Music blasted from the clock radio, loud and insistent. Noah groaned, and still half asleep, searched for the snooze button, but only managed to send the radio crashing to the floor.
He buried his head in the pillow, his mind still in his dream of scrappy play – in and under, then a player marking the ball, forty metres out. Noah thought the player was him but couldn’t be sure, and didn’t know whether he’d kicked the ball or not. …
… On the other side of town, a fit of coughing and spluttering from the kitchen woke Ben from a deep sleep. Ever since he’d been a little kid doing Auskick, bouncing a ball on the way to school, or clutching one of his dozen footballs while he slept, Ben had dreamed about playing footy – dreamed about playing with an AFL club.
Noah and Ben both play weekend footy in the country town where they live and where they attend the same high school. They are both being tipped as contenders for the Bushrangers Development squad. Noah plays with the Mavericks, Ben with their archrival Kookaburras. As the new season of football begins, pressure builds for both boys. For Noah, racism is an extra complication he needs to find a way to manage both on and off the field. Ben is struggling with the attitudes at the club where his father played and where he is expected to remain. The boys form an unexpected friendship, united in their striving for Bushrangers selection.
Footy Dreaming is told in third person omniscient so the reader is able to experience a wide range of viewpoints, although most of the action happens in Noah’s and in Ben’s point of view. But there are also the voices of the townspeople. There’s racism, family loyalty and dynamics, club loyalty, football passion, first tentative relationship, gender roles and more. Primarily, Footy Dreaming is about striving to be the best and to have a chance to shine. There’s plenty here to generate classroom or family discussion. But before that, it’s a ripper read, ideal for early- to mid-secondary readers.
Footy Dreaming, Michael Hyde Ford Street Publishing 2015 ISBN: 9781925000993
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller