‘Arran Avenue, Hamilton, Brisbane, Australia ... Why Australia? What is Australia, anyway?’
(Dante, in David Malouf’s Johnno)
Some footy talk before the book chat: I saw Wayne Carey play once, in Adelaide. He was a puppeteer that day. You would have needed a panoramic view – television doesn’t capture it – to appreciate that his every movement dictated when and where his teammates and opponents ran, jumped, kicked, handballed, tackled, and hit. Carey had it all: strength, stamina, ingenuity, and goal sense; he was a genius in a crisis. According to journalist Mike Sheahan, he was the best player of all time. Yet Carey never won the code’s highest individual award. The AFL awards the Brownlow Medal to the ‘fairest and best player’ in the home and away season, as voted by umpires. On the field, Carey possessed a confidence in his own ability that metastasised into arrogance. He backchatted umpires; he threw his weight around, especially in the early years; he was ‘happy to use low-level violence’. Wayne Carey, often the best, was rarely the fairest.