Net Brennan, Sportsmanship (Our Stories), Black Dog Publishing/Walker Books, June 2016, 32pp. $17.99 (pbk), ISBN 9781742032337
‘Sportsmanship’ is defined by the Macquarie Dictionary as ‘sporting conduct … the character, practice, or skill of a sportsman.’ While this book touches on the achievements of some individuals, it is primarily a general historical survey of the development and practice in Australia of such mainstream sports as cricket, football codes, horse-racing, athletics and swimming. There is no discussion of sportsmanship itself, except a concluding note that the love of sport is a passion that uniquely defines our nation and culture, surely a debatable point.
What the reader does get is an insight into how the major sports began and gained popularity, an introduction to champions such as Don Bradman, Dawn Fraser, Artie Beetson, Cathy Freeman and Les Darcy, and a description of significant events and moments that include the 1983 America’s Cup victory, the Bodyline series, the death of Phar Lap and the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. The current controversy around apparent racist behaviour of football spectators is viewed retrospectively through the 1993 action of Nicky Winmar declaring pride in his Aboriginality. The one part of the book where sportsmanship is unequivocally illustrated is the story of John Landy’s selfless action of stopping to help the fallen Ron Clarke who had been leading the mile race in the 1956 Australian National (Athletics) Championship. Clarke then urged Landy on to ultimate victory.
The book represents an easy magazine-style read for casual readers in the pre-early teen years. Archival photographs, one per colour-toned page, add to the sense of the book as a light history of the rise of sport in Australian culture.
Reviewed by Kevin Steinberger