11 Reasons Why: Essendon Most Improved Team in the Comp


  1. Two big-bodied mids starting to win contested ball & capitalise on their natural composure: Kyle Langford and David Myers.
  2. Tom BC has gone up a gear – now in third. Top gear yet to come (star potential).
  3. Jake Stringer learning how to throw around The Package in the middle to advantage yet still able to boot 2 or 3 up forward each week. The Package round 15 highlight: twice holding off defenders, without infringing, to shepherd through two goals for his teammates. Worth 2 more on his tally.
  4. Mitch Brown up forward. Was a critic, now a convert. The switch is working (better than the Hooker experiment but will Aaron Francis be the real key?).
  5. Back line: formidable chaos. So often I’m sure we’ll crack only to find a way out (see 11 below). Hooksy finding his feet again down back.
  6. AMT: silky skills + “brick shithouse” combo is starting to click: forcing turnovers, winning the loose ball (not just for himself but for teammates). Sometimes he’s so composed under pressure it’s unnerving.
  7. Orazio fully recovered, back to being a freakish genius.
  8. Kicking accuracy has improved all over the ground (thankfully, for my sanity).
  9. Our star mids (Heppell, Merrett, Smith) all firing – not just one or the other, but all of them.
  10. Adam Saad is ripping every opponent a new ar*#^hole up the guts every week. Confidence is sky high and he knows he can pull it off. Not to mention Fantasia, McKenna, Collyer, McGrath… Brad Scott said it all: Dons “have real speed in their team”.
  11. Saved most important to last: The team is getting to understand each other. Not just knowing that the runners will hand the ball off and keep running, making themselves available for the next, but intuiting what space they will be occupying in advance (how many overhead handballs did we nail yesterday?).

Finals? Every chance. Go Bombers!

A Sad Culling: surgery for the historical fiction writer

Breakthrough! The crushing decision to ditch John.

I confess, I loved John. But John was an entirely fictional character on entirely fictional escapades and he was steadily usurping the narrative core of my novel: the real life story of his famous brother, Thomas, the protagonist of this tale.

Don’t get me wrong, Thomas did have a brother John, but not much is known about him. He was there on the fateful day that changed Thomas’ life, he testified on his brother’s behalf and then he died a few months after the trial.

I built him into someone, this John. I made him a hero setting out on a brave mission for justice and redemption. Oh yes, I sensed trouble early on, a feeling of discomfort as if I was being lead astray, but it was the sheer vigour and thrill of his story that first plunged me down into that rocky gully of distraction. And as he led me clambering and stumbling over the rocks, the days and the weeks grew longer, dragging on and on until I found — 6,000 words later — I was in a narrow chasm, cliffs to either side miles from Thomas and the rest of his family and getting further and further away from the truth that we know.

But overwhelmingly the feeling right now is sorrow. I’m going to miss John and his courageous quest, his beautiful energy, classified now as nothing more than a fanciful diversion, a stone that must be excised from the healthy organ. I feel like I’m betraying him, that it’s me that killed him at the tender age of twenty all those years ago in 1832.

May we meet again brother John. In another project, another world somewhere, may you breathe once more.

Gazelle with a sniper’s rifle

When I first encountered Nathan Lyon he was a wannabe successor to Shane Warne as the Australian cricket team’s incumbent spinner. A country boy, former groundsman at Adelaide Oval… plucked from obscurity in many ways.

There were a few contenders in those early years after Warney retired. I mean what do you do after the greatest leg spin bowler on the planet, in the history of the game exits Stage Left? Lyons was in and out of the team, maligned for not taking wickets, accused of having no real wicket-taking talent, selectors criticised for picking him again. And, oh dear, when it came to fielding, I used to cringe when the ball went to him. He was far from the best fielder in fact he was probably the worst.

But a man can be transformed. Practise, the challenge of people who are better than you, encouragement from your captain, elite mentors and clearly, a quiet determination. And now, from those scratchy beginnings, he’s the GOAT – Greatest of All Time off spinner for Australia. It’s phenomenal the number of wickets he’s taken, considering the slow start. But even more unlikely, his growth as a fielder.

The run out yesterday, had to be seen to be believed. Garry Lyon, the famous Australian Rules footballer — where the ability to pounce on a ball, bouncing around on the deck, is prized — would have been proud. And since Garry Lyon is the namesake for Nathan’s world famous nickname — immortalised by Matthew Wade’s cheerleading cry of “Nice Garry” from behind the stumps — I’m sure the footballer would be proud.

I could hardly believe the run out yesterday. Like a gazelle with a sniper’s rifle. So graceful, the movement towards the ball, his clean and sure pick up on the half volley and the all in one fluid motion of the throw was poetry. I’m sorry for the cliché but there’s no other word to describe it. In fact, I’ve written a poem to (hopefully) do justice to the cliché.

Gazelle with a sniper’s rifle

A vast expanse of green, one small red ball
Ready now, watching, bowler approaching,
Moving in anticipation of the stroke,
The ball hurtles down the pitch,
Breakneck speed, the sweet ‘clip’ of ball on bat.
Sighted. Coming my way now,
Power push off to the right, sharp, cat-like,
Four steps and there it is, eyes on,
Smack in my hand, first grab,
Clean as a surgeon’s cut,
Looking at the target now,
Split second, gazelle steps sideways,
I draw my arm back, whip-like,
All one motion, eyes on the stumps,
Adjust for physics, momentum, aim left,
Release, full strength, legs airborne, feet towards the pitch
Flat, hard, a red missile,
One bounce and ‘crack’,
Off stump splaying backwards,
Beautiful. Brilliant. Out.
Outer than out.

Well done Nathan Lyon. And thanks for providing me with inspiration for my first 500 words of the 31 day writing challenge. It’s all about practise right?

Dr Paul Collis, Dancing Home

Dancing Home, written by Barkindji man, Dr Paul Collis, awarded the 2016 David Unaipon Award. A powerful narrative depicting an ill-fated, heart-breaking homecoming. In Blackie, we see the personalised impact of 225 years of oppression, police brutality and victimisation, the failure of educational institutions to meet the needs of the indigenous minority, pervasive racism from high schools to pharmacies and the maelstrom of emotions and spiritual connections between family and community. Shocking and brutal yet tender and moving… They didn’t even know his name.

GenreCon Gluttony

24 Hour Round Up: Too much to cover, total gluttony today. Morning inspirational at the plenary where we heard “words made my heart soar, made me cry” (Claire Coleman) but still wondered whether we might be better off “herding ferrets” or chasing “squirrels” (Nalini Singh), then scattered to the four winds amongst the smorgasbord of panel discussions, workshops and pitch sessions.
Then in the evening, we reconvene like dairy cows coming in for milking at the plenary. Now this was hard core: the business of publishing. Like diving into an ice bath (an enlightening ice bath…) where we begin to understand that our precious babies that we gave birth to (solo, in our pyjamas) must now be a collaboration with – I kid you not – actual professionals! To be honest, I was completely relieved – oh for someone who actually knows what they’re doing to deliver this alien monster to the unsuspecting planet!

GenreCon: gobble-fest of the good stuff

GenreCon: a gobble-fest of the good stuff for writers.

How to turn your first “word vomit” draft (copyright @DelilahSDawson) into something a poor defenceless reader can at least keep down (thank you @NaliniSingh), how to shape a compelling first chapter (@DelilahSDawson again) and even how to write a realistic fight scene for women (somebody hand me a weapon, preferably sharp! @AikiFlinthart).

I’ve already deleted a page and a half of first chapter tripe so my readers can feast on fresh muscle (nobody loves offal), I know how to wallop my villain in the forearm with a club to ensure he drops his gun and I’m confident that the 6 months between writing the first draft scene that made me cry and re-encountering it in my second draft constitutes sufficient objectivity. The thing that stands out most? The passion and genuine interest of the speakers in passing on all they know about the craft – thank you for your GenreCon generosity.

