As the Great War raged in 1916, two teams of Australian soldiers played an Australian Rules football match in London. It was the first time the world had seen our national game. But this was more than an exhibition match. It symbolised sport's role in driving young athletes to enlist and fight.
The players came from every corner of the country - some of them stars in the VFL or champions in their city or state leagues. For all of them it was a chance to forget blood and battle and simply play, a final kick of the footy before the Western Front, from where some would never return.
Now, 100 years on, Nick Richardson rekindles an incredible moment in our history and pays tribute to the men who played The Game of Their Lives.
I received this book for review from Pan Macmillan Australia.
As I am a huge AFL fan and interested in history, particularly World War I, I had a real interest in reading this book. I also had a further interest from an ancestry perspective as I have a distant cousin who died in WWI that I recently discovered played and umpired football at WAFL level.
The book mainly follows VFL footballers, but as a sandgroper I was more interested in the WA footballers, particularly the Scullins from Kalgoorlie as that is where my mum was born and I still have a lot of relatives living there.
What amazed me most about this book was that even though Australia was only a mere 15 years old at the time, football was already being played with the spirit and passion seen today.
I read this book on the back on watching a number of WWI documentaries, and so I knew what an antagonist Australian Prime Minister Billy Hughes was, but I found it really interesting to learn how desperately he wanted to bring Australian sport down.
The book is written by a journalist and so the book is unsurprisingly very fact heavy. This made it quite slow to read.