Brisbane fullback Tristan Sailor.
Brisbane fullback Tristan Sailor, son of Wendell, has carved out his own path in life and the NRL. Image by Jono Searle/AAP PHOTOS
  • rugby league

Bukowski fan Tristan Sailor emerges from Dell’s shadow

Joel Gould June 13, 2024

Brisbane fullback Tristan Sailor comes from rugby league royalty, but the tattoo he recently had inked of cult author Charles Bukowski says a lot about how he is undaunted by the legacy of his legendary father Wendell Sailor.

The 25-year-old is his own man, no question, and more like his mother Tara Sailor.

It is a safe bet that not many, or any, NRL players can wax lyrical about the merits of authors such as Bukowski, Hunter S Thompson, Ernest Hemingway  and F Scott Fitzgerald, four of Tristan’s favourites.

“A few of the oldies but goodies. Doing a uni degree, you learn a lot about how to read those texts,” he said.

The late Los Angeles-based author Bukowski was known as the ‘King of the Underground’. 

His work is probably best summed up by one of his favourite lines: “Find what you love and let it kill you”.

“I just got a Charles Bukowski tattoo. He is pretty cool,” Sailor said. 

“Bukowski is very gritty and realistic. Some of his stuff is out-there and there is definitely some hit-or-miss with him, but when it’s a hit, it’s a hit, so I really like him.

“Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S Thompson is also good. I don’t mind reading stuff that is realistic and down to earth.”

Tristan Sailor.
 Tristan Sailor has added a tattoo of author Charles Bukowski to his collection. Image by Darren England/AAP PHOTOS 

There isn’t much down-to-earth about Wendell, a dual-international who was one of rugby league’s great wingers of the 1990s and won four titles with the Broncos. 

He finished his career at St George Illawarra after a rugby union stint. 

The Sailor name is associated with success, charisma and chutzpah.

Inside Broncos HQ there are images of Wendell and references to his stellar feats.

“When I was at the Dragons it was kind of similar. Growing up you always get that comparison and, rather than hard, I found it a good motivator,” Tristan said.

“It’s always there of course, especially since he is in the media, but I am pretty good at compartmentalising things like that. 

“To see his name on the walls in here is a pretty cool thing. He is on the strength leaderboard in our gym. 

“It’s a legacy rather than it being detrimental in any way, or an obstacle.

“He put up a highlights (clip) the other day and watching that stuff back is pretty cool because I now I have a full grasp of the game and I can understand how hard he would have been to handle back then.”

Wendell Sailor (left).
 Wendell Sailor (left) was a larger-than-life personality in his time at the Broncos. Image by Dave Hunt/AAP PHOTOS 

When a person says ‘Big Dell’, even outside the rugby league world, there is only one individual who comes to mind: Wendell Sailor’s larger-than-life persona is unmatched, not that Tristan wants to compete on that score. 

“It’s helpful how big a character he is because he is so unique that you never will be like him, but I want to be my own person,” he said.

“I will never try to be like him. I am more like Mum than Dad, and that’s a good thing.

“Mum and I just have the same characteristics. We are very studious. Mum is super-smart. 

“She was super-athletic as well, but we are so, so close and I get all those interests outside of footy from Mum.

“I also got her demeanour as well … very calm and composed. Dad is very out-there. I can be out-there sometimes, but overall I am a bit more low-key.”

Tristan Sailor and his dear mother Tara Sailor (right).
 Tristan Sailor says he has inherited the traits of his mother Tara (right). Image by Bianca De Marchi/AAP PHOTOS 

When Tristan says he is someone who “loves everything”, it is revealed in his eclectic tastes.

“At the moment I’m doing a computer programming course. I love my art and love my reading,” he said.

“I’ve done a commerce degree at university and did an arts degree in English literature. It helps you keep a balance having interests outside footy.”

Tristan has a tough gig at the Broncos, where he gets his chances in the starting side when there is an injury, as there is now to Reece Walsh. 

“He is contracted until the end of 2025, but there is no doubt he would be a regular NRL starter at another club.

“It’s something me and my manager will have to look at,” he said.

“I absolutely love the Broncos, but roster-wise it is very hard. 

“I am focused on doing my role for the club at the moment, but when the time comes we’ll see what happens.”