From the cover of The Changi Brownlow by Roland Perry: "In the harshness and brutality of Changi Prison a group of Australian POW’s dug deep and fought to maintain their spirit in the best way they knew how – Australian Rules Football.
From Snowy River country came Peter Chitty; from Fitzroy came ‘Chicken’ Smallhorn, the winner of the 1933 Brownlow Medal. Together they helped form six teams to play ‘the season’ – culminating in Victoria versus ‘the Rest of Australia’, with the Changi Brownlow winner declared before the final game. The bonds these men forged on the makeshift playing field of Changi were to sustain them when so many were later sent to labour on the Thai-Burma Railway. Ravaged by cholera, starved and worked to death, fewer than half survived. This is their moving and powerful story."
And a powerful one it is indeed. Initially slow to start, it’s worth sticking with, particularly if you don’t know much about this horrendous chapter in the history of Australia’s participation in World War Two. It’s gut-wrenching reading in parts, while others have you leaping up from your chair to punch the air in celebration of bravery, mental and intestinal fortitude and sheer physical endurance. I believe if you’re a footy fan you may enjoy this book more than those who aren’t into the code, but above all, it is an amazing story of human spirit more than anything else – one that was a privilege to read and one I highly recommend.