Inside Sport - - ONE ON ONE WITH... - BY DAVID HILL, WIL­LIAM HE IN EM ANN, $34.99

David Hill had a no­table ca­reer look­ing af­ter im­por­tant stuff, such as the rail­ways, wa­ter and the pub­lic broad­caster. Sport looks friv­o­lous next to these sec­tors, but it al­ways had a hold on Hill, who con­nected to the Aus­tralian pas­sion for its pas­times when he ar­rived as a young mi­grant.

This gen­uine affin­ity in­spired Hill’s for­ays into sport ad­min­is­tra­tion, which in­cluded a stint as pres­i­dent of the North Syd­ney Bears rugby league club (where he played ju­nior foot­ball) and head of Soc­cer Aus­tralia. Hill’s own love of the game – all of them, seem­ingly – en­ables him to be un­com­monly clear-eyed in as­sess­ing Aus­tralian sport’s faults and short­com­ings; it’s not the cri­tique of a fan, but a pa­tient teacher who be­lieves his stu­dent can do bet­ter.

The Fair And The Foul tells a his­tory of the na­tion’s sport, in the­matic rather than chrono­log­i­cal terms. The book’s arc tracks the seis­mic shift from Brad­man and the golden era to the com­mer­cial­ism wrought by Kerry Packer and the na­tional foot­ball codes, as well as how is­sues of dis­crim­i­na­tion and cor­rup­tion man­i­fested them­selves in sport’s mir­ror to so­ci­ety.

Hill’s ac­count is most ef­fec­tive for his pres­ence at the creation. He has a crack­ing tale that il­lus­trates Packer’s love of sport (it in­volved the LilleeJaved in­ci­dent). An­other is the time he was mis­tak­enly in­vited to a party at The Lodge in Can­berra, when the prime min­is­ter’s staff had meant to in­vite the David Hill who was head of sport for Nine and later Fox.

The rec­ol­lec­tions of Hill’s time at the Bears and Soc­cer Aus­tralia, now known as FFA, are mark­ers of how long-term change grinds along. Hill fought a lone-hand bat­tle in rugby league against ubiq­ui­tous to­bacco ad­ver­tis­ing; in soc­cer, the chal­lenge was the eth­nic ba­sis of the clubs. In their time, each was con­sid­ered in­sur­mount­able, but looked less so in ret­ro­spect – an im­por­tant les­son for any sport that would re­solve its tough­est prob­lems.

Hill con­cludes on a sur­vey of the state of the footy codes, and yes, he does de­clare a fron­trun­ner. Against the eter­nal ques­tion of whether our mar­ket can sus­tain four foot­balls, Hill (pic­tured below on the right, next to Terry Ven­ables) notes that our leagues have not been fully pro­fes­sional for all that long – some­thing that this book helps one to un­der­stand.

GOODFOR: Stu­dents of the sport­ing big pic­ture. Read­ers of this magazine, ba­si­cally.

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