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When Richmond won the 2017 AFL premiership, thousands celebrated the return to glory of one of the games oldest and most successful clubs. But outside of the suburb of Richmond – who cares? Megalogenis is a Richmond nut, but he’s also the foremost interpreter of our national narrative. In Richmond’s victory, he argues, we can understand our past, diagnose some of the ills of the present, and see a path towards our future. Football is more than a game, it’s Australia’s bellwether. It tells us more about ourselves than any other institution in the land. Richmond has more members than the federal Labor and Liberal parties combined. As many people are members of AFL clubs as are members of private sector unions. The AFL is one of the biggest, richest and most influential organisations in our culture, expected to take a leading stand on racism, depression, marriage equality, domestic violence. At a time when politics is increasingly conducted like a sport – full of one-eyed supporters and captain’s calls – sport has been filling the vacuum left by the loss of respect for parliament, media and the church. Megalogenis tells a characteristically sweeping, revealing story about how Australian Rules contains the DNA of the gold-rush prosperity in which it was conceived; came of age in the depression that followed, spawning the world’s first mega-rivalry (Richmond/Collingwood); absorbed the changes immigration brought after World War II; and became the mega-business it is now. And Richmond is the key to it all – by revising its leadership structures, and by embracing diversity, it points to the solution to our national impasse.
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