telling the story from four points of view over two nights. The first “War” is Greg’s (Colin Friels) as the union secretary. He is determined to stop stevedoring giant Patricks from colluding with the Howard Government to sack the waterfront workers and bring in a new labor force trained in Dubai.

From here the stories focus on three other central characters, Josh Bornstein (Justin Smith) the union lawyer, Sean McSwain (Anthony Hayes) the dock worker and Chris Corrigan (Geoff Morrell) Patrick’s Managing Director. The cast also includes leading actors including Jack Thompson, Dan Wyllie, Daniel Frederiksen, Justine Clarke and Rhys Muldoon. Frederiksen plays Greg Combet, currently the ACTU President in the news even this week.

In setting up the story it is rich in dialogue, backstory and political manouvering. As this true-life drama unfolds there is the reminder of epic dramas like The Dismissal. These are real people who were instrumental in modern industrial history. The fact that almost all of them -from both sides of the argument- participated in the construction of the screenplay is significant.

This was a fight that divided a nation, as Australia was forced to side with either the workers or management. When judges delivered their verdicts on legal arguments four television networks interrupted their programming to bring it live to air.

This is an ambitious project and Director Ray Quint has delivered the goods. The crowd scenes on the docks are tense and volatile.

Performances are raw and emotive with Geoff Morrell’s clipped and restrained Corrigan the standout.

Following the successful Curtin, the ABC is upholding a high standard of local drama this year. If you stick with Bastard Boys the second evening is when the set-ups really pay off.

Bastard Boys airs 8:30pm Sunday & Monday May 13 / 14 on ABC.


  1. Dunno about the next Bob but yes there is a history of ACTU blokes going into ALP politics.

    What roles / actors did you think is incorrect?

  2. I found the first episode superb.Having been acquainted with this waterfront episode only as a media consumer of the public relations enterprise at the time,when I was conscious of having my emotions and attitudes manipulated repeatedly. The tv presentation brought the dynamics to life in an entirely plausible way and fleshed out the individual players admirably. especially Greg Combet. I am not sure whether your review has coupled actors and characters accurately. I thought Combet was very well realized although what he would say about it would be interesting now that he has launched a political career. Is he being regarded as the next Bob Hawke?

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