Play On returns

Play On cover2

Order your copy through our Pozible crowd-funding campaign. Click here.


I’ve been thinking for a while I should do this – get the books I wrote a decade ago back out there –  and a couple of things have happened in the last week or so to give me a kick-along. More of that in a minute.

Anyway, in about 1996, about three quarters of the way through my (Australian history) PhD, I started writing stories (not just sport, although there were quite a few sports yarns), which somehow caught the eye of a couple of editors and were published. I was encouraged by a wonderful man, the late Mike Selleck, (who in a rather amazing coincidence is Dips O’Donnell’s uncle). Mike was a very hard-marker which made him an excellent mentor. (There can be no ego in developing your craft.)

After that rather lucky break, I was invited to write a weekly column in The Australian. Called In Harms Way, it presented a view of sport from the hill and the terrace (which was a lot of fun), while also trying to place sport into its social and historical context; all while never losing sight of the sense of play in sport.

I had absolutely no interest in sport as business. I had come to understand what commerce was doing to top-level sport and I felt I could see sport’s course already charted by the money men. In my teaching I differentiated between what I called supersport (even back then) and sport as we ordinary folk experienced it.

I was very confident that sport held significant meaning for many people – they were the people with whom I played sport, attended sport, and talked sport over a steak and a beer. The stories I wrote had their earnest moments, but there were a lot of laughs in observing the whole sports milieu. I hope I never lost sight of the absurdity of some pursuits, nor of the sheer

Hence, the column resonated sufficiently to survive from week to week, particularly in places where The Australian offered an alternative to the principal daily newspapers. Given The Age was still in good nick (in the late 1990s) and the Herald Sun wouldn’t have been interested, I suspect I did not have had too many readers in Melbourne and environs, but I did elsewhere.

Gideon Haigh mentioned my columns, and the letters I wrote regularly to the syndicate I had set up – the Salvadore Allende Memorial Racing Alliance (to show how socialism can work in horse-racing), to his publisher, Michael Heyward at Text. Michael was interested in my voice and so we developed an idea. I would write a cricket book from the perspective of the outer.

Cover Confessions of a Thirteenth Man


Published in 1999, Confessions of a Thirteenth Man is a tour book cum road trip book cum memoir. I jumped in the `82 Camira and followed the 1998-99 Ashes tour around Australia meeting dozens of great people, having a few beers, and trying to capture summer and cricket culture in Australia.

The book was popular enough to warrant a re-print, and for Text to ask if I had any other ideas.

I had been a pretty ordinary punter since discovering the form guide as an 18 year old university Maths student (how things had moved on from there) and I’d had an absolute ball racing Courting Pleasure with my brother Mick and the wonderful Sheahan clan and SAMRA. So in 2000 Memoirs of a Mug Punter was published and, soon after, re-printed.

Cover Memoirs of a Mug Punter

I received many, many letters about both books. People took time to say how much they had enjoyed the tales, but to also tell me something of their own stories. I remain in contact with some of these people. Characteristically some letters would begin, “You have written the story of my life…”

That was all very heartening.

Text Publishing was keen on another book.

I had always loved footy and the Geelong Football Club (Oh, really – Ed) and so it seemed the right moment to find the words to try to describe that ridiculous passion which bore (at that time) such frustration. I wrote Loose Men Everywhere followed a couple of years later.

Cover Loose Men Everywhere

Text then decided to publish all three books in the omnibus Play On. By then I had moved to Melbourne, and with a fortnightly spot on Jon Faine’s Conversation Hour, as well as time on Grandstand, Play On was soon sold out as well. Sadly, it has remained out of print for many years.

Play On cover2

I am often asked if I have copies of any of my books. Sadly I have about half a dozen of the racing books and that’s all, to the point that I have asked a few second-hand booksellers to look out for copies (which are pretty hard to find) so I have something to give my kids. (I have that covered now, as long as we have no more kids).

I have been meaning to re-print Play On as a Malarkey publication for some time. But The Footy Almanac (eight editions now) and the website have always been a priority. Time marches on.

Then, a couple of weeks ago I received a note from an old mate, Heiko Denker, in Namibia, whose magnificent African-soccer kicking style (and the fact he could run all day), while studying engineering and playing for Adelaide Lutheran FC, got him a gig in Loose Men Everywhere. In a Facebook message he pointed out that it was time to re-print as Amazon were responding to the market!

Grange isn’t ageing that well.

The other motivator came in the form of a very gratifying email from someone I’d never met.


I am an avid fan of the two Sunday TV specials “Insiders” and “Offsiders” and use this time to catch up on the latest sport and political news from the preceding week.  Therefore I have noted your insightful contributions during your time, as a panelist on the “Offsiders” and this led to another discovery.

