Review Blog

Feb 07 2019

Rise: the Sam Thaiday story by Sam Thaiday with James Colley

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Penguin Random House, 2019. ISBN 9780143790419.
(Age: 11+) Recommended. Sam Thaiday's autobiography will be a favourite from middle school to lower secondary, given his own popularity and the popularity of the Brisbane Bronco's in the NRL. There are a few surprises, beginning with the fact that Thaiday was actually born in Sydney!
Whilst basically a travelogue of match highlights during his 16 year career in the Broncos and in representational footy, it shouldn't be the only source chosen if needing material for a biography assignment. Rightly or wrongly, there are apparently no negatives about the NRL, referees, coaches, players, fans or the media in Sam's fairytale. However, aimed at younger readers, that isn't surprising.
Thaiday does push the message that hard work will be rewarded and is proud of his long term contributions to both State of Origin and international football teams. He is very much a team player and does not count himself among the NRL greats, Lockyer, Smith and Thurston, whom he rates as the legends of his era.
While he is clearly remorseful, it is a shame that he supplies no context for one 'storm cloud' in 2017, nor mentions being officially stripped of an ambassadorship for indigenous health. Without a little backstory regarding 'a community' he offended, followed by platitudes about thinking first, acknowledging hurt and doing your best to make it right, we can't share this life lesson meaningfully. While Thaiday need not have divulged the contents of an offensive joke told on national television, he could have stated that he told a racist joke and this misjudgement cost him a new opportunity and the respect of the community - at least temporarily. Ironically, humour is his strength. His self-depreciating recounts add to our enjoyment of the book. Thaiday's first Origin try is typical of this endearing Queensland Rugby League identity:
Now, looking back, you'd think that a lot of the credit for this one should probably go to Johnathan Thurston. He was the one who met the opposition fullback as he was returning a kick into his corner. He was the one who stripped the ball like a pickpocket and put it onto my chest with five metres to run and daylight between me and the posts. But really, it was my idea to run those five metres and score, so we both deserve credit, I reckon.
No school library in the Eastern states would be complete without this paperback autobiography complete with glossy photos and a Fast Facts section.
Deborah Robins

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