Book review


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Book review Empty Book review

Post by Lee Harradine Mon Nov 01, 2021 9:16 am

A review has been published in the ASSH Magazine, 'Sporting Traditions; by the noted sporting historian, Bernard Whimpress.

It is:

Lee Harradine’s Flags, Spoons and Knives: An Inside View of the West Adelaide Football Club is written from personal experience. It is not a definitive history of the club although that is well overdue as Merv Agars’s Blood, Sweat and Tears: West Adelaide Football Club 1877–1987 was published more than thirty years ago. Harradine’s story begins in the 1890s but concentrates on the era since the 1950s and has a strong connection with family history. One connection he is extremely proud of is the WAFC 1912 premiership photograph in which his grandfather is pictured on the way to establishing a 54-year record as timekeeper, possibly also a SANFL record for service by an official. Harradine mentions growing up in the southern suburb of St Mary’s, travelling from there to the West End of the city, and then walking to the Adelaide Oval with his father and grandfather to watch both football and cricket.

One story that emerges is of his father leaving games early to get to the Gresham Hotel (which once stood on the corner of King William Street and North Terrace) and the Sportsman’s Hotel in Grote Street before Six O’Clock Closing. As a little boy he didn’t mind hanging around with a glass of raspberry and lemonade. He also quoted his father (a Rat of Tobruk) stating that the desert campaign was ‘chickenfeed compared to fights on the mound at Alberton Oval’ (Port Adelaide’s home ground).

Harradine’s book is written from a supporter’s perspective and the main title draws not only on the club’s nine premierships, but on frequent wooden spoons and how the knives were drawn on key figures, often after premiership-winning seasons. He suggests that West Adelaide has also produced more champions than other clubs with far greater premiership success, giving the examples of three Brownlow Medallists, half-a-dozen players who would make a best-ever Crows side, the export of leading figures like Fos Williams and Neil Kerley who had great success with other clubs, and sacking of John Cahill, who after leaving West then coached Port Adelaide to six premierships in the next eight years.

Harradine makes the point that one of the difficulties for the club was the loss of an identity, particularly after it moved from the West End. For most of the first half of its history up to the 1950s it shared Adelaide Oval with South Adelaide and the dividing line between the two city clubs was King William Street. When it moved to Richmond Oval it had no definable suburban strip shopping centre like Port Adelaide (with the Black Diamond Corner), Norwood (The Parade), Unley (Unley and King William Roads) or Glenelg (Jetty Road). For the most part the narrative presents a fond look at the club from the eyes of a child, a supporter, a long-time official who begins as a property steward with the reserves and ends up as club president — a bit like the football equivalent of log cabin to White House — and back to being a supporter again. At the same time it is also a courageous book, and in its concluding section Harradine certainly writes with his heart on his sleeve as he queries the directions taken by the club and the SANFL in the time of corporatisation. Of taking on the presidency he observes: I walked into the question which dogs many clubs — are we a football club first supported by a business or a business supporting a football club? I strongly believed the former and thought the reason we existed was to win premierships.

A chartered accountant by profession, Harradine’s story is anything but the recollections of a bean-counter and was put together almost by accident, with lots of love mixed with insights into suburban football. His aim is to celebrate the history of the club and the game, and not to sanitise it. He succeeds admirably.

A second print will be available later this month due to continuing demand.  PM me if you'd like one or email
Lee Harradine
Lee Harradine

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