Andrew Voss has cobbled together an interesting career of almost forty years calling and commenting on sports events. He began contributing minor spots on radio then was promoted into television work – eighteen years at The Nine Network, more recently positions firstly for Sky in New Zealand, then Fox Sports in Australia. His description of games always has tended to be accurate, if very enthusiastic.
Stuff You May Have Missed is an entertaining book derives from his other role, a commentator on events which have taken place in The Greatest Game of All. In his job as discussion leader Voss always has achieved a tone of enthusiastic irreverence and has taken up matters which simply would never have occurred to most sports personalities.
This book embodies his style. Famously he once investigated the proposition that an experienced goal kicker could in fact kick goals while blindfolded; on another occasion he had a goalkicking great attempt a kick from the opposite try line when the ball had been filled not with air but with helium. In this good-humored tome, he hints broadly that these stunts were done more for amusement than veracity and praises the acting powers of the players involved.
We learn a little of Voss’s life – his father died when Andrew was eight leaving his mother with the task of raising and providing for three sons; he is a gambler; he once broke par in a golfing event; he loves food and the examples he gives suggest his tastes are more blue collar than haute cuisine – he is a great judge of meat pies and fish and chips.
The heart of the book goes to characters and events that were totally unknown to most of us and were found well away from the mainstream of elite sport. He tells us of the two Australians with Scottish names who were born and raised in Australia and who had never left these shores until they found themselves members of the Russian Rugby League team competing at a world cup. One emerged triumphant from a match lost by his side by 110 points to four. The two remember being paid in thick wads of cash bound with rubber bands, taken from a suitcase be a man they were sure was a member of the Russian mafia – “If you need more, come back.”
He reveals the engrossing tale of an elite player who, though seriously injured, won a bet that he’d be “on the field” on Grand Final day. He dressed as a tiger and went out as the team’s mascot, even unnerving an opposition player by lifting his head covering to reveal his identity.
The book is packed with these bizarre, amusing tales that bring a very human light to a pretty uncompromising sport.
A small warning – Voss explains that this is not a book for those who value political correctness. He’s right. Four letter words crop up and there is one reference to a sign held up at a match which represents a frank sexual reference. He doesn’t reveal the gender of the holder; I thought it very funny and do hope it was hoisted aloft by a woman. If dad or grandpop is easily offended by such things this is not the book for him.
I do believe that Stuff you May have Missed will become a valued part of the library of many a rugby league enthusiast; secondary readers who have not much interest in the game will also find plenty to entertain them if they pick it up.