The Portal, Scotch College, Melbourne, Australia

My Swans Family by William P.

My grandmother was raised as a South Melbourne supporter. Unluckily, she was born the year after South won the 1933 premiership. South Melbourne were one of the great teams at the time but when she was a young girl that came to came to a halt. They missed the finals in 1946 after losing the infamous ‘Bloodbath Grand Final’ in 1945.

She stayed loyal to the Bloods throughout their finals drought until 1970 and again in 1977 when they finished fifth.

My father was born in 1960 and was raised as a South supporter as well, as were his two brothers born in 1962 and 1966 and twin sisters born in 1971. All die-hard Swans fans they supported South as kids and, though disappointed, followed them through their move to Sydney in 1982, 49 years after the Swans last premiership.

Then it came to the year 1996. The Swans finished top of the ladder and looked like potential premiership winners after a 63 year drought. They won the first qualifying final against Hawthorn by a goal in a thriller, but North Melbourne who finished second on the ladder won their final against Geelong easily. Two weeks later playing Essendon in a preliminary final the Swans scraped through by a single point with the help of Tony Lockett’s huge point after the siren. My father took my elder brother who had just turned two to the Grand Final between North and South. The Swans outplayed North in the first quarter and lead by 18 points at quarter-time only for North to come back and win by 43 points. My Father then walked five kilometres home crying all the way.


It all started up again in 2005. My uncle joined the board of the Swans and all of the family was still supporting them, of course. My grandmother who has given the swans craze to the family had five kids who were all married and eight grandchildren (with another five still to come!). At the end of the home and away season the Swans were fourth on the ladder and went over to Perth to play the qualifying final against West Coast. They lost in a cliff-hanger against them.


The next week they played in Sydney against Geelong. They were down by 23 points early in the fourth quarter. My mother repeatedly told me to go to bed thinking we were going to lose. I didn’t listen to a word she said and stayed up to watch the rest of the match. My mother was then proved wrong by Nick Davis coming to save us with four final-quarter goals to get us over the line by three points. Then two days after my sixth birthday we played against St Kilda in the preliminary final. There was a bet on at the time between my aunty and uncle-in- law, that uncle was the only in-law who did not agree to follow the Swans tradition and kept supporting St Kilda. My aunty was pregnant and the bet was that the winner of that final the child would barrack for. At three quarter time the Saints were up by seven points, but the Swans stormed home to win by 31 points.


We then met West Coast in the Grand Final. I sat with all of my Swans relatives at the game. It was close all game and very low-scoring, leading by just two points at three-quarter time. It came down to the last 30 seconds, Leo Barry kicked out from the back pocket straight to Dean Cox who then Kicked straight back in. I saw everyone jump up. Being only 6 I could not see over anyone. I thought all the people who had jumped up were West Coast supporters. Then I heard the siren and realised that Leo had taken the mark.


My grandmother and the rest of my family had seen us win a premiership for the first time. My whole family was ecstatic and my father was crying. I almost felt guilty that I only had to wait six years but for my Grandmother it had taken 71 years for her to see one. She was absolutely thrilled. She saw her mighty Bloods win with all of her family.


Leigh Sullivan remembers the 2010 AFL Grand Final.

Hello from Vanessa O’Neill…

I am very much looking forward to running the Playing With Shakespeare sessions for Years 11 and 12, on Friday, exploring scenes from Hamlet and Antony and Cleopatra. If you have any questions about these plays or about Shakespeare in general, I am very happy to do my best to try to answer them…

Footy report: William P tells the story of his family’s passion for the mighty Bloods

Read William P’s terrific piece about following the Swans (the premiers, yayyyy!) at

Click here to read William’s yarn

and more from Rob Hamill…

Hi there again!  I forgot to mention in the previous post that during my presentation I will briefly mention someone who is perhaps New Zealand’s most famous person: Sir Edmond Hillary.  It’s not essential but if you’d like to do a little research on him then go for it!


