Michael Hyde's new novel Footy Dreaming weaves a complex tale. It tells of two fifteen-year-old country boys from Marshall, who both dream of one day playing AFL at the MCG.
Noah Davis plays for the Mavericks under the inclusive and kind-hearted coach Harry O'Grady – affectionately known as HOG. Unfortunately for Ben Meredith, who plays for the Kookaburras, he is coached by the racist and aggressive Mr Elliot, who even HOG accuses of 'turning kids into thugs'. Both boys need to be selected by the Bushrangers Development Squad in order to come a step closer to fulfilling their footy dreams. Noah and Ben have the commitment and natural talent to make it, so believe they have an equal chance at selection.
Through the two footy clubs, Michael Hyde cleverly depicts how it takes a whole village to raise a child, and how different methodologies impact on a child's future. It also shows how a kind family unit with good intentions can triumph over aggression and oppression. Noah's grandma, a wise Elder and anchor for the Gunditjmara mob, teaches Noah patience, dignity, tolerance and hope. 'She held hope for people – people can change'.
Through Ben and Noah, the plot cleverly unravels and exposes the underlying racism present in many country towns; the insidious nature of lifelong prejudices being passed down to the next generation and how it has become accepted and tolerated.
Sledging and racial taunts differ in extremes, but ultimately Footy Dreaming examines how change can occur when backed up by law. We see that racial vilification charges being laid on the footy field can offer hope for the future.
This story is gripping, showing the rawness of country footy, a quality that is lost in the commercial world of AFL. But more importantly, Michael Hyde’s book portrays two boys sharing a common dream, who through the formation of their unlikely friendship, see the world more clearly, along with their dreams.