Standing on a property my daughter bought recently in Samford, half an hour’s drive north-west of Brisbane, I pointed across the valley to an impressive home. “That’s Steve Renouf’s house.” Said she: “Who’s Steve Renouf?” Had I read John Harms’s book then I would have quoted Roy Masters: Renouf was a rugby league centre who ran with such speed, grace and elan that “you sensed this is how God wants football to be played”. Renouf retired in 2001 after a decade and four premierships with the Brisbane Broncos. Yet in 2004, when he temporarily stepped out for a local Brisbane team at a suburban ground, 4,000 flocked to see him.
This is not a book about an Aboriginal footballer; it is about an Aborigine who happened to be a footballer. His journey, from schoolboy – the tenth of 12 children – in countryside Murgon to World Cup hero at Wembley, has much in common with Cathy Freeman’s. Their antecedents were athletic, they both grew up in a white environment, they were reticent by nature and they were never outspoken about black politics. Like Freeman, Renouf disliked training, and I suspect, like her, he is not exactly prolix.
Apart from being a good read, this book is a valuable resource and deserved an index. Harms is an entertaining writer: “Kevvy Walters, running freely, like a possum on a lino floor.” If I have any qualms it is that biography is a strict discipline, and on principle an author’s fine phrases must defer to the subject’s direct quotes if an elusive persona is to be given full voice. When Renouf’s own words are employed the story lifts, just as Steve used to when he set out for the try-line, imploring himself: “Take me legs!”
There is nowhere quite like The Monthly. We are told that we live in a time of diminished attention spans; a time where the 24-hour-news-cycle has produced a collective desire for hot takes and brief summaries of the news and ideas that effect us. But we don’t believe it. The need for considered, reflective, long-form journalism has never been greater, and for almost 20 years, that’s what The Monthly has offered, from some of our finest writers.
That kind of quality writing costs money, and requires the support of our readers. Your subscription to The Monthly allows us to be the home for the best, most considered, most substantial perspectives on the state of the world. It’s Australia’s only current affairs magazine, an indispensable home for cultural commentary, criticism and reviews, and home to personal and reflective essays that celebrate and elevate our humanity.
The Monthly doesn’t just comment on our culture, our society and our politics: it shapes it. And your subscription makes you part of that.
Select your digital subscription