‘Sport is brutal – but let’s not equate players with Anzacs‘, Guardian Australia, 10 September 2014
Describes how sports team ‘channel’ the Australian Digger, quoting Mick Malthouse, Steve Waugh, Alan Bond and Michael Clarke – and Ben Roberts-Smith VC, who is said to have counselled Mitchell Johnson prior to an improvement in Johnson’s form. ‘The martial metaphors apparently help build camaraderie and bring players to an emotional pitch.’
He describes Hawthorn’s Kokoda trek and its impacts and notes American analogies.
You can read about our sporting soldiers on the digitalised National Library archives. You can read how the “muscular Christianity” of these “stout-hearted men” made them archetypal soldiers. Later, when they had drowned in mud or choked on mustard gas, the words were more neutral, more aesthetic. They were “a fine stamp of a man – good living, clever and of a thoughtful disposition”.
A century later, we don’t talk like that, do we? We know that these are just games. We know there’s no one lobbing grenades at the Hirds. We know that Bruce Sloss – the James Hird of his day who was later blown to pieces in northern France – was a soldier. We know that Jack Gunston – though a lovely kick for goal – is not. We know that sport is a vocation, a distraction, a joy. We know that it’s all just huff and puff. We know that words still matter. We know that sport, in the grand scheme of things, doesn’t. We know that, don’t we?