THE NIGHT THE MUSIC DIED
BY IAN HEADS, STOKE HILL PRESS,. $ 29.25
Back in the days when a rugby league round meant that one match (of the day) was played on Saturdays at 3pm and the other five at 3pm on Sunday afternoons, the concept of a televised mid-week FA Cup-style knockout comp was revolutionary. The year was 1974, colour TV had just arrived, and Ray “Rabbits” Warren was an unknown TV talent when he took the microphone to describe the first season of the Amco Cup on ChannelTen.The idea was that one of the rich Sydney clubs would win the cash, but a bunch of bushies had other ideas.The story of Western Division’s underdog win (no, we’re not really giving away the ending there) is a classic of Australian bush footy history, told here with great relish and enormous affection by the godfather of rugby league literature in this country, Sir Ian Heads. The team comprised a timber cutter, a slaughterman, a greyhound trainer, a policeman, a brickie, a few miners and farmers. Impeccable research, in which every surviving member of the team has been tracked down and interviewed, adds a layer of detail and colour to the story that lifts this book from sport history to rip-roaring read. Even for those of us who abhor violence, the blood and guts brawling that characterised these blokes’ contests is actually quite charming – don’t ask me how or why. The story of their stoush that year against the visiting Great Britain team, dubbed by some who saw it as “the dirtiest game ever played”, actually inspires nostalgia for the days when men sorted things out on the sporting paddock, and left their get-squares at the fence. Everyone seemed to give as good as they got ... Anyone with a hint of pigskin in their DNA, and who can remember what Amcos actually were, will love this book.