Whilst cycling in the far reaches of Kashmir and Ladahk,  I wearily cycled into the city of Leh and as is my custom sought out a secondhand book shop.  I swapped my novel for your hearty omnibus of three books in one (Play On), which was sitting on the floor in a dusty shop amongst the back streets and although taking up half my pannier bag it stood me in good stead during lonely nights, airport downtime and flights.   I enjoyed the read, as it struck a chord with me, with your descriptions of racing, teaching, football and sundry other activities.  Your book is still travelling, as I did a swap in Chiang Rai Thailand for a Tim Winton novel, which, as you can imagine differs markedly in style from your writings.

I am an avid touring cyclist,  traversing the globe and always in search of something to read, so thank you for your contribution.  In my dim dark past I have been a Physical Education teacher involved in all the football codes and I’ve graced the fields of Woomera, Port Lincoln, Dalby, Sydney, Kundiawa and my last game of soccer in Chiang Rai Thailand.  They still talk about Neil Kerley, who was captain coach of Koolymilka in the Woomera league when he was only nineteen.  I also have vivid memories of playing Rugby League against a Mount Hagen team in New Guinea and one of our players got in a fight and to our bemusement a policeman came on the field and arrested him. No wonder we lost after that. I have many great memories of great football times and dream about them, when I am grinding away for hours at a time on the bike.

Keep up the banter on the TV, as I enjoy the humour that you and Roy Masters inject into the show.

Yours sincerely
Rod Grierson

Here’s Leh Ladakh (image).

And Leh Ladakh (map)

Here’s Chiang Rai in Thailand

That’s got to give a tired old writer a lift. Thanks Rod.

So, I am going to reprint Play On. It’s just a matter of how many copies. It will help enormously to take pre-orders. If you would like to order a copy send me an email [email protected]. Depending on numbers, I reckon it will be about the $40 mark. Or you can support the Almanac site re-development and publishing of our new e-magazine (to be launched soon) by purchasing Play On through our Pozible crowdfunding campaign. Click HERE.

I hope you have as much fun reading it as I had living it.



Play On cover2

About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and 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 (appeared?) on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted [email protected] He is married to The Handicapper and has three school-age kids - Theo, Anna, Evie. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst four. His ambition was to lunch for Australia but it clashed with his other ambition - to shoot his age.


  1. I re-read my copy over the summer holidays while camping in the Conondales and later at Double Island Point. It has aged very well. I can see the reprint doing well, particularly for the non-Geelong fan demographic wanting to return to the happier times before the 2005 resurgence.

    I regret not bringing my copy to our meeting the previous summer in Mooloolooba to get it signed…

  2. Emma Westwood says

    Stone Cold and I are putting up our hands for one, JTH.

  3. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    I believe that my copy was taken hostage by the Hawthorn chapter of the People’s Front Of Moonee Ponds some years back.

    He can keep it, but put me down for a reprint.

  4. Jane Greenwood says

    I’m in! I have Loose Men, which I read to D when he was very ill, to make him cheerful! But I lent the others and didn’t get the back …

  5. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    I’ll buy it just to read how you can reconcile socialism with horse racing. Good move putting it out there in the broadband online era. Possibilities endless.

  6. That’s great news JTH. One suggestion, is it worth putting the 2007 GF piece from the almanac as an epilogue to Loose Men Everywhere? Even as a mad pie I must admit I got ‘caught up in it all’ reading that piece and thought it also rightfully belonged in Loose Men.

  7. Michael Howard says

    Hi John.

    The fishing season is winding back and the reading season winding up. A copy for me and another couple for the brothers means I have birthdays sorted by Feb – easily a Howard record!

  8. Great news. Count me in.

  9. John
    You might be interested to know that on a recent solo trip to Apollo Bay (and back) I listened to the double-disc audio-book of your good self reading “Loose Men Everywhere”, which I purchased in a Williamstown op-shop for $2!!
    Count me in also.

  10. I’d love a copy

  11. Sounds like a very good read,. Put me down for a copy

  12. neilbelford says


  13. Yvette Wroby says

    2 please John.

    Great news

  14. Line me up for a couple. Wait… you bloody authors. A couple means two (2). Not seven (7).

  15. Will it be retitled as the Almanac Omnibus? A must have for my bookshelf. Is there a discount for an autographed copy?

  16. One for this admirer please.

  17. Graeme Amoore says

    Lucky to have a signed copy. I could do with another 3 for various CAT friends

  18. Gary Robb says

    Put me down for 3

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