There’s not many father-daughter relationships like Mick and Christi Malthouse’s. Mick, a coach of 662 AFL matches, and Christi, a high-flying journalist specialising in AFL, have come together to write a biography with a completely unique perspective.
Mick’s biography, “Malthouse: A Football Life”, aims to show “the other side of football- not just the football side that Mick’s been involved in for over 40 years but also our side of football, the private side of football”, Christi told the Footy Almanac exclusively. And indeed she captures the full experience of being a part of a football family. Christi describes the highs and lows of growing up in the inner circles of the AFL, with hanging out with the likes of the young Bartletts, Clokes and Bourkes whilst their fathers were working being one of the highlights, but the constant teasing at school a definite downside.
Christi writes with a heartfelt honesty that shocks even her own father. She says “it’s only now when he reads the book and says ‘I didn’t realise how bad it was’ and [he] does feel bad about it”. She admits her father’s career “brings a lot of pressures and a lot of scrutiny and a lot of things that we went through that I know my friends never had to go through”.
One such experience included in the book is when Christi and her sister Danielle were trying to gain their father’s attention after some boys were teasing them after a game.
‘Dad, those kids were being mean to us.’
‘He’s not your dad, he’s Mick Malthouse,’ one of the boys hissed.
‘He is our dad,’ I replied as Danielle nodded her head, her face forming a frown. ‘Daaad!’
The boys continued to tease us.
‘Ha, ha, they think he’s their dad.’
We were finally at the front of the queue. Grabbing at Dad’s hand, we tried to explain about the hurtful boys.
‘Yes, little girl, what do you want, my autograph?’ Dad asked in a high-pitched voice. The boys roared laughing.
Danielle and I started crying. ‘Dad, tell them you’re our dad,’ we pleaded, our bravado all gone.
Mick apologised for his poor joke, but in turn the girls learnt they had to share their father.
Christi also contrasts the dark times with the light. As well as speaking of the challenges that come with AFL life, Christi reminisces about the everlasting bonds that come with club life. “We had an extended family at every club we went to… everyone’s so amazing… I don’t think many people can say they have as many uncles as I have!”
Many football fans would know the stone-faced, focused side of the champion coach, who often does not notice the change in weather during a game as he is concentrating so hard; yet the softer side of Mick is not often explored. Christi writes about her father with such tenderness, in a way that puts truth to the phrase ‘real men do cry’. In the book, Christi includes a passage about her wedding day. She reflects her walk down the aisle with Mick, saying “it was one rare moment in my life when there were no thoughts or talk of football and everyone present could see Dad as his children saw him: as a loving father”.
Going into a phone interview with Mick, I was well and truly aware of his tough treatment on journalists. I feared his pregnant pauses and blunt answers, but to my surprise I was met by a gentle and calm Mick Malthouse (but of course I met the cagey side later in the interview). After picking up the phone, he said “hello, how are you going?”
In a state of absolute nervousness I began: “Hi Mick, it’s Hannah Kuhar here” to which he abruptly stopped me and repeated, “how are you going?”. I felt as though the tables had turned: the great man was teaching me, the interviewer, a lesson in answering questions. I almost had a bit of a starstruck teenage girl moment- ‘OMG Mick Malthouse actually wants to know how I, Hannah Kuhar, am going!!!’- but luckily my brain turned to football as we moved into the interview. After only a few seconds of conversation I saw why so many footballers had matured in a team under the guidance of Mick; he is nurturing as much as he is tough.
Tough or not, readers of the biography realise there’s more to Mick than his stern football persona. He is a dad, husband, grandpa, jokester and a high level thinker who exercises the art of meditation. Mick has achieved ultimate success on many levels. He prides himself on ‘turning young boys into men’ and this book details all sides of the family figure yet simultaneously AFL legend. Whether you read about young Mick growing up on the housing commissions of Ballarat or learning about the years spent building the Collingwood premiership team of 2010, “Malthouse: A Football Life” is a great read for not only fans of the great man but for fans of the game alike.