Book Review – The Mighty West: Your story is my story too

 

 

 

I bought this book on 29th March at the book-launch and I have just finished reading it today. It has taken me so long to finish  not because I have been too busy or had other books to read. It’s because I read the first couple of chapters and realised I wanted to take my time and savour every morsel of this incredible story of dedication to a football club. My football club as well. But I’m just like so many other Bulldog supporters who have read Kerrie’s book. We all say the same thing. “Your story is my story too.”

 

Kerrie starts her story at the end. Well, twenty-five minutes before the Bulldogs triumphed in the Grand Final to be exact. The reader is taken back over five decades of the club almost succeeding to reach grand finals, but for whatever reason, never quite making it. Tense, but strangely confident that ‘her boys’ were about to hold on and win after years of heartache, Kerrie remembers all those ‘sliding door’ moments. So many times when fate intervened to prevent her beloved Bulldogs from reaching ‘the big dance’.

 

She doesn’t blame the footy gods for the Bulldog’s misfortune like most of us do. As Kerrie braces for that last quarter of football with the Dogs seven points ahead and wondering what could possibly go wrong, she thinks about the 19th Century English novelist Thomas Hardy. Ole Tom as she calls him. ‘A writer who specialises in ponderous coincidences’. A kind of puppet-master of tragedy.

 

Having studied the writing of Hardy in depth, Kerrie considers he could have easily written the scripts for the Bulldog’s misfortunes over the years.

 

“ A sense of impending doom hovers relentlessly. Even when a character appears to be on the brink of happiness, Ole Tom pulls out a few contrived and heavy-handed plot twists–an overheard conversation, a letter slipped under a door, an inexplicable decision by a goal-umpire, for example-all designed to ensure the continued misery of its characters.”

 

The best example of ‘the fickle finger of fate’ for the Bulldogs was highlighted in the 1997 preliminary-final. The final that Kerrie refuses to name because of the bad memories. The result of that match tested the faith in our football-club like no other, especially for Kerrie with high hopes who was sitting in the stands that day to witness the tragedy. I suspect for Kerrie it was a tipping point. She  would have wondered if the Bulldogs were ever destined to appear in a grand-final from that time after watching Libba senior denied that goal.

 

Of course the love of the club meant Kerrie and the true supporters regained the faith only to see the Bulldogs fall short again during the 2008-2010 finals. Barry Hall and Acker did give us hope during that time, but Ole Tom may have been up to his usual mischief when an umpire made an inexplicable decision during one of the preliminary-finals against S tKilda.

 

The Mighty West is as much about family as it is about tragedy and triumph. Family and tragedy even intersecting at one point. Kerrie’s father Frank was expected to be selected for his first game for Footscray but broke his ankle riding his bike home from work. Kerrie’s mother continued to attend Bulldog matches religiously after being hooked in with one of the first matches she ever saw. The 1954 Footscray/Melbourne grand-final.

 

In recent years there has been three-generations of the Soraghan family attending matches together. Jackie known as one of the ‘Libber Sisters’ has always been by Kerrie’s side during the good and bad times. Hopefully in the next few years at least, it will be mainly good times.

 

I mentioned before about taking my time to read this book and I really slowed down when I reached the chapters on the four finals.  I wanted to savour every one of Kerrie’s details of how the Bulldogs won the grand-final from seventh place on the ladder. Six months after the grand-final and I still had to be reassured in writing about that miraculous win. Kerrie provided the evidence for myself and the other readers in her own meticulous way.

 

I started this book review by saying Kerrie’s story was our story too. Three years ago I began reading Kerrie’s blog called the Bulldog Tragician and there was an immediate connection. After having lived in Footscray not far from Kerrie’s father, I was familiar with all the landmarks surrounding the Whitten Oval. Whenever the red, white and blue army marching to the sacred ground on match-day was mentioned, I felt part of the procession although I now live 200 kilometres away.

 

Kerrie’s beautifully written description below of how she felt when the siren sounded would resonate with all Bulldog supporters, especially someone my age who saw the first premiership so long ago. I can recommend this book to all sports’ lovers and especially to fans who are used to seeing their teams participating in finals year after year. It will give the best understanding of what that win meant to Footscray people who were starved of success for 62 years.

 

“The siren releases 62 years of pain, 62 years that we’ve survived with brittle humour, resignation and sometimes–it was often all we had–grim commitment. So many days we believed this day would never come. We’d learnt, painfully, to accept that such joy, such elation, would never be for the likes of us. We’d blocked out the fantasy of how this moment might look. We’d watched other teams’ wild celebrations at home, snapping off the TV in irritation as we wondered if we could endure another year of heartache and disappointment.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Neil Anderson

Enjoys reading and writing about the Western Bulldogs. Instead of wondering if the second premiership will ever happen, he can now bask in the glory of the 2016 win.

Comments

  1. G’day Neil,

    I often take time to read in order to understand what is exactly described and sometimes to allow me to look up unfamiliar English words in the Oxford English Dictionary. Spending more than two months to read all of the book is understandable.

    The joy after the long struggles would be great and emotional. It was hard to think your Bulldogs would win the flag while down time hit the club, wasn’t it? But true Bulldogs supporters are so strong to stay loyal and faith to the club. Then I guess you had believes that your club would win the flag one day at the bottom of the heart. Another good example that believes bring you dreams coming true.

    It sounds that old English literatures affect the ways to write even in modern days. And we writers can learn a lot from these leteratures. Then definitely I have to undertake a further writing course to be a better writer in English.

    Cheers

    Yoshi

  2. matt watson says:

    Neil,
    I read one of Kerrie’s stories in the Doggies Almanac.
    I was so moved I had to tell the world on social media how good it was.
    Can’t wait to read her book.
    Cheers

  3. Neil Anderson says:

    Thanks Yoshi. Sorry I’m bit late with the acknowledgement. The Thomas Hardy references were interesting to me because I was a fan of his writing just like Kerrie was. When I was writing plays I thought of the way Hardy was able to change the obvious story line to something unexpected. As Kerrie said altering the course of events after an overheard conversation or perhaps a letter slipped under someone’s door. There was certainly enough drama over the 62 years before the Bulldogs won their second premiership. Enough to write a book which Kerrie did.
    Thanks Matt. I’m glad us Bulldog supporters had such a brilliant writer to document ‘our’ story. I finally got round to posting the book review on to Facebook although the Rugby Almanac photo appeared for some reason.

Leave a Comment

*