Books & Literature

Book Review: Sons of Guns, by Matt Watson

An insightful and inspiring book about generations of men in the same family who shared the dedication, courage, toughness and desire to make it in the AFL.

“When the AFL’s father-son rule was introduced in the 1940s, it gave emerging players the chance to live out what was often the ultimate lifelong dream – the opportunity to play for the same beloved club they had watched their fathers play for. This is about as sentimental as football gets.”

The footy season is over but rather than wander around like a lost sheep or watch cricket, this is the time of year to get out the footy books. Sons of Guns is the latest.

Sons of Guns looks at the legacies that great former players have left to their sons and how it can be both a benefit and hindrance. Words of wisdom and stories have been passed down the generations and have been committed to paper, in some cases, here for the first time. There are some stories that will literally have you laughing out loud, others that will have you feeling the absolute pain of loss, injury or delisting.

The introduction is an absolute must-read. The insights provided here really set the scene for the chapters that follow. Watson points out that by the time players have hit draft age, they have already been playing footy for 10 years, from the Under 8s onward, and have been carrying the weight of expectations from their surnames since birth: “Of the 87 father-son combinations, just three have played in premiership teams.

Watson also discusses the creation of the women’s AFL league, the AFLW, and how this will soon change the landscape, leading to family draft selections – in the future we should expect to see mother-daughter picks, father-daughter, mother-son, etc. We already have Erin Phillips, daughter of Port Adelaide legend Greg Phillips, who played basketball because there was no AFL until the AFLW was created.

As a massive Carlton supporter (no sympathy required, thank you), I did not expect to enjoy a book by a Kangaroos supporter so much, especially one that has chapters on the Shaw family and the Cloke family (Cameron Cloke is the late exception, of course). This isn’t Matt Watson’s first book however, having written about SA’s own Fabulous Phil Carman, amongst other things, as well as being a sports journalist for the ABC.

If you’re looking for an exposé, salacious stories or shocking criminal histories, this is not the book for you. I’d suggest Night Games by Anna Krien, one of Emma Quayle’s books or even Chris Judd’s Inside: The Autobiography. If you’re looking for real life family footy stories that entertain and inspire however, this is definitely for you – especially if you are a fan who only knows about one generation and wants to know more.

Reviewed by Michelle Baylis

Rating out of 10:  8

Distributed by: Penguin Random House Australia
Released: July 2018
RRP: $34.99 paperback, $14.99 eBook

[Cover image source]

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