Knackers to the fore in new footy book

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Five Almanackers are amongst the 50 contributors to Australia’s Game, a new book just published by Slattery Media.

The book is an updated version of the 1988 book The Greatest Game, edited by Ross Fitzgerald and Ken Spillman. Twenty-five years on the selfsame editors have retained many of the original pieces (by Manning Clark, David Williamson, Ramona Koval, Andrea Stretton, Bruce Dawe and others), as well as bringing on fresh players.

John Harms’ contribution is ‘Epiphany at the MCG’, his 2007 Grand Final piece in the inaugural Footy Almanac: It is Grand Final morning. I am walking through the Fitzroy Gardens. Past the river god fountain up to my left.  Past the cenotaph.  I look up at the majestic trees. I’m trying to understand my state. My thoughts.  My emotions.  My smallness.

Paul Daffey’s story ‘Home and Away’ is an edited extract from his 2003 book Beyond The Big Sticks. Daffey takes the reader from one oval to another – Swifts Creek, Tanunda, Port Douglas, Rosebery,  Queenstown, Maldon, among others –  crisply pointing out their histories and idiosyncrasies. The Allansford Memorial Pavilion was once a church or hall in Orford, a small town north of Port Fairy. The building was hauled through Warrnambool and across to Allansford by horse and cart, then placed on top of a shed, where it served as a grandstand.

‘Poachers, Gamekeepers and Coaches’, by Stephen Alome, is a revised version of an essay first published in 2010 in the Bulletin of Sport and Culture. (Another version was then published on The Footy Almanac website in November 2010.). Alomes analyses the changes to football over the past 40 years. While Ross Lyon and Mick Malthouse have creative as well as defensive moments, simple people like me, and most footy followers, see something different. They see the result as what I call ‘stoppageball’ or ‘tackleball’, or just a damn scrambly mess. Whatever it is, except on muddy days and in desperate last quarters, it does not seem like footy.

In ‘The Sherrin’, a new piece by Vin Maskell, Vin sits on his backstep and polishes his hand-made football. There are cracks and scratches and scars on the ball, lines that are like veins and roads and creeks, lines that are tributaries to memories, lines that are maps of stories. Stories of childhood and adulthood, of generations, of grass and grounds, of kicks and kinship.

An extract from Barry Dickins’ 1987 play Royboys closes Australia’s Game. He notes Although Royboys is about the fate of the Fitzroy Football Club, it is also about the fate of Australia, which, if it were a club, would be out of the finals forever.

Other contributors to Australia’s Game include Almanac favourites journalist Martin Flanagan, poet Philip Hodgins and songsmith  Paul Kelly (who writes about a rare Robbie Flower error).

 

Australia’s Game, Stories, Essays, Verse & Drama, edited by Ross Fitzgerald and Ken Spillman. Published by Slattery Media Group. $34.95

About Vin Maskell

Founder and editor of Stereo Stories, a partner site of The Footy Almanac. Likes a gentle kick of the footy on a Sunday morning, when his back’s not playing up. Been known to take a more than keen interest in scoreboards – the older the better.

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