Game Day by Miriam Sved

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