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Nick Richardson gets to Tasmania a couple of times a year specifically to see his mum who lives in Launceston and his sister-in-law in Hobart. I chatted to Nick about his book ‘The Game of Their Lives’ which focuses on a little known episode of First World War history. In 1916 Australian soldiers participated in a football match in the UK debuting Aussie Rules to an international audience. The match was significant not just as a football match but because it was a rare moment of play before being sent to the western front where many would lose their lives.

Nick had seen some film footage of that historic match and with the additional factor of his grandad, a survivor of Gallipoli he was inspired to write ‘The Game of their lives’.

In the telling of the story we get to meet some of the men and see the diversity of their backgrounds in addition to their sporting prowess, such as Trotter, a stevedore who had the unusual ability in that he could kick with both feet, Sloss, an engineer that was also a talented tenor, Beaurepaire, an Olympic swimmer and Hewitt a runner and actor.

The book also tells the story of not just the men but the women that supported them. One example being the amazing story of Bruce floss’s sister ‘Tullie’. The Sloss family was a large one that endured their fair share of tragedy. Their home was destroyed twice. Tullie herself showed amazing strength to overcome some very close calls including an explosion which saw her elevated from her bed. Tully trained to be a governess and would work in the USA.  Women also played an important roles as football fans and potentially as agents of propaganda to encourage players to enlist. In some cases being made to feel guilty for their payment of 25 shillings a match compared to the 6 shillings a day of the soldier.

‘The Game of Their Lives’ by Nick Richardson is available now published by Pan Macmillan.