Also, here is the trailer to the film Brother Number One.  The full film is 100 minutes long.  In the workshop I will be showing an abbreviated version.  We will then discuss following the screening.


See you all soon!



Bob the Garbo Competition

Who can write the best version of this story devised with Danny Katz today? Don’t forget to  include Justinette and the mega garbage truck! Entries close Friday 16th Aug. A fantastic prize will be awarded to the winner!

Rob Hamill writes to you…

Hi there!  I’m looking forward to joining you at the festival and hope the time spent together will be mutually beneficial.  Just to let you know, if you don’t already know, my presentation will encompass two main areas of content: the sport/adventure of ocean rowing and my pilgrimage to Cambodia to discover the truth on what happened to my eldest brother Kerry who was murdered by the Khmer Rouge regime.


It’s not essential but if you feel the urge to do a bit of research you might like to google Khmer Rouge/Pol Pot/Toul Sleng/Comrade Duch/ECCC war crimes tribunal.  You might also like to go to the following link that has study guides covering English and Media Studies, History and Social Studies relating to the film and Khmer Rouge regime


I’m happy to answer any questions you might have prior to my address or after the festival has finished.  I would of course love to hear your questions first hand following my presentation and/or the showing of Brother Number One.


Until then….



Brother Number One DVD, trailer and study guide

It’s a big winter in sport…John Harms writes to you

Those of you who follow sport will be loving the winter of 2013. As Bill Lawry loves to say, “It’s all happening!”

There’s always the footy (which is the week-in-week-out staple of the sports diet), State of Origin, the Super XV finals (go Brumbies), the Tour de France, the Liverpool and Man U visits, Wimbledon, and the British Open.

But this is a special winter, because we also have the cricket - The Ashes from England. Well, it should be a special year, if the Australians weren’t playing like the Under 13Cs from Kickatinalong High.

Sport gives us so many memories.

I recall some wonderful nights during my school years staying up watching the Test matches from England, or going to bed and listening on my little red Sanyo transistor radio with an ear-plug. Often I would fall asleep only to be woken by the fall of a wicket when the roar would come through the effects-mic. Year 10 Maths homework didn’t get a look in.

I especially remember the 1972 Ashes series when Ian Chappell took a young side Over There. It included Dennis Lillee and Rod Marsh, Greg Chappell and Doug Walters. Every morning before the 7.45 news on ABC Radio they would run Alan McGilvray’s summary of what had happened overnight. It was always introduced with the Australian’s team song which went:

Here come the Aussies, and cricket is our game

We’re all together, and winning is our aim.

Oh, we’ll play on through the English rain (rein?)

And win the Ashes back again.

Then I’d go off to school, and football training after school, and get home in time for Richie Benaud to introduce the TV highlights. Dennis Lillee was just magnificent. Bob Massie took sixteen wickets at Lord’s.

My favourite memory of that tour was the final day of the Fifth (and final) Test at The Oval. We had just moved to country Queensland, to a little town on the Darling Downs called Oakey. As a treat, Dad and Mum took us to the Olympia Theatre to see Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines. It was an ancient cinema with holes in the corrugated-iron roof so you could literally see the stars. It was also a very frosty night. So thank goodness the movie was hilarious.

When we got home we sat around the heater to warm up listening to Australian batsmen Paul Sheahan (who went on to be principal of Melbourne Grammar) and Rod Marsh (who is now an Australian selector, and legendary figure) chase the runs. They got them. Australia won, to draw the series level at 2-2. It marked the time Australia started to improve.

They were great times.

I’m interested to know which sport is capturing your attention at the moment? And who is going to win the AFL flag? And is Joel Selwood under-rated? And will Scotch produce a better footballer than Cyril?

I’m looking forward to coming out next week and to researching, planning and writing some stories with you.

My name is John Harms, but if you have a minute, have a look at the story of Wayne Harmes in the 1979 Grand Final. No doubt Carlton (and Collingwood) fans will know the story already. We’ll be talking about that next week.

