Book Review: Night Games: Sex, Power and a Journey into the Dark Heart of Sport by Anna Krien

The William Hill Sports Book of the Year is an award that is never afraid to tackle serious subjects, as witnessed by the recent winners. In 2011 A Life Too Short: The Tragedy of Robert Enke explored the depression and subsequent suicide of the one-time German international goalkeeper, while in 2012 (The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France) and 2013 (Doped: The Real Life Story of the 1960s Racehorse Doping Gang), the murkier side of cycling and horseracing were exposed.

Now in 2014 the latest winner of the prize, Night Games: Sex, Power and a Journey into the Dark Heart of Sport by Anna Krien, the subject of rape and its relationship with the macho world of the “locker room” is investigated, focusing on two of Australia’s biggest games, Australian Rules Football and Rugby League.

The book is centred on Australian sports, but its relevance won’t be lost on an English audience, with the recent debate around the rehabilitation of convicted rapist Ched Evans back into professional soccer, a contentious topic.

At the centre of Night Games is the trial of Justin Dyer, a junior football player accused of raping Sarah Wesley in 2010, amid the partying and celebrations in Melbourne, after Collingwood beat St Kilda in the Australian Football League (AFL) Grand Final.

Interestingly, Krien reveals the outcome of the trial at the beginning of the book, and then details the events leading to the verdict. This is a useful device, in that it means the book isn’t read as a ‘whodunit’ and instead prompts the reader to try and understand the process of law and how the final decision on Dyer is reached.

As the story of the trial unfolds, Krien explores and raises a number of questions about topics such as, the definition of rape within the legal system, the culture of the locker room, and the interpretation of consent. These are not easy subjects to write about with an objective view, and therefore to come to any black and white position about them is a nigh on impossible task without being accused of some bias.

Krien’s search for balance in the book suffers a major blow, in that she spends a great deal of time with Dyer’s family through the trial, while she was unable to get Sarah to tell her side of the story, leaving the book without the view of the defendant.

With Sarah as an ethereal voice in the book, a world of uncertainty is presented by Krien. A realm in which the law has difficulty in establishing the truth and providing genuine justice, where the term “consent” is muddied by the concept of legal definition, resulting in a “grey area” in sexual assault cases, which Krien views as the “gulf of uncertainty between consent and rape”. A place where the players of the AFL and National Rugby League have a cosseted existence, in which they live and breathe their sport, where the club rules and team-bonding is king and there is always somebody to clear up their mess. A land where “footie chicks” are happy to become a “piece of meat” for the sexual gratification of “the lads”, but where ultimately no one emerges unscathed.

As Krien has reflected, this is a book that neither footballers nor feminists will be happy about. It is also a book that can be uncomfortable reading, but it is an honest undertaking at raising the issues around the distress and misery that sexual assault causes within sport and society.


Tags: ,
FBR Copyright 20214 All rights reserved.

Posted February 27, 2015 by Editor in category "Reviews", "Rugby League


  1. Pingback: 2014 William Hill Sports Book of the Year: Long-list | football book reviews

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.