Siren’s Call: A memoir by Yvette Wroby (Malarkey Publications) is a love story about family and footy, a story which involves both matzo balls and footballs.
Yvette, a 60+ Jewish woman from Melbourne, is a Saints tragic. In 2015, she spent the year criss-crossing Australia – and New Zealand – to attend every St Kilda Football match. Dressed in her trademark red, white and black clothes, glasses, watch, bracelets, earrings and club scarf, she spoke to hundreds of fans about why they supported their club and what it means for them.
Along the way, she finally learned how to kick a football.
“What emerged was that people made choice at a moment in time, a happenstance, something that led to the colour of someone’s footy love. It might have been the pattern on the guernsey, the family, a friend, a connection. It was across the board. It didn’t matter if they lived in the outback or by the sea, in the suburbs or the bush, whether they were men or women, younger or older, or what their ethnic heritage was. People all had a story, a way of explaining why they barrack for the team they do,” Yvette says.
Geography and family (especially her Uncle Bob) made the choice for Yvette.
“I was born in St Kilda and grew up in the nearby southern suburbs. I remember the games at Junction Oval, then Moorabbin before I was a teenager. We grew up with the Saints. In Australia, it was a way of feeling connected to something larger. Though my passion waned for a time during adulthood and while raising my children, it’s come back with ferocity in recent years,” she says.
Ultimately, Siren’s Call is a tale of Yvette’s two families: the family she was born into and the family that is the St Kilda Football Club. It’s a story about the bond between Yvette and her mother Elfie, and a wider one of how her mother’s and father’s families survived the Second World War in France to make a rich, fulfilling life in Australia; of how Yvette’s many aunts and uncles and siblings made her who she is today.
Writing the book was also Yvette’s way of dealing with her mother’s cancer treatment and eventual death.
“My mother loved all the stories I brought back from every game. It diverted her from her suffering, particularly the persistent itch which almost drove her crazy,” Yvette said.
Yvette’s other way of coping was to cook large quantities of kreplach (dumplings), matzo balls, and chicken soup (otherwise known as Jewish penicillin). Recipes are included in the book.
Siren’s Call is about how to live a positive life, about how not become overwhelmed by the harsh realities of life.
“St Kilda is known for not having won a grand final since 1966, back before I was a teenager, though there have been four close calls that I witnessed in person. Lack of success means that supporters lean on each other and make a different footy life, and live in hope. As Bron says in the book, ‘being a Saints supporter builds character but she’d like success at the cost of character’,” Yvette says.
“The Saints scarf has served as an introduction card even when I’ve travelled overseas to the US and Japan. People just come up to me and start chatting. As a result, the club song, ‘When the Saints Com Marching In’, has now been translated into Swedish, Japanese and Punjabi! After most matches, I text my friend and fellow fan, Yoshi, in Kyoto.”
Yvette Wroby trained as a psychotherapist and is an artist, cartoonist and writer. She has written over 200 stories for the Footy Almanac and other football publications. A painting by Yvette is on the cover of the book, as well as throughout. She is currently working on a Women’s Footy Almanac.
Siren’s Call: A memoir by Yvette Wroby (Malarkey Publications) RRP: $25.Available in all good bookstores or from Yvette’s website: http://cartoonswork.com.au
E-books are available from Booktopia, Amazon and other outlets.
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