Monday, September 21, 2015

Review: Kane Cornes autobiography

This will not be an unbiased or impartial review, as it is too difficult for me to separate my love for the Port Adelaide Football Club and critiquing this book. Just putting that out there at the start.

In his autobiography Kane Cornes, the first 300 game player for Port Adelaide, details the extraordinary drive he had as a child and through his football playing career. The name Cornes is obviously synonymous with South Australian football, father Graham Cornes is a former Glenelg player, captain, inaugural Adelaide Crows coach and media commentator. Chad Cornes, played for Port Adelaide alongside his brother Kane and was renowned for his aggressive playing style and giving it his all on the field.

The book focuses on Kane’s journey from passionate football follower to professional athlete. My impressions of Kane, as an observer of the game, were as someone who was a natural footballer, gifted with talent and growing up in and around football.  Interestingly in the book he mentions how things did not come as easily as one would imagine. Slower than his brother Chad, dropped from games, compared to his father (and dealing with his father’s dislike of Port Adelaide) but with the burning passion to succeed. I especially loved Kane’s description of being part of the Glenelg cheer squad as a child, ripping up phone books and making banners – it was very reminiscent of my own childhood, only I was dressed in black and white rather than black and gold.

I am particularly admiring of the determination shown by Kane in pursuing his career. It becomes quite apparent that no-one is tougher on a professional sportsperson than them. As much as supporters love to bray from the sidelines and offer opinions about selections and who is on form or not, it doesn’t seem to compare to the sportsperson being their own harshest critic. Of course, they do get paid a lot of money, but as Kane points out social media and the limitations on a future after sport have changed expectations. 

Kane’s book also gives candid insights into a modern day football club. Alongside Kane’s book I have also been reading ‘Time and Space’ by James Coventry, which plots the very beginnings of what has become Australian Rules Football and the influence of coaches on shaping the game. With the insider’s eye, Kane critiques the leadership style of Matthew Primus when he became head coach halfway through 2010 through to 2012. With my own interest in what makes high performing teams function, there seemed to be a lack of communication from Primus and perhaps a lack of support from those around him at the Club. All this certainly changed with the appointment of Keith Thomas, new board members and Coach Ken Hinkley.

This is the first football, heck even 'sport', biography that I have read. I wasn’t expecting so much candour on life within the Port Adelaide Football Club, and I really admire Kane for telling it like it is and being open with his thoughts and experiences of his time with the Club. From the heartbreaks on the field (lost premierships, playing dissatisfaction) to those that diminish the importance of football (the death of John McCarthy and Phil Walsh) and his own family – this book is a must read for those who want to get an insight into the drive of a great player and the inner workings of the best football club in the world*. (warned you about that bias)

Monday, June 29, 2015

sport and art - review of the Basil Sellers Art Prize

I’ve always loved sport and art. I was the girl who wanted to be both, an Olympic Athlete and Andy Warhol. What I love about sport is the competing against self, trying to attain a ‘personal best’. I love the feeling of discipline; an slight change might result in the incremental betterment of a certain shot or faster time on the clock.

So, strange as it may seem, I never really thought about how I could combine my love of sport and art. 

Last week I had some time between work meetings, so I popped into the Samstag Gallery at the University of South Australia. Showing was the Basil Sellers Art Prize exhibition, and as it turned out, a bit of an “a-ha” moment for me.

With an unfortunate sense of history repeating, the work ‘Once upon a time…” (2013- 2014) by Tony Albert is made up of small, portrait style illustrations of  St Kilda footballer Nicky Winmar, holding up his football jumper to point proudly at his black skin. The work also features Sydney footballer Adam Goodes, referencing the incident when he was called an 'ape' by a young fan. The tragic timing of me seeing this exhibition was due to yet another incident with Goodes, this time booed by the crowd for his post-goal kicking celebration dance.This ugly, racist side of the AFL – a game I love to watch, doesn’t sit comfortably with me. And nor should it. Football is made better by the indigenous footballers who have shown their skills on the field; Gavin Wanganeen, Shaun Burgoyne, Peter Burgoyne, Chad Wingard, Brendon Ah Chee, Jarman Impey, Jake Neade, Karl Amon (and these are just current and ex Port players).
The power of this work by Albert is that it uses victorious images we are used to with sport, and then throws them back in the viewers face by showing the racism that has become an unfortunate part of the game. 

"Once upon a time..." Tony Albert, (2013-2014)

The abstract photographs by Zoe Croggan were another stand out for me in this exhibition. The colours were instantly recognisable as those of the tennis court, the basketball court. Arms, legs, glimpses of a ball, sport abstracted to it's elements and looking Modernist. Reading about the work in the exhibition catalogue, I was surprised that Croggon uses images from magazines and catalogues as I had imagined the images were photographs taken from unusual vantage points.

 "Both flesh and not #2" Zoe Croggon, 2014

The video work ‘Wonderland’ by Khaled Sasabi was quite confronting. Playing on two screens, the viewer stands between to experience the chanting by fans of the Sydney Wanderers Football Club. Staring intently is someone who appears to be the leader of the chant, while other fans wait intently for the call of ‘1, 2, 3’ before they shout ‘Sydney’. As someone who is usually part of the performance (when Port Power run onto the ground), it was interesting experience for me to be on the other side. It is passionate, but there is also an element that feels rehearsed. There is little room for the individual, and perhaps that is the power in the group chant. While the club, the sport is the focus, belonging and showing this through singing songs, chanting and cheering helps the feeling of belonging and inclusion.

The Basil Sellers Art Prize exhibition ends on the 3rd July – try and get along to see it in Adelaide at the Samstag Gallery, 55 North Terrace