It’s that time of year again, when you toss a coin to decide between socks or a Bunnings voucher for your dad’s Christmas present.
But that’s a pretty narrow view – dads like books about sport too.
And so do mums, if sport is a passion of theirs.
So with that in mind, we’ve put together a list of 2015’s best sports books, fit to satisfy the sports lover in your family no matter what the game.
Long-time Daily Telegraph sports writer Kent tackles the enigma of Sonny Bill Williams with aplomb, delving into the man behind the mystique. Beginning with the infamous night Williams walked out on Canterbury bound for France, Sonny Ball tries to paint a complete picture of New Zealand’s most famous sporting figure – from his return to league to his stuttering boxing career. Kent’s first book was a tremendous portrait of Australian boxing trainer Johnny Lewis, and his follow-up is even better.
Moore tackles the question on everyone’s lips: are Jamaican sprinters the best in the world because they’re doping? He spends time with the country’s best athletics coaches and anti-doping officials. Moore paints a picture of an island obsessed by sprinting, where its fastest runners are worshipped like gods. The question remains unanswered, but it’s clear the author is hopeful there is still some innocence in athletics, despite recent scandals.
The second book on the AFL’s talent factory from long-time The Age scribe Quayle, The Draftees looks at the rise of 2014 crop Jake Lever (Adelaide), Peter Wright (Gold Coast), Isaac Heeney (Sydney), Tom Lamb (West Coast) and Clem Smith (Carlton). The book follows a similar format to Quayle’s 2008 effort The Draft, and like that book The Draftees is imbued with plenty of feeling, care for her subjects and great anecdotes about how AFL clubs sort the wheat from the chaff on draft night.
A warts-and-all account of the A-League’s troubled birth and rise. Could perhaps have done with holding off for six months to capture the current turmoil the competition finds itself in, but this is a thoroughly engrossing read on the most dramatic upheaval ever seen in Australian football. Stensholt and Mooney have been exhaustive in their research on how Frank Lowy went about pursuing his dream of seeing the world game become Australia’s game.
A fascinating tale of the 33 Australian athletes who journeyed to Berlin for the 1936 Olympic Games. Writer’s book was shaped using interviews with Basil Dickinson, who competed in triple jump at the Games and died shortly before publication, and the diary of swimmer Evelyn de Lacy. The book paints a picture of a largely harmonious athletes’ village, despite the turmoil in the surrounding country. The author also makes the case that Australia’s modest performance in Berlin (just a solitary medal) changed the country’s attitude towards elite sports competition.
Brettig is an Australian cricket writer who had front-row seats to one of the most tumultuous periods in the national team’s history – the slide from being the undisputed world champions into, for a brief period, also-rans. Kicking off with the retirements of Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Justin Langer, and spanning the homework-gate saga of Mohali, Whitewash to Whitewash expertly pieces together the battle of egos inside the Australian dressing room.
An agenda-free dossier on the ‘Essendon supplements saga’, The Australian journalist Le Grand provides a comprehensive and insightful take on the whole sordid tale. You knew Le Grand was getting close to the mark when then-AFL chief Andrew Demetriou lambasted him on ABC radio, but he is merely trying to see past the over-the-top headlines from both sides of the media camps this issue created. The Straight Dope was this week announced as the inaugural winner of the William Hill Australian sports book of the year.
The long-time Liverpool captain veers off the standard football player biography highways and pulls no punches. The book certainly could not be considered dull. Along the road Gerrard cheerfully discusses the shortcomings of Brendan Rodgers, his cold relationship with former boss Rafa Benitez, and the time he lacerated his penis in an FA Cup tie in Bournemouth. “After I had been bandaged up as protection against any possible infection, I asked the obvious question. ‘Can I play against Everton on Tuesday?'”