History starts somewhere

We’re about to hit the footy season and for a writer that means lots of footy writing. When I’m at my desk, immediately to my left on the bookshelves sit a number of reference books. These include the two volumes of The Shorter Oxford Dictionary (surely one of the great publications), Roget’s, various books of quotations, a couple of style guides (Macquarie and Right Word), a Miller’s Guide, a copy of The Bible (RSV), and the four footy publications I cannot do without: a complete set of The Footy Almanac, Every Game Ever Played, The Encyclopaedia of Footballers and The AFL Record Season Guide.

I have a decade’s worth of AFL Season Guides. The Guide has been growing fatter, although the good folk at MacPherson’s in Maryborough (who also print the Almanac) have done a great job providing paper that is very thin, yet resistant to beer, red wine, and potato cake grease. The thinness of the paper gives the publication biblical authority.

That authority is well-earned.

The Guide started many years ago as an industry document for those working in footy – especially journalists and media departments. But Geoff Slattery (who has an eye for these things) realised that fans would also love it, and may even buy a copy from year to year. So, from 1996 it has been on sale to the general public.

It has grown organically with new sections added each year, (this year, I’m told, one is How Teams Perform The Week After Being Belted). Information is always being updated as the AFL receives about 30 emails with corrections for the current edition.

I can only imagine being 10 years old and being given my first-ever copy. I recall when I first discovered the ABC Cricket Book the sheer wonderment of it: all this stuff has happened and someone recorded it? Thank goodness: I thought I was the only one who thought like that, craved that.

With cricket, and with footy, this genre is really important. The recording of such factual information provides the skeletal framework for an understanding that the game has a past. The young reader, enthralled by the detail, will have his historical imagination released, and with developing intellect will be drawn to the many other works on the history of football which give flesh to the facts: the stories of people and games and seasons, and the analysis of the issues which surround the game.

Of course, the Season Guide is always there to settle arguments as well, and to remind us that our memories are not what they used to be.

They have so much information, as they must, being so long: this edition is over 1000 pages.

Whether it’s all the information on current players, or the family connections of players across the generations; players who’ve had success in other sports; crowd info; draft info, the oldest, the youngest, the shortest, the tallest, finals details, you name it: you’ll find it.

I reckon it’s $40 very well spent.


The Footy Almanac has a couple of copies of The AFL Record Season Guide to give away for the best two pieces of writing submitted in the lead up to the start of this AFL season. These pieces are on a memorable Round 1 story from any year (including this one).

 All posts between now and March 31 will be considered. Post your own piece or send it to j,t,[email protected]



About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and footyalmanac.com.au. He has written columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted [email protected] He is married to The Handicapper and has three kids - Theo13, Anna11, Evie10. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst three. His ambition is to lunch for Australia.


  1. Michael Parker says

    I can remember recieving the very first addition of the guide as a young fella, i’m pretty sure in the lead up to the 96 season. For a footy mad kid like me it was all i needed. It really was a bible for me

  2. RSV and not the King James…?

  3. John Harms says

    I have a lisp

  4. pamela sherpa says

    Have I missed something ? Isn’t it a bit odd not to have a player from the winning GF team from last season on the cover?

  5. Yeah. but they shooda won Pamela.

  6. Richard Naco says

    It suits Geelong very much to be overlooked.

    Nothing hurts as much as the punch you don’t see coming.

  7. Damo Balassone says

    Just to clarify, it’s always the reigning Brownlow Medalist on the cover.

    Agreed, it’s a great publication.

    I too refer to the Encyclopaedia quite often, but have noticed quite a few errors in it – even tried to contact the writers to fix for subsequent editions.

    PS I am an NIV man.

  8. Andrew Fithall says

    Yes Pamela – you have missed something. It is convention for this publication to have the previous year’s Brownlow medalist on the cover. I am pretty sure Carlton haven’t won a premiership this millenium and C Judd was on the cover of the 2011 edition.

