Sunday, October 3, 2010

Day 178: A league of his own

Australia’s Australian Rules Football season and the Rugby League season are over for another year. Collingwood’s Magpies settled the “rules” replayed final in Melbourne, at the MCG, yesterday and, today, the St.George-Illawarra Dragons beat the Sydney City Roosters in the “league” final.

The coach of the Dragons, is Wayne Bennett, arguably Australian rugby league’s greatest coach of all-time, having now won seven Premierships with two different teams (the Brisbane Broncos and the Dragons). Wayne Bennett is an extraordinary and, in many ways, unassuming man.

Sixty year-old Bennett was, himself, a player who competed at the highest level for the national side, was coach of the Queensland State of Origin team and once, a Queensland police officer, before finding great success as coach of the Brisbane team and now at St. George. In 1999, however, it was not Wayne Bennett’s professional world but his personal life that was revealed to the public, via the ABC television series Australian Story, which detailed his and his wife’s family life in this “deeply personal documentary”, much of it centering on the raising of their children, two of which have disabilities.

I can’t remember the radio show that I heard Wayne Bennett interviewed on, about that time, but I recall how his words moved me when he faltered, consumed with emotion, speaking of the fears he held for his disabled children and how they would cope when one day in the future, he and his wife were no longer around. That interview must have been two or three years after, as it prompted me to buy a copy of his inspirational book “Don’t Die With The Music In You” (a quote from American intellectual, Oliver Wendell Holmes Snr., “regarding failure to meet one’s potential”).

On the back sleeve of my copy of the book, there is a quote from humanitarian and one-time Australian cricket captain, Steve Waugh, who says: “If you want to be mentally tough, do as Wayne Bennett says: ‘follow your beliefs and don’t give into yourself.....’” Bennett himself, in one of the many quotable lines in the book offers this: “You have a choice in life. You can sit back and criticise or you can try to make a difference.”

Everything I’ve read about Bennett, quoted by others who know him, includes the words “revered” and “respected” amongst many, many other plaudits and just watching the response to this tall, genteel figure of a man at the final siren tonight, when the Dragons had won, spoke volumes of the love and affection all those in his orbit, feel for him.

There are many inspirational books by sportsmen and women - players, athletes and coaches alike - Wayne Bennett’s 2002 publication is the only one that I have and I’m not really a huge League fan?! But I like the headings of some of the bite-size chapters in this slim’ish volume: Talent Is Only The Beginning, A Stranger Called Discipline, You’re Not A Failure Until You Start Blaming Others and A Dreamer Who Saw Things We Cannot Imagine.

Congratulations to Wayne Bennett and the Dragons on today’s victory.

Day #178 Tip: Clichés are clichéd for a reason
The dictionary defines the word “cliché” as “a phrase or opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought”.

Many times in the process of writing a screenplay I find myself confronted with choices to make about a scene or a character and I question whether the idea that I’ve come up with is clichéd or not? What I’ll do is take out an A4 pad and then list twenty solutions to my problem, twenty ways that I could execute the scene in question, putting my first thought, the clichéd one at the top of the page. By idea number ten, I guarantee you that I am so far away from cliché that I have now become contrived.

Contrivance is as deadly an enemy of the screenwriter as cliché, so from thought number eleven through to number twenty I must press on, to not only find a solution that is somewhere in between the two extremes, but a solution that works for the the problem that I’m trying to solve, is organic to my story and is the most powerful solution for the script.

However, sometimes, not always or often, I find myself back at the cliché because in some instances, cliché is tried, tested and true; what I have to do then is find a way of reworking the platitudinal so that it appears new and fresh.

Wayne Bennett expresses “don’t die with the music in you” in this way: “It means don’t go through life, whether it be relationships, sport - life - sitting down at the end saying it could have been better.” Is coach Bennett thinking “seven times champion” tonight, or is he contemplating a return to the Bronco’s for a tilt at an eighth? Maybe amongst all the deserved celebratory chaos, he’s thinking that now the season’s over, he’ll get to spend a little more time with his kids?

There is nothing clichéd or contrived about Wayne Bennett.

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