The Trials of Jack BroadstockArchie Mac |
Author: Sexton, Michael
Rating: 4.5 stars
“He could charm the pitchfork off the Devil” was how Jack Dyer, the legendary hard-man of the VFL between the wars, described Jack Broadstock.
The one problem with footy writing before the advent of the AFL, was the seclusive nature of the competitions throughout Australia. Living in Canberra, we received the VFL match of the round each week. All other coverage was either from ABC radio or the Winners on a Saturday night, and was all VFL content. The only time we even heard of South Australian footy was when they’d telecast the grand final of the SANFL.
Where as in cricket you can generally follow the elite player, from grade to Sheffield Shield and then into the Test team, Aussie Rules is geographically germane. This makes it hard to have any real significant crossover. So alas, if it didn’t happen in the VFL, before 1990, most footy fans, outside their own state, simply aren’t interested.
I am as guilty of the above as anyone. When I noticed Broadstock was a Crow Eater I thought I’d give the book a miss. However, eventually due to the fact that Broadstock played a couple of seasons for Richmond in the 1940s, and a friend also recommending it, I decided to track down a copy. Thankfully, I did. This is one of the best sports books you will read. Thoroughly researched and flowingly written, the author Michael Sexton has performed a superb job.
Having the skills to research a topic and to write entertainingly are important, however having a worthy subject is perhaps even more essential. In Jack Broadstock, we have a sports writer’s wet dream. Broadstock, was a star sportsman; irreverent personality; and a little roguish when it came to the law. If this was not enough for a great yarn, we have his footballing life set to a back drop of the great depression and WWII.
The book begins in 1947, when a 26yo Broadstock, is in court for suspected involvement in a break and enter, with the prosecutor pushing for gaol. His coach at West Adelaide appears on his behalf as a character witness, as he desperately needs his champion footballer available to play. Sexton, with this riveting start quickly has you interested and engrossed.
We meet many characters, and return to a time when Aussie Rules Football was definitely an amateur pursuit. Players worked a fulltime job and strapped on the boots for little financial reward, while some like Broadstock never worked a real job, instead simply relying on charm to skate on by.
Normally in a nonfiction biography, and probably due to discovering a tenuous story of interest, during long hours of research, authors’ tend to be tangential. This can be galling and even if the story is entertaining, you find yourself wanting to be taken back to the subject matter at hand. Somehow, Sexton manages to keep the reader’s interest in these peripheral tales. Just how he manages this, is not clear, although it’s suspected it’s simply due to the quality of his story telling.
The Trials of Jack Broadstock, is a fine read and should have received five stars. It lost a half a star due to no index or contents page, and also for the poor reproduction of illustrations throughout the book. These are minor gripes, in what is a quality read and will be enjoyed by anyone who picks it up. Be warned, after two pages you too will be hooked.