In a world where sportsmen fight, drink and tweet their way into trouble on a daily basis, Parramatta, New South Wales and Australian great Nathan Hindmarsh is a different breed. The softly spoken people’s champion is now playing his last season for his beloved Parramatta Eels. Sadly he will end his career never winning a premiership, but in Old School he has released one of the best autobiographies of the year.
Hindmarsh has always worn his heart on his sleeve while playing, a true gentleman of the game. However before the release of Old School little was known of the twenty-three time Australian representative off the field, apart from occasional shots of his wife Bonnie watching in the stands with their three boys Archie, Buster and Rowdie. As one of the millions of children born in the eighties named Andrew, I can’t tell you how cool those names are.
Hindmarsh became a regular first-grader for Parramatta in 1999, and just one year later was playing for Australia. In 2001, 2004, 2005 and 2006 he was voted the second rower of the year in the NRL, an achievement that may never be broken. His popularity can also be measured in being awarded the Provan-Summons medal, aka the fan’s player of the year, in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and last year, 2011. To put that into context, for nearly half of his entire career, he has been judged to be the best and most popular player in the NRL. An achievement that, in a game that celebrates its tribalism and partisanship, is absolutely remarkable.
But Old School isn’t just another autobiography about a kid done good. Hindmarsh also tells the harrowing tale of his caustic gambling addiction, a crutch that threatened to bring down his career and his personal life. Crippled by debts of over two hundred thousand dollars, four times the average wage for a professional Rugby League player, Hindmarsh suffered silently and upon the book’s release even former teammates and close friends have admitted they knew nothing of the extent of his battle. A battle that, in true Nathan Hindmarsh style, he fought with in the dark, desperate for his problems not to burden his friends and family.
For the sports nut, the curious observer, or anyone trying to find their place in the world, Old School is a wonderful story of a footballer trying to find balance in his life while seemingly living his dream. Funny, moving and uplifting, don’t miss out on the journey of a boy from country NSW who became an idol to millions.
Review by Booktopia’s Andrew Cattanach
About the Contributor
Andrew Cattanach is a regular contributor to The Booktopia Blog. He has been shortlisted for The Age Short Story Prize and was named a finalist for the 2015 Young Bookseller of the Year Award. He enjoys reading, writing and sleeping, though finds it difficult to do them all at once.
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