Game Day

Miriam Sved

Game Day
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Game Day

Miriam Sved

The new draft pick, the tired has-been, the up-and-comer, the might-have-been. The talent scout, the coach on the edge, the beleaguered umpire, the concerned medic. The number-one fan, the lifetime members, the desperate gamblers. The footballers' mums, the WAGs, the groupies. The tags, the rivals, the sledging. The pressure. Mick Reece and Jake Dooley, best mates since childhood, begin their first professional season playing AFL with little notion of what they’re getting into: the complexity of the beast that the game must feed.

In Game Day, Miriam Sved brings this beast into the light over the course of one season of Aussie Rules. What unfolds is a deeply insightful novel about the pathology of an AFL club, its players and its fans. Revelling in their battles, their victories and their relentless interdependence, Game Day asks whether what unites the true believers is stronger than what divides them, and if love of the game can transcend our flaws and imperfections to result in something beautiful.

Sved’s debut novel is a poignant and clear-eyed exploration of what sport means for Australians, and the intensity with which we pursue and cherish it.

Review

Miriam Sved’s debut novel strips back the corporate persona of an AFL club by weaving together a series of individual perspectives of our indigenous game. Players, scouts, coaches, groupies: none are spared, but nor are they mocked or trivialised. This fine book is a piercing view of a culture that runs deep, and Sved mines a sporting obsession that is in turn uplifting, ennobling, degrading and sad. Game Day speaks in the AFL vernacular, at one point detailing a player’s ability to recognise the severity of an injury by the concussive thud of the collision. Sved constructs the milieu patiently, with an eye for intimate detail amid the organisational imperatives of team and club.

AFL magnifies the tension between individual achievement and the greater needs of the team, and Game Day chronicles it all: the young’s desire for their yet-to-be sparkling futures, the has-been’s yearning for their past, the lament of the injured, and the one-and-all collateral of the blockbuster machine. What emerges is the struggle men have with their fragile egos and the depth of their reliance on booze and amateur psychology. Pleasingly, their daughters, wives and flings are not cursory notes or afterthoughts, but engaged participants amid the alpha males. Whether you like the footy or not is irrelevant: these characters ring true and speak to us in many ways. Miriam Sved is a writer to watch.


Robbie Egan is the manager at Readings Carlton.

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