I would say that sports journalism is right at the bottom of the list genres I willingly read, with only sports biography beating it for the wooden spoon (sports pun intended). However, I had heard wonderful things about Night Games and thought perhaps it was worth giving a go, particularly as it won the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award. Who even knew such a prize existed!
The Pies beat the Saints in the AFL Grand Final and the city of Melbourne was still recovering from the celebrations when rumour of a gang rape by a group of footballers began to emerge. It was confirmed that two Collingwood players were being questioned. Anna Krien follows the trial and explores the culture of male sports where footballers cut loose by playing night games, with consent, without consent but more often than not in the grey area where the answers aren’t cut and dried.
First Impressions: Wow. This book draws you in from page one and is a whirlwind right until the end. I read it in one and a bit sittings.
Highlights: Part of me was worried that this book would include a lot of opinions and judgements. However, I was impressed with the professional writing: fact, fact, fact, fact… The research that would have gone into this book! Krien doesn’t just cover the trial but also the footy culture. I read the pages about sledging and was almost laughing at the incredulity of the taunts – Who are these people? How do you even think of comments like that? Do people like this really exist? I don’t follow these sorts of cases on the news so to me the book felt like a dossier of famous names and the cases they have been linked to. Unfortunately, by the end I got the feeling that being implicated in a rape case is becoming a right of passage for some footballers – it will no doubt happen one day lad, just ride it out. Anyway, Krien always comes back to the issue of consent and I thought her exploration of this was both intriguing and balanced.
If I was an editor: I don’t know how you could improve this piece of writing. It is excellent journalism. I would have liked to find out more about the VFL footballer whose court case she followed (poor scapegoat) but I guess that to do so may have compromised her objectivity one way or another.
Overall: Should be read by all young women and (regular) men. If you’re enticed into these sorts of scenarios at least you may have an inkling of what the ‘rules’ are.
Night Games: 5 stars
Thank you to Random House (Vintage) for a copy of the ARC.