Enriched by the Brisbane Writers Festival 2017

Things I learnt:

Sentiment is unearned emotion” – Mireille Juchau quoting James Joyce.

There is such a genre as “eco-fiction” and “cli-fi” (monikers Mireille Juchau is resisting).

Images can take the place of words to speak to us “in between the lines”.

To write a paragraph as good as the first one in Robert Drewe’s Whipbird takes 30 drafts.

The theory of “universal basic income” – what it means and how it could solve poverty, unemployment and the universal ennui of the 21st century employee (opening the door to a meaningful life, at last!)

Things I was intrigued by:

Acclaimed American novelist and poet, Jesse Ball, speaking of novels and the process of paring back drafts: “[a novel is] a fundamental episode of speech… an extraordinary minority of what you might have said“.

Later, Jesse commenting on authorial intention, the need to minimise it and his preference for a “deep ambivalence” in the text within which the reader can interpret and construct meaning. Indeed, Jesse proclaimed, in his gentle yet authoritative voice, “persuasion is a disease“.

Kyo Maclear’s use of birds as an “alibi” to avoid talking about the real subject which itself is so personal that to document it would have been an overshare.

Things I mused on:

European ‘first contact’ stories that sound like an alien encounter (Mark McKenna, From the Edge) notably, the 700km walk of a group of shipwrecked sailors, their survival a result the support of the local aboriginal tribes along the south east coast of the country.

The piracy of silence” that robs relationships of their richness and humanity – Nikki Gemmell’s lament over her failure to have deeper conversations with her mother before she took her own life to end her chronic pain.

Kyo Maclear’s embrace of the ‘common’ as a rebellion against modern day coveting of the exotic, the cult of celebrity. Also, her meditation on art and life as an antidote to the modern growth-imperative and relentless productivity push exhibited in best sellers like “Smarter, Faster, Better” and “Lean-In”.

The appeal of stories that start with a small aperture and explore something tiny, amplifying its mysteries and subleties.

The Protestant curse as proclaimed by Robert Dessaix: “Presbyterians don’t believe in leisure, only in self-improvement… It took me years to realize I’m not being scored out of tenI didn’t trust enough in joy. I didn’t explore joy, I only explored goodness.”

What I laughed about:

David Cohen’s “comedy with a body count” set in a self storage facility where one of the main characters is an “eBay savant“.

Robert Drewe’s dangerous experiment – gathering 1,000s of distant relatives in a vineyard to celebrate a remote ancestor and then plying them with alcohol for 48 hours. There they are, a motley collection traversing all classes and tiers of society (including the ex rocker who suffers from the delusion that he is already dead) all celebrating their disappointingly lame Irish ancestor who fought for the wrong side at Eureka.

The steady stream from Robert Dessaix:

On yoga: “motionless self-emptying… I am going to be dead for billions of years. I do not want to rehearse my death…

On ballroom dancing: ” It freed up little Roberts inside me to come out and play“.

Things I cheered:

The brave and beautiful women of Papua New Guinea who shared their walk to equality against all odds in a country that, as recently as this year, voted in an all male Parliament despite 167 female candidates. Their voices rang clear and pure and our hearts joined with theirs forever as we listened to Vanessa Gordon read her poem, Drumbeat.

Rutger Bregman calling the lie on a media that presents everything as bad, every leader as corrupt and confidently contending (against the orthodoxy of centuries that believes only a thin layer of civilisation (easily stripped away by a catastrophic weather event, for example) covers our inherently barbaric nature) that there is predominantly good in the world and more and more of it as we grow and advance. We are all, at our heart, creative creatures who want to contribute. This is why Rutger suggests that universal basic income, allocated to all without conditions, can fire the powerful engines of intrinsic motivation and take us all to a realistic utopia.

Mariano Sigman highlighting that politicians are, after all, human beings, the same species as us and, what’s more, the very people we have personally chosen to lead our country – rather than complain, it is our collective responsibility to generate the groundswell that will carry the leadership forward to the important solutions that are necessary for the future.

Bravo BWF2017!