Murderball by Will Swanton
Wheelchair rugby rocks. Seriously. I watched a few games recently and I dare anyone to not get totally sucked in to the energy and excitement of the game. It’s fast and brash and loud. Really loud – have you ever heard two wheelchairs slam into each other at high-speed? Loud.
Murderball tells the story of the Australian team on their way to the Beijing Paralympics. There has been a change of coach, with star player Brad Dubberley moving into the coaching role and finding his own way to control the team. The team goal is to move from fifth best in the world to the number one position – and to knock off the arrogant US team from the top spot.
I’ve never read sports books. I’m not really into sport much, truth be told. So I don’t know if all sports books are as erratic as this one – Swanton jumps from one place to another rapidly, sometimes leaving me wondering whether he is writing a metaphor or a factual event. Some bits I’m still a little confused about. However, the book builds up the excitement and tension of the games, especially the final few games, amazingly. I had to walk away a couple of times to regroup, even though I knew the end result (thanks to the photo pages in the middle).
Swanton also does a great job of telling many of the players’ personal stories without evoking pity. All of the players are quadriplegic (and no, this does not mean totally paralysed from the neck down as I had previously thought – it means there is loss of movement in all four limbs, but not total loss of movement necessarily) Some quadriplegic folks are born that way, others become that way from illness or accident. The player stories are full of the go-get-them attitude that is typical to all kinds of professional sports players and that non-sports people often find truly inspiring, and that completely gets the reader on side.
The Australian team have now qualified for the 2012 Paralympics. Keep your eyes open for it, and in the meantime, read this to learn about some of the players and the team, and then strap in for the excitement of the games.