Still Kicking, by Cheryl Critchley

Reviewed by Dale Harcombe

This is part of Lothian’s Sports fiction series, aimed at trying to engage the interest of reluctant readers between 8 and 14year old. However it’s not only suitable for reluctant readers as it contains a good story.

This story revolves around Samantha Scott (Sam) who at thirteen is the only girl in the local Richmond under 14s footy team. Determined to more than hold her own against the boys and the initial scepticism of the sexist Jake Mc Donald, she becomes one of the team’s best players. With help from Muscles and a fitness plan he develops on his computer, she starts to achieve her aim to become ‘the best junior footballer in Melbourne.’

However, not everyone is happy about Sam’s position on the team. Her father constantly tells her football is not something she can make a living at. Therefore, she would be better to concentrate on schoolwork instead of football and study hard like her older sister, Kate, who wants to be a lawyer like their father. Because of her passion for football, Sam also is subjected to torment by Felicity Edwards and her cronies at school.

Both Sam’s friendship with Izzy, Hugo and Muscles and the hassles and torment suffered at the hands of Felicity (Flick) and her friends are realistically portrayed. And anyone who’s ever played junior sport of any kind or stood on the sidelines of junior sport, can relate to the embarrassment felt by Hugo at the behaviour of his father on the sidelines. This embarrassment leads to him dropping out of the team and Sam’s friend Izzy comes in to the team in his place.

The two girls are doing well and everything seems to be going right, as their team heads towards the finals. But then a chance remark threatens to bring all Sam’s hard work undone. For anyone with the remotest interest in AFL, this book will be eagerly read. An AFL fan, though supporter of another team, I read this novel in one sitting. My one negative comment is it might have been good to remember AFL is a national game and Victoria is not the only state involved in Auskick. Assuming the book is to have an impact not only in Victoria; relevant contact information for all states at the back of the novel would have been helpful for those wanting to find out more. Similarly the author’s note which talks about Auskick and the current rules about girls playing could have been less Victorian centred.

Still Kicking, by Cheryl Critchley
Lothian Books, 2006
$14.95 Paperback ISBN 0 7344 0932 X