Australian football has lost its magic, a unique quality existing in the 1950s, and even as late as the 1970s. It derived from the fixed positions that players adopted and from their physical diversity. In their competing forms, they became metaphysical constructs – good versus evil, beauty versus ugliness, benign innocence versus malevolent experience – constructs limited only by the human imagination. Football, then, was more intrinsically theatrical – a physical and metaphorical war – and, in that sense, magical. In the late 1960s and 1970s players needed little ingenuity to acquire nicknames such as ‘Bull’ Richardson, ‘Whale’ Roberts, and ‘Gasometer’ Nolan. How the modern game cries out for a player resembling a gas tank.
Geoffrey Blainey rarely comments on the state of the modern game in his accomplished A Game of Our Own, but still manages to provide today’s football enthusiast with a rich perspective on contemporary football, as well as an abundance of insights into the way the game developed.