The darker side of sport is explored in 'Night Games'

Book review: Dean Goodison

Published 25/08/2015 | 00:00

Night Games - A Journey to the Dark Side of Sport
Night Games - A Journey to the Dark Side of Sport

In general, sport has its own section in newspapers, its own spot on the news, its own websites and dedicated Twitter accounts.

It only mixes with regular news in two instances: a major sporting event takes place that bumps sport onto the front pages or into the opening story spot on news bulletins, or a sports star does something wrong.

'Night Games - A Journey To The Dark Side Of Sport' looks at the latter instance. Based in Australia and around their two 'football' sports - Australian Rules and Rugby League - the publication, written by Anna Krein, is mostly the story of an aspiring footballer who is charged with the sexual assault and rape of a young woman.

The publication follows the trail, as much as the author can (owing to sections of the proceedings taking place away from the public, including the complainant's testimony), from start to finish and introduces the accused and his family. The premise is that, through this one case, the reader gets an insight into the pitfalls of being a young sportsman.

It delves into the, seemingly, dozens of similar complaints made against AFL and NRL players in the last couple of decades and looks at the situation from both sides, that of the player and that of the victim.

It's unsurprisingly a gritty, tough read at times, but a lot of the publication is very well laid out by Krein.

It's important to note that there is no suspense about the outcome - that's revealed in the prologue - but there are plenty of question marks surrounding the evidence to keep the reader wondering about the verdict.

After the end of the trial is revealed, the beginning of the story follows with the writer following the trial from the start back to the verdict, dipping herself into the narrative from time to time.

One thing the book has going for it is that Krein can never make her mind up about the main 'characters'.

She notes that there seems to be no winners or losers, no obvious good or clear evil which means her rooting interest, and moments of 'bonding' with the accused family feel awkward but are well written.

One of the big problems with 'Night Games' is that the description on the back is not exactly what you get inside. Yes, the basis of the publication is the trial but there are a few times when the author goes flying off on the tangent of women in male sports, and bizarrely female sports journalists.

Krein uses some instances of semi-lewd behaviour to tie in the basis for the book and the topic of female sports journalists but those segments of the publication seem out of place.

It's almost like this was the author's opportunity to vent and she was going to take it regardless of how completely out of place her situation is in comparison to the sexual assault and gang rape of young women.

The big question with this book is who would want to purchase it, what is the target market? Well, it seems to have quite a wide reach. It would appeal to both genders and to sports fans and non-sports fans alike.

It's a book that would sit comfortably in the non-fiction section as well as the sports shelves of 'The Book Centre'.

The odd few Aussie Rules fans around the place will definitely need to read this one, but it also transfers well to what goes on at English Premier League clubs and some of the court cases that have been in the news in the last few years, so fans of those clubs would also get something out of 'Night Games' too.

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