This is a collaboration with Bob Murphy, former Western Bulldogs skipper and all-round- legend, whose autobiography ‘Leather Soul’ is one of the best footy books you’ll read. Bob and Black Inc asked if I’d adapt the adult version to make a kids book – cherry picking the anecdotes that best suited younger readers.
This was a joyous project. Bob’s junior footy life wasn’t so different to mine (although there might have been a talent gap!), we both shared the same dream, and the footy dream is perhaps the main theme of ‘A Boy Called Bob’.
Bob’s family were so important to his life, and it’s a happy and funny family. We talked about the pranks, the injuries, the games, the tricks, the junior footy and the dead cats. Once Bob gets drafted, this is a mini guide as to what any aspiring footy star might want to know about what an AFL life is like: draft day, first pre season, pre season camp, first game, becoming a regular, becoming captain, and some chapters on the Bulldogs amazing premiership run in 2016, and Bob’s unlucky although important leadership role.
I start each chapter heading ‘in which a boy …’ to pay homage to the great A.A Mile and Winnie the Pooh.
Bob and I both parent at the same school. We’re good friends, and I loved writing this book with him.
Bob and I feeling very cold at at school aths day at Collingwood athletics track.
Bob with my son Jack at the school fete. Jack has cerebral palsy. He’s now eight.
“Legendary Bulldogs captain Bob Murphy has joined forces with author Tony Wilson to refashion his acclaimed memoir, tailoring it to younger readers.
A Boy Called Bob Becomes an AFL Footballer
finds Murphy and Wilson tracing the true story of how Murphy became one of the greatest AFL captains of all time, steering his team from one of its darkest periods to the brink of the 2016 premiership.
Aimed at readers aged nine to 12, it tells the story of a young boy called Bob – a little scrawny, a little scruffy, and prone to sniffing footballs.
Determined to follow in his hero Matthew Richardson’s footsteps and become one of the game’s greats, Bob overcomes pesky siblings and a school footy oval made of gravel to get drafted to the Western Bulldogs at 17 and enjoy a 17-year playing career with the club.
Murphy and Wilson dropped by Yarraville’s Masonic Hall last week to help launch the book in an event hosted by the Young Sun bookshop.
Flanked by dozens of young fans, the pair told the tale of how they had created the book, echoing the storyline of Murphy’s 2018 memoir Leather Soul: A Half-back Flanker’s Rhythm and Blues
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Bob Murphy book launch. Photo by Damjan Janevski.[/caption]” - Benjamin Millar, Star Weekly, 10/7/19
“‘A Boy called Bob Becomes an AFL Footballer’ is a laugh-out loud, footy-filled novel that reveals the highs and lows, hard work and dedication need to be an elite footballer. Bob shares openly and honestly about his family, his mum was a nun and his dad a priest. They fell in love, were married, became teachers and raised three children including Robbie the youngest. Sock footy, tree climbing and visiting his many cousins made his childhood fun. The school oval was a rectangle and covered in gravel, the team sure was tough!
Each chapter heading gives a fun explanation of what’s to come. In chapter 5 Bob meets his future partner Justine Quigley at the high school swimming carnival. Bob dreamed of being an AFL player, he trained hard, loved the smell of new Sherrin footballs and had his family support. Two dozen relatives and friends watched the AFL draft pick when eighteen-year-old Bob was chosen for the Western Bulldogs team.
His first year was one of highs and lows, free gear, his photo on footy cards, pain from the hard training, overcoming shyness and feeling judged were difficult. Bob shares from the heart, the elation of scoring goal in the final seconds and the tough times when the coach is challenging them to do better, spraying Bob in the front row with spit. There are triumphs and tragedies when Bob injures his knee twice, tons of footy tips and plenty of on field action.
Tony Wilson author of the ‘The Selwood Boys’ and Bob Murphy have co-authored a rousing junior novel, written in an easy to read, fun style just right for sports and AFL fans. Phillip Marsden’s cartoons add humour as well, Bob’s knee is totally twisted around on the stretcher! Share ‘A Boy called Bob Becomes an AFL Footballer’ with a middle primary class and they’ll love the asides, the family support and learn about the hard work and dedication needed to be at the top of any sport.
4 stars” - Rhyllis Bignall
“Bob is a boy from country Victoria who grew up loving footy. His first oval was actually a gravel-covered rectangle, but he dreamed of one day playing on the green grass of the MCG, or even having his own footy card. Bob is a good player who works hard, and at 17 he is drafted by the Western Bulldogs. Now he’ll work harder than ever before to make his dreams come true. In this book, Bob shares stories about sniffing footballs, playing with legends and all the highs and lows of his career. Bob Murphy is a 312-match veteran and ex-captain of the Western Bulldogs and A Boy Called Bob follows his adult memoir, Leather Soul. For this middle-grade version, he’s been paired with Tony Wilson, who has years of experience both writing about footy and writing for young people. Murphy’s anecdotes span from early childhood to his retirement, including the devastating experience of sitting out the Bulldogs’ Grand Final win with an injury. The stories are engaging and told with a light conversational tone, even though some of them deal with darker topics like hardship, injuries and failure. However, there are funny moments—his childhood story about the family’s pet cat is gross! Highly recommended for upper primary-aged footy fans.
” - Heath Graham, Books and Publishing, 6/6/19