You might also like to have a look at the writing of our Rising Reporters in the Junior Almanac section at

While I am at Scotch I hope we can publish some of your writing on the Footy Almanac site - and you will be read around the world.

Go Cats.

James Phelan writes to you…

In the lead-up to this year’s festival I thought I’d drop by and answer 3 FAQ’s:
Tell me about your writing process.

Each day I get up and head to my local cafe, where - fueled by strong coffee - I’ll sit and write for a couple hours.  I’ll spend the first few minutes reading over the previous days work, tidy it up, then smash out some words.
I’ll then head home, fix something to eat and spend a bit of time emailing and talking to my agents, editors and publishing staff about whatever may have come up overnight from here or overseas. If I’m feeling like procrastinating, I’ll visit a few news and friends’ websites to see what’s going on outside my own creative bubble.
I’ll then get into another block of writing, stopping every hour to stretch and grab a drink, squeezing in some poor excuse for exercise, have a break for dinner, and then, depending where I’m at with my deadlines, I might do a few more hours at night. I’ll get ideas and I’ll take notes while I watch a little bit of TV - eg Game of Thrones, Mad Men, Breaking Bad - and then I go to bed and get up and do it all over again, every day. It’s a pretty disciplined life being a commercial writer. 
Apparently I’m living my dream…
What would be your best bit of advice for someone who is just starting as a writer?
Read as much as you can. Good books and bad ones, and then write down what you think worked and what didn’t. Eg, was the writer’s voice compelling? Was the story worthy of a full-length novel? What about the choice of point of view and tense? Were the characters making honest choices? Could the book have been better? How would you improve it?
When you write your first draft, try and have some time away from it (an hour, a day, a week - the longer the better), then go back and read it over and re-write. Practise is the key - it’s like any occupation in that regard, the same kind of discipline that you need for sport, playing an instrument, building or designing a house, etc. You practise and practise until you think your work is ready to be seen by professionals, and then they will help you refine it further for the wider reading public. I’ve been doing this since I was 21, and was published at 25. I’m now 34, so that’s many years of writing every day, and with every new project I improve; it’s a continual learning process, and every day I start out knowing I’m going to be a better writer. You just keep refining and improving, reading widely and writing outside your comfort zone, pushing yourself to develop.

Read. Did I mention that?

What’s next for you?

I’ve taken a hiatus from my two series in “Lachlan Fox” and “ALONE”, and have been working on a couple of new projects…  
One is a new thriller series, which will be a book per year for Christmas publication, and down the track I might alternate between this new character and Fox. What’s this new novel about? Well, the premise is basically: While trying to figure out why he was burned by his former spy agency, Jed Walker unravels an operation that will bring down the CIA (THE SPY, Hachette, Dec 2013).  It still has all the thrills and spills my teen and adult audience loved with the Fox books, only this is a little faster and more… explodey (you see, as a writer you’re allowed to make up words).
The other project arrives soon in the form of a new series written just for teens, titled THE LAST 13.  Published by Scholastic, it’s been an epic series that I’ve had to keep secret - until now!  Book one, “13″ arrives this September, followed by “12″ in December, and then “10″ in February 2014. From there, it’s being published as a book-per-month all the way down to “1″ in December 2014.
What’s it about?  Well, it’s just a race between the forces of good and evil to control the dream world - how’s that for a slice of fried gold?  Even though my previous 8 novels are sold into over 100 countries, this is the first time that I’ve had a simultaneous world-wide release in the English-language markets, which is pretty cool as usually my US and UK readers have to wait at least 6 months to (legally) read my new stuff. And with 13 books to play with, this has been the biggest project I’ve worked on.
Check out the website for more info and cool prizes:
As I write this, I’m spending the next 6 weeks working on the final two books of The Last 13, then all of September I’m on book tour here and the USA.
Then… then, I guess I’ll be starting something new. Reading… Writing… Living my dream :-)
James Phelan

13 books…13 nightmares…one destiny

Watch the trailer for James Phelan’s terrifying new series!