Ford St Publishing
186 p. RRP: $17.99
Like so many other youngsters around the country, Noah and Ben live for their footy. They are both completely focussed on being the best players they can be in their provincial footy teams but also share a common goal: to be selected for the Bushrangers and go on to play the big game at the MCG. They are both prepared to put in the hard yards to achieve this by being rigorous with their training and skilling and always giving their best effort. Despite their similarities, their cautious friendship is marred by division. Noah comes from a solid and loving Aboriginal family, grounded in their kinship and supportive of each other and their culture. Noah plays for the Mavericks: a successful team who work as a team under the guidance of an experienced and wise coach. Ben, on the other hand, has only his dad and sister and plays for the Kookaburras (because he is made to follow the family tradition of doing so). The Kookaburras are a sloppy outfit with prejudices and favouritism rife in its ranks. It has not ever had a good name in the game.
Michael Hyde achieves a wonderfully realistic and utterly believable cast of characters, each with their own voice as he explores this complex small town scenario. The boys are drawn together despite their team rivalry through not only their shared goal but also their growing understanding of being in the other’s shoes – or footy boots.
With the kind of dramas one would expect in everyday Australian life such as death of a relative, teenagers struggling to find their own identity, dealing with racism and prejudices, bullying, establishing relationships with mates or girls, Hyde presents us with a view of this sport, which often verges on a fervent religion, as well as life outside the big city that gives real insight into these young players and their hurdles and their community.
If you have not yet found the right book for a young person in your readership clientele, this might well be the one that flicks the magic switch.
Both male and female characters are strong and resonant providing appeal to both boys and girls. The plot is well constructed and the important issues of racism, prejudice and bullying are handled deftly and with sensitivity.
Highly recommended for readers from around 12 up.