Book awards rich in history by Vin Maskell


Country footy writer Paul Daffey showed magnanimity in the face of dashed hopes and grace in the face of disappointment when his book The Totem Poles of Ouyen United, Travels in Country Footy missed out on winning the 2020 History Publication Award that is part of the Victorian Community History Awards. The awards were announced late October.

Daffey’s book, published in late 2019, chronicled a year of following country footy across Victoria, but especially in the Mallee region. For Daffey, footy writing is not just goals and points and kicks and marks and wins and losses. Footy writing is about people and characters and towns and changes and what happens when rural communities are drained by the shifting sands of economic hardship.

The Ouyen United of the books’ title is a footy club that is the result of – over many, many years – the merging (or uniting) of 32 previous clubs, from Baring and Boinka to Wymlet and Yellumjip.

“The short list for the award was not as long as I thought it was,” said Daffey. “The other nominees are highly esteemed, so I am very pleased.

“It turns out that I was the only nominee to write about nine totem poles that stand beside a footy ground in the Mallee.”

The winner of the 2020 History Publication Award was Maldon, a new history, 1853 – 1928 by Brian Ruhle. The judges noted: This new history of Maldon is a window into the minutiae of life in a gold-mining town and makes a valuable contribution to the ever-expanding body of work on the Victorian goldfields. The book covers a rich spectrum of material, shining a light on many elements of everyday life in this early mining town.

Daffey noted that two histories of Victorian Goldfields towns made the short list. The second was The Accidental Town: Castlemaine, 1851–1861 by Marjorie Theobald.

“Interest in the history of this area will only increase if the nomination to have Victoria’s Goldfields listed as a world heritage site gets up. Which I hope it does.”

Daffey’s next book, On The Premiership Trail, is due out in December. It starts with a visit to a game at Maiden Gully. Daffey played for Golden Square in the Bendigo Football League 30 years ago.

“Without distinction!” he said.

Victorian Community History Awards

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