In David Williamson's 1977 play The Club, the action takes place in a single room, through which traipse combinations of club president, committeeman, general manager, coach, captain and star recruit, conniving and conspiring. Big money and commercial pragmatism threaten to uproot personal loyalties and ancient ways. ‘I want to turn all those photographs around so they don’t have to look down on this shameful scene,’ says one character, who, it turns out, protests too much. ...'
'In late September 2015, Malcolm Turnbull made his first sporting appearance as Prime Minister at the Dally M Awards, the black-tie night for the working-class game. It should have been home turf. Turnbull is a long-time supporter of the Sydney Roosters – the closest to a silvertail club in the code, but really just the local rugby league team in the Eastern Suburbs where he grew up. But something went wrong for the Prime Minister; and News Ltd, Fairfax and SBS all settled on the word ‘awkward’ to describe his performance at the event. ...'
The Twenty-first century has already seen a stream of premature epitaphs written for many long-standing social phenomena, not least social capital – often referred to as the ‘glue’ that binds us together. I eagerly jumped on that bandwagon at the turn of the century, worried about signs of weakening social connectedness. At that time, Harvard Professor Robert Putnam, in his bestseller Bowling Alone (Simon & Schuster, 2001), persuasively traced the consequences of weakening social and civic ties in middle America. I haven’t really gotten off that wagon, although I’ve never felt completely comfortable with some of my fellow traveller’s laments about the state of the world and declining stocks of social capital.
'In his highly influential history of Australian rules football, Geoffrey Blainey promoted the idea that the sport constituted a ‘game of our own’. In making this claim, Blainey suggested the sport was the outcome of Anglo-Australian cultural innovations. In raising the prospect of an Aboriginal football ethic we question this assertion and ask who is really taking this indigenous sport forward today. ...'
'The beguiling promise of sport is that everyone is treated equally: that it transcends politics through meritocracy. Fair play and a level playing field remain catchwords. Yet who determines whether the play is fair? Is the playing field really fair? And on whose land do the playing fields rest? ...' (Abstract)
'There is no doubt that soccer began to be associated with European ethnic groups in Australia after the Chifley government’s intake of ‘New Australians’ from non-Anglo-Irish European countries. This began the erosion of the White Australia Policy after 1947 and, essentially overnight, converted the sport’s base from its traditional British constitution. So much so that the epithet ‘wogball’ was enshrined as a colloquialism in the Macquarie Dictionary. Yet, the inception of Jewish and Yugoslavian teams in Western Australia before 1947 shows that the institutionalisation of ethnic teams in soccer was a process that began between the wars. ...'
'There's a special moment in mid-February when the grass at our local park is so smooth, tended so carefully, that it’s almost like a skating rink. Well watered, well fed, well mown. The park has been empty most of the summer, but that day, when the park comes alive, you know winter is coming – such as winter is in Sydney – and winter means football. Not professional football with its million-dollar packages and broadcast rights. Not football as something you watch. Football as it’s meant to be. Football as something you do. ...'
'In January 2016, Chris Gayle made a highly inappropriate pass at Mel McLaughlin, cricket’s Big Bash League sideline reporter, on live television. I thought my tweet, sent as I watched the cricket while packing to go overseas the next morning, was fairly innocuous. I purposely didn’t use any hashtags – an act of self-censorship to make my voice as small as possible on the platform – but I felt I had to note that his behaviour was not a one-off. A colleague tweeted a reply, in jest I thought: ‘Be careful or you’ll be asked to write a first person piece while on holiday.’ A few other journalists retweeted me. ...'
'It somehow seemed right, one golf day, that we ended up banging on about the Brisbane Rugby League competition of the 1970s, because the round of golf that my old friend PB, my son and I were engaged in was a form of time travel anyway. We named the style of game we play after that particular decade because our scores are so inflationary, just like the inflation rates of the 1970s oil crisis. When we’re really on song, particular holes are called ‘Malcolm Frasers’ because PB and I achieve double-digit scores, just like old Mal’s 1982 effort of presiding over double-digit unemployment and inflation. ...'
'In 1976 my Aunty Pam, who had returned from her job as a nurse on the volcanic island of Karkar just off Madang in Papua New Guinea and was by then matron of the health centre in the Aboriginal settlement of Cherbourg in southern Queensland, bought my three brothers and me a Montreal Olympic Games T-shirt each. We wouldn’t take them off. The Olympic Games were a few weeks away. We remembered, from 1972, Shane Gould and Mark Spitz; Kip Keino and Lasse Viren. ...'
'Only a generous observer would have said I was dancing around the ring. A less generous one, the one I’d become after watching my filmed efforts on my boxing trainer’s iPhone, said I was ‘frankensteining’ the ring. My lumbering, T-shirt-tanned frame was swatting at the focus pads that Chris – my lean, smiling and properly tanned trainer – held up. The footage was unequivocal. I was hitting the pads at a much slower rate than I’d thought. As we watched my clumsy moves, Chris, a former Victorian welterweight champion, offered me his take on the sweet science. ...'
'It's early morning and I’m waiting with ten thousand other people in the four lanes of road that separate Sydney’s Hyde Park from St Mary’s Cathedral. A man is talking to us through a megaphone but it’s hard to hear him against the vigorous dance track bouncing from the sound system. Eventually someone will blast a siren and we’ll all go off and run a half marathon together. ...'
'By queertime she grew restless and could not see what was in front of her. She felt rootless and lived alone; her friends were not family. Through this depression, she bought a new duck-feather pillow and ten-kilogram weights, and did what she had done since she was young: structured her life through football. ...'
It is June 2013, San Diego, California – the last few weeks before the Callaway Junior World Championship. Max has been preparing by playing one tournament after another. Each time, the outcome has been much the same: he hits a few remarkable shots, lands a few wayward ones in rough territory or behind some trees, and finally gives a hole away with a careless putt. Too many double bogeys, too few pars, not enough birdies. He usually manages a final score of between eight and fourteen over par: not enough to land him among the top players.
'My dad woke me early to go down town and buy streamers. It was 1989 and our team was in the grand final for the second year running. I was eight. The year before we’d been in the grand final against the Bulldogs and had been beaten 24-12. It was a hard loss for a seven year old. This year we were in the grand final against the Raiders. I didn’t think we could lose, since in our house the Raiders were made fun of for looking like Milo tins. This was my mum’s contribution to the footy, deciding what pantry items the teams’ jerseys most looked like. We were a traditional household in this way. ...'
'When she braked at the traffic lights, what did she see? A homeless man…me? Hunched over, cross-legged, red abrasions large enough to map on shrivelled arms, dirty bare feet – a sad thing, communicating with his peeps via permanent marker and a torn piece of cardboard resting against his track pants. ...'
'Eva lad loved the first slap of cold water on her face when she dived into the pool, then the bubbles peeling away from her hands like pearls. A shoal of parrotfish passed on her right, creating a golden wall that reflected the afternoon light. Ahead was a manta ray, its flanks rippling like a silk curtain, while the walrus hovered in the corner of her vision. As she pushed through a forest of kelp, it rasped against her cheeks. ...'