  9. I never realised how much I needed one of these AFL Records until now. I’ll be back in 20 minutes, I’m off to the local bookstore.

  10. Tony Robb says

    Ah Footie where too much info is never enough. May I suggest John that you donate one to the Herald Sun. Then again why let facts get in the way of a good rumour. I,m typing this from GPs waiting room I knew there was purpose for having this IPad

  11. John Harms says

    Cookie, get a few.

  12. Richard Naco says


    Don’t let him tighten the bolts too tight.

    (Mine does it to me every time, and it fair dinkum squeezes all the blood into your noggin!)

    And the scream you may be hearing is the net effect of all this transmissions shorting out a critical piece of technology in the middle os somebody else’s treatment.


  13. Swanny u are so PRETTY!!! ;)

  14. Started buying these pre-season about 5 or 6 years ago. No one who knows me will be surprised to hear that I love them!

    I’ve backfilled to 1999 but still need the ’96-’98 editions. Anyone have a spare?

    JTH, MacPherson’s switched to the thin paper in 2006. The 2007 Almanac used the same but since then we’ve gone the other way. How come?

    (It’s of some slight disappointment to me that the only Almanac to use potato cake-resistant paper is the only one I’m not a part of!)

  15. John Harms says

    Ah, a paper discussion. The 2007 Almanac paper is very high quality, and quite expensive. The book is thinner but (considerably) heavier. The good paper means the book will last for ever. When Penguin became involved they chose their own paper which is a different style, not as white, and with a little more bulk.

    I’m sure you’ll find 1996-98 Guides somewhere. The trick will be to fond the earlier ones.

  16. John Harms says

    Gigs, I will get my ladder to you for the Ladder Ladder coml after I have a bit more of a think about it. I’m not sure whether to have Carlton eighth or to bring Collingwood back into my eight now that the Blues are struggling.

  17. Paul Daffey says


    I’ve found a couple in op shops, and one, I think it was 1995, in the second-hand bookshop by the lake at Daylesford (bought a few things there over the years).

    I have every one back to 1994. I think I’m the nerdiest fan here.

  18. Rick Kane says

    JTH, can I recommend two other organs of great assistance when writing? Shakespeare’s Collected Works and the Internet. Cheers

  19. Damo Balassone says

    If you recall it used to be called the “VFL Year Book”. I had several copies from the mid to late 80s (from memory Silvagni was on the front of the ’88 issue and Shaw in ’91). Later when I became a minimalist I took a whole heap of my footy & cricket books (including all my yearbooks & about 500 Footy Records) and sold them to the great man, Santo Caruso at Melbourne Sports Books in Flinders Street. So for avid collectors, I recommend his store.

    By the way & I hate to sound like a nit-picker, but on the subject of the AFL Encyclopaedia of League Footballers, I have found another obvious error – it lists Jimmy Stynes consecutive games streak at 246 (it should be 244). For anyone interested, I reckon I could reel of a list of many such errors in that publication. It needs to be revised big time.

  20. pamela sherpa says

    John, 10 years ago I won a copy of the AFL guide for the season when I rang into Tim Gavel’s Saturday morning sports talk back show on 666 ABC Canberra. I read out my ‘Interstate hell with the AFL’ poem. I was the only Aussie rules caller that morning so they gave me caller of the week prize.

  21. GA Thompson says

    The Guide also contains the following …(I kid you not)…

    the University ‘Team of the Century’

    I studied it for a while, could not fault it in any way whatsoever

    And although it’s for a slightly different target market, the Champion Data AFL Prospectus is a bedazzling read. I’m always finding juicy lateral thought-provoking snippets in there (for example the 2009 edition provided the fact that Jobe Watson had led the league in ‘sharking opposition hitouts’ for the past four years (IIRC) – Now whether that’s a reflection on the (then underappreciated) quality of Jobe, or on the Bomber ruckman, is for further reflection)

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