My second novel

I wrote my first football story when I was eight. It was my second novel.

My first novel was called Wombat because it was about a wombat.

My football novel was about our family driving from Shepparton to VFL Park in our Morris 1100, to see Geelong play Footscray, the second game of VFL footy I’d ever seen. It was sort of Jack Kerouac meets Adventure Island and the principal theme was injustice. Geelong lost by two points when a goal in the dying minutes to Billy Goggin was disallowed, and a free kick given to Gary Dempsey. The story describes the innocent good fortune of our family’s decision to sit with the Geelong cheer squad (“Oh, that looks like a group of Geelong people”) , and being completely drawn into the game – all in Grade 3 language.

I suspect I had good teachers at Gowrie St Primary School in Shep: Miss Jeffries, Miss Phillips, and others. (Writer and Acme Almanac Launcher Anson Cameron was a year ahead of me at Gowrie St – we discovered one night over a beer.) Those teachers read us stories, and they encouraged us to read stories ourselves.

We had stories in our home. Daily. Every Thursday we visited the library. Bill Peat was one of my favourite authors, and as I now try to be a father to my children I realise the Pa in the Bernstein Bears has had a profound effect on me. (Particularly insofar as the selection of picnic sites and the tutoring of bike-riding skills are concerned).

I have continued to love words.

I started my post-uni life as a Maths and Phys Ed teacher, but it wasn’t long and I was teaching History, English and Politics in schools – and Australian Studies and Sports History as a sessional teacher in unis.

I had always written – letters and postcards mainly. And eventually I realised that the academic writing of the varsity was too stifling for me. I liked people and their stories and I loved listening to them. So I started to write stories, and tell stories, which really I had been doing since I first sensed that wombats told us a lot about life.

I have been visiting schools, and speaking at workshops and seminars, since just after my first book came out in 1999.

In schools I try to get kids to write and to realise they have so much to write about, because life is what happens to them, not to someone on TV. Often it’s about getting them to remember their first footy match, or first musical instrument, a holiday, a relative, and so on.

These sessions are good fun, and students will become published writers if they want, as their stories will be published here at

We have a lot of talented and experienced writers, artists, and media types who are involved here at the Almanac. And even a mathematician (Flynny). Beginning now (Term 4, 2012) we are starting a program of school visits, in all of the states.

This program is being administered by Phil Dimitriadis.

Almanackers involved include:

John Harms (national – writer, broadcaster, historian)

Anson Cameron (Victoria – writer, columnist)

Tony Wilson (Victoria – children’s books, feature writer, broadcaster, film-maker)

Cheryl Critchley (Victoria – journalist, writer)

Craig Little (Victoria – writer, spin-doctor)

Michael Hyde (Victoria – writer, academic)

Phil Dimitriadis (Victoria – writer, academic, ESL teacher, multicultural specialist)

Chris Riordon (Victoria – teacher, sportswriter)

Andrew Starkie (Victoria – writer, teacher)

Adam McNicol (Victoria – writer, journalist, TV journalist, boy from Manangatang)

David Bridie (Victoria – musician, composer, writer)

Jim Pavlidis (Victoria – artist, illustrator)

Martin Tighe (Victoria – artist, furniture restorer, teacher)

Peter Flynn (Victoria – mathematician, academic, writer)

Sean Gorman (Western Australia – writer, academic, Indigenous Studies specialist)

Mike Sexton (South Australia – TV journalist, writer)

Bill Ellis (Queensland – zoologist, writer)


In the coming weeks a Footy Almanac School Visits page will be established, which will include details of the participating Almanackers.


Each visit will be tailored individually, to suit the requirements of the group.


To invite one of our contributors to your school, contact me in the first instance [email protected] or on 0417635030.

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 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. JTH – you saw wombats, Leunig saw ducks.

    Great initiative.

  2. Hey John, does this mean we have to mind our Ps and Qs again for a period of time?

  3. Peter Schumacher says

    I don’t suppose that you could bring in musical appreciation programs so that Australian Idol would not be seen as being the epitome of this form of art?

  4. I think it remarkable that you thought about writing a sports based story at such an early age. I hated English at school but love reading writing, good writing on sport, especially on cricket. I bang out a footy review because it is GOOD FUN.

    How I wish I had an English teacher who could have rescued me from D. H. Lawrence.

  5. Good stuuf!

    When I used to speak at schools, I’d tell a few super short footy stories of my own to get the ball rolling, then get a few in the class, mostly boys who hated writing, or even the idea of writing, and loathed the thought of the work involved, to tell me their favorite footy yarn, the one they’d told time and again to their mates. They were always schoolyard short and schoolyard sharp. Then I would give the class ten minutes to write their own footy stories just as they spoke it, then, when they handed their stories in, I would bang a staple through the pile of yarns and say: Check it. Between you, you’ve written a book in ten minutes! I would read out a few of the funnier ones to show how good they were at it.
    Keep it simple, like in the schoolyard. Writers are overrated.
    They loved it!

    Good liuck with your project! Sounds like a corker!

  6. Oh, and Peter (Schumacher) if footy wasn’t the flavour of the school, I’d change the topic to music stories.

  7. Mathilde de Hauteclocque says

    Superb work, Almanac. Who’s coming to NSW then? With Barry in charge, someone’s got to look after education.

  8. Malcolm Ashwood says

    I am sure The Knackery would love a update how this fantastic project is going ?
    Thanks JTH

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