From the Outer: Footy Like You’ve Never Heard it

Nicole Hayes, Alicia Sometimes

From the Outer: Footy Like You've Never Heard it
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From the Outer: Footy Like You’ve Never Heard it

Nicole Hayes, Alicia Sometimes

A celebration of our great game, From the Outer brings together 30 personal stories about Aussie Rules from unexpected voices: those who are female, Indigenous or gay; those with a disability, a foreign accent or even - perhaps most dubious of all - literary leanings.

Some are closet fans, some are out and proud. Many are ground-breaking and revolutionary, shaking up the institution that has dominated cultural life in Melbourne, and much of Australia, for generations. Some are actively involved in the game, such as Leila Gurruwiwi, panellist on Australia’s first all-Indigenous footy show; Angela Pippos, one of Australia’s first female sports commentators; and Jason Tuazon-McCheyne, founder of the first LGBTIQ supporter group, the Purple Bombers. Others, like Christos Tsiolkas, Sophie Cunningham, Tony Birch and Alice Pung, share their poignant, passionate experiences as spectators and supporters.

Engaging and surprising, From the Outer shows how footy can both thrill and devastate, exclude and unite, by shining a light on the diversity and splendour of the game.

Review

I approach writing about football with a degree of trepidation. The game is rich in vernacular and this often seems to result in an exercise in extreme verisimilitude that underwhelms in charm and overwhelms narrative. Fortunately, From the Outer presents a range of perspectives that haven’t suffered this plight. Tony Birch’s reflection on the demise of the Fitzroy Football club held me enchanted. One of my best mates was a Fitzroy supporter and we went to many of their games, storming the oval and flattening the fence when Quinlan kicked his hundredth goal at the Junction oval in 1983. I saw what Birch so beautifully explains as being ‘worse than following a football club that cannot win a game. And that is to have no club at all.’

Immersion in AFL/VFL and following a club is a big deal in Melbourne, and the importance of this is articulated repeatedly in this collection. Jason Tuazon-McCheyne’s explains his pursuit of LGBTIQ acceptance through Essendon’s Purple Bombers supporter group. Stan Grant’s expression of grief and anger over the ‘crescendo of boos’ that followed Adam Goodes is a profound rebuttal to those who chose to pretend that race played no part in an affair that was entirely about race. Alicia Sometimes’ stream of consciousness riff on Hawthorn’s path to the only grand final ever held at Waverly is a stunning piece of contemporary history writing, a few pages that had me reliving that year and that time with pulse-quickening clarity.

There are too many contributions to cover in such a short review, but they are all worth it. For anyone who has ever played the game, risen with the crowd to be one with thousands, played kick-to-kick on the ground after the final siren, or simply wanted to be part of it all and to belong, you’ll understand. From the Outer offers personal perspectives on this, but for better or worse, footy binds us, and these are all of our stories.


Robbie Egan is the operations manager for Readings.

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