Almanac Reviews: These Treasures – Old Dog on the joy of a book



These Treasures.


There are two gemstones in my life, as, in its typical chaos, we move from remote place to even remoter place, defying a global pandemic. They’re not big, neither is their content long. But, oh, can you hide in them!


We pack the car for our sixth home in two years, and, randomly, there’s one of them, in the driver’s door pocket. I pick it up and read about the grace of Robbie Flower, of Goodes playing well and Wells playing good.


Damian Balassone’s A Strange Game in a Strange Land, is a book of, mostly, footy poems. Light to hold, but rich and textured. One after another, the stories, ditties rhymes and moments flow, forming the sweetest rhythm of mud, blood, laughter and passion.


None of them are pretentious, or smug in their cleverness. They present themselves unapologetic in their simplicity, like a saving cup of soup on a day you can’t even feel your fingers. Like kicking a footy for its own sake.


Just kicking.


I open the book on any given page, and close it the same way. Ten minutes of being lost in the joy and heartache of his world, and bop! I’m back into my day again.


Then, when we get to our new place, deep in the Otway Ranges, bloink! There is my other copy. The floater. I brought it for a friend, the sort you don’t email, or phone, or send letters to. The kind of person you simply bump into. Until then, I just enjoy the way it shows up here, there, everywhere, as I juggle and shuffle all the things I’m working on.


I read four short lines about Blight, I read two lines about the rise of the crowd.


Two lines! So precise they contain novels!


I take my time to read a chunk of the story at the back, full of heart and passion, a wonderful ode to his father.


This treasure, this pocket world!


Through one copy, or the other, I bump into it three times a day, four. It has no strings attached. It IS footy, in its purest form, loved and celebrated and laughed at. Each page easy. Each page full of humour.


Every time, in this jumbled life, it saves me.






Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.


Do you enjoy the Almanac concept?
And want to ensure it continues in its current form, and better? To help keep things ticking over please consider making your own contribution.

Become an Almanac (annual) member – CLICK HERE
One-off financial contribution – CLICK HERE
Regular financial contribution (monthly EFT) – CLICK HERE




  1. Matt Zurbo says

    Its a corka!!!

  2. Neil Kimpton says

    Thank you Matt
    Bought it just now based on your tiheartfelt review
    Stay safe and continue to enjoy

  3. E.regnans says


    Both this tribute, Old Dog, and your book, Damian.

    Very happy with my copies, as well.
    I find the poems pure and refreshing; they open up my imagination to possibility – which I accept each time as a wonderful gift.


  4. Rulebook says

    You’ve won me Old dog I will contact,DB to buy a copy tomorrow thank you

  5. Peter Fuller says

    I concur (with Matt and ER), as the judges on the High Court say, when someone else has said all that needs to be said.

  6. Matt Zurbo says

    On you Rulebook! Champion.

  7. Matt Zurbo says

    Neil, cheers to you, too. Please let us know what you thought!

  8. Shane Reid says

    It’s a great book DB and a very worthy review. I really enjoyed both.

  9. I’m going to be writing something about footy soon, and I reckon this might help. Where do I get the bastard?

  10. DBalassone says

    Thanks for the plug Old Dog.  This made my day! And thanks to all for the kind comments.  The Almanac community has been just magnificent in supporting this book.  Grateful.

  11. Daryl Schramm says

    Treasures. I have a few of my own but not this one (yet). The book review as a story or a story as a book review? Just so fortunate to have found this website. Brilliant.

  12. Neil Kimpton says

    A Strange Game in a Strange Land lobbed in the letter box on Saturday as I was tuned in to Pearl on the Coodabeens talking to Torch
    I collected it reading it right through before the Blues Freo game in the evening.

    Unbelievable! What a heartstopper!

    That’s my reaction to the Blues victory! And the book…
    oh …The book…Brilliant! An absolute goldmine of poetic pleasure!!
    Shall savour the Bruce Doull piece for now and way beyond the next Blues flag
    A huge salute to DBalassone and an appreciative socially distant acknowlegement to you for the headsup tribute

Leave a Comment