I don’t read much (anymore). It takes me ages to get into a book, and once I have started, it takes me even longer to finish it. If I manage to sit down and actually read a book it’s usually Fantasy or Autobiography… what a strange combination of genres. Thinking about it, makes me think ‘what a strange introduction to a book review, too’.
So here we go: ‘Warhorse – Life, Football and other battles’ by Shane Webcke is a book about those things in life that really matter. Well, at least to a man like Shane. He looks back on a professional career of football (for all those non Australian readers: Rugby League), probably one of the toughest sports out there. I enjoy watching rugby games but I’d be scared to death actually actively playing in them (I am just not build for it). Shane draws many conclusions from the game, some of them simple and some of them complex, and applies them to life in the bigger sense. The simple stuff evolves around traits such as being honest and straight (straight as in a non-sexual way… though Shane being a boy from the ‘Bush’ would have probably copped a few confused looks from the ‘ordinary, middle class’ people in country-side Australia, when talking about sexual tolerance). It also touches issues such as always putting in your best and never stop trying, to respect friend and foe, to work hard but also know how to switch off and cherish family and friends. Basically, he covers all the ‘good, old values’ that the Australian society was built on. While none of this is new or mind-blowing, it helps you (at least it did help me) to step back and reflect on your own life, where you stand, and what your values are.
Shane is a simple man. He’s tough, honest, street smart, funny and pretty much your stereotype giant with an even bigger heart. He has weaknesses of course (e.g. struggling with alcohol in his past or being a bit of a redneck growing up in the bush) but with the help of football and his mentor (his coach at the club, almost a father figure) he managed to turn into a ‘decent bloke’. He’s actually almost the same age I am so that helped me to relate to the story. If you still feel like you are growing up at the age of 31 and you are still stuck in between two (or more) worlds, Shane’s view of the world will sound familiar to you… and more importantly it will put a smile on your face quite often. Not because it’s overly funny but because it’s good to look at life in a very basic and pure way. To give you an example let me quote page 337 where he talks about the executive committee of the Australian Rugby League and their attitude towards change: “Too often it seems to be too hard, or not worth doing or pursuing, and that really gives me the shits. […] We need fresh, innovative leaders who are determined to make things happen”. Congratulations Shane, you have just described (purposely or not) the very nature of politics. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. It’s almost amusing how he points out this very fundamental flaw, probably without realizing that (unfortunately) this kind of attitude is predominant in society. But Shane is determined to make a change and even if it’s a small one and will only affect his small world…it’s still a start. I just like that attitude and that’s why I like this book. I hope you do to. (Review by Ole Brandenburg)