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)