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HOW RUGBY LEAGUE DEFINES QUEENSLANDERS

By Eve Stafford

”RUGBY LEAGUE SPEAKS TO QUEENSLANDERS’ SENSE OF BEING THE UNDERDOG AND THE OUTSIDER – A POWERFUL UNDERCURRENT THAT SWEEPS THROUGH POLITICS, BUSINESS, THE ARTS, AND SPORT.”

With his book Heartland: How Rugby League Explains Queensland (UQP) local author Joe Gorman has just taken out the 2020 Queensland Premier’s Award for a work of State Significance. For more than 40 years, rugby league has embodied all the hopes, dreams, contradictions and tensions of life in the Sunshine State. Weaving together stories of diehard supporters and game-changing players, from Arthur Beetson to Johnathan Thurston, this new book is a revealing account of Queensland’s coming of age, both on and off the field.

The enduring appeal of State of Origin is that it allows Queensland to balance the scales, at least for 80 minutes. In Heartland, journalist Joe Gorman chronicles a tale of loss and rebirth – from the decline of the Brisbane Rugby League competition and North Queensland’s Foley Shield to the extraordinary rise of the Broncos and the Cowboys in the NRL.

The judges’ comments include: ‘Superbly written, Heartland is a compelling insight into rugby league’s State of Origin and the role it plays in the identity of Queensland. Gorman moves the narrative seamlessly, shining a light on key individuals and events within a social and political context. This is an outstanding work of literary non-fiction.’

Tony Collins of Rugby Reloaded wrote: ‘A truly wonderful achievement. Joe Gorman takes us on a journey deep into the heart of Queensland rugby league and discovers how the game inhabits the soul of the state. This is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand Queensland and why the sport has such a deep emotional resonance with the communities that nurture it.’

The short-list and winners in the 2020 Queensland Premier’s Awards can be viewed on the State Library of Queensland website and are available from all good bookshops.

Born in Brisbane and now living in Cairns, Joe Gorman is an independent journalist and author who has been published in The Guardian, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Courier-Mail, Overland, New Matilda, Sports Illustrated, Penthouse and SBS. He has spoken at the Sydney Writers Festival and appeared on Al Jazeera, Deutsche Welle, and the ABC.

His first book, The Death and Life of Australian Soccer, was hailed as ‘one of the best and most important written on Australian sport’ by The Age, and was long-listed for the 2017 Walkley Book Award.

Due to Covid, the Cairns Tropical Writers Festival has been postponed to 13-15 August 2021, but year-round events both live and online are happening in between.

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