After an eventful and sometimes uncomfortably public courtship, Simon Murray and Declan Tyler settled into a comfortable life together. Now retired from the AFL, Declan works as a football commentator; Simon develops programs with queer content for a community television station.
Despite their public professional lives, Simon and Declan manage to keep their private life out of the spotlight. Their major concerns revolve around supporting their friends through infertility and relationship problems—until Greg Heyward, Declan’s ex-partner, outs himself in a transparent bid for attention.
Though Simon and Declan are furious with Greg and his media antics, they can’t agree on what to do about it. Declan insists they should maintain a dignified silence, but both he and Simon keep getting drawn into Heyward’s games. Simon and Declan will once again have to ride out the media storm before they can return their attention to what really matters: each other.
Tigerland picks up 3 years after the events in Tigers & Devils. Declan has retired after injury put an early end to his career (as captain of Essendon – go the Bombers!! (that was from my husband who bows down to the altar of James Hird – I quite understand, I have similar feelings, albeit for different reasons… ahem, moving on). Declan has moved into the commentary box and even Simon has moved into television production in Community TV, with responsibility for 4 shows, including one called QueerSports. They are happy together, settled and waiting for the day when they can be legally married in Australia (aren’t we all guys, aren’t we all). Simon’s relationship with his family has improved (not least due to Declan’s influence; they are all, apart from Simon, mad keen Essendon supporters and hello, Dec was their captain). There might be a shrine in the Murray household. Fran and Roger are happy together but Abe and Lisa are separated and Simon and Dec are hoping for them to reconcile.
Then Grey Heyward,
Simon’s nemesis one of Simon’s nemeses from T&D decides to retire from football, come out as gay and reveal his previous relationship with Dec (possibly with intimate details) and the media shitstorm commences.
What nearly tore them apart in T&D was all the adverse media attention after Declan’s outing and neither Simon nor Dec are excited about going through it again.
It says something special about Simon that the main reason he detests Heyward is the damage he caused Dec – it’s nothing so simple as jealousy.
I hadn’t seen him in person since that night at the Brownlows, and only on television or the net since then, but his image was forever burned into my brain. Declan’s infamous ex, the one that had cheated on him and kept him even further in the closet and succeeded at being the only person who ever really made Dec feel shitty about himself… there he was, walking along the street like some character in a cartoon, musical notes flying out of his mouth as he whistled merrily to himself without a care in the world.
One of my “fears” when diving into the book was whether Simon and Dec would split up during the course of it – could I cope if my favourite Australian gay couple broke up, even if only for a little while (Sean Kennedy knows the romance contract – I trust him not to break it, but still)? I’m pleased to say they don’t. (I hope that’s not too spoilery – I checked with a friend and she thought not, so blame her not me! – this, in football parlance is called “the handball“). There is tension in their relationship. It is tested and strained, but never broken. And that made me very happy. But, it also meant that, to some degree it was less satisfying than T&D because the conflict was a little familiar and wasn’t as significant. It’s not just me who thinks so. As Simon himself says:
“…But a lot of shit was said about you and me both when you were outed, and we survived that. This is nothing in comparison.”
Roger and Fran face a challenge in this book as well. I can’t tell you how glad I am that it wasn’t solved with magical rainbows and sparkly butterflies. I’m sure that one way or another Roger and Fran will realise their dream but I did appreciate the sensitivity shown here by Simon (and by extension, the author).
Even after 5 years together, Simon and Dec still go at it like bunnies. But because Simon and Dec are very private people, the lights are off (at least to us readers) and the door is firmly shut. While I have some (entirely inappropriate) curiosities about their love life, it suits the book and the characters for this to be so. There’s plenty of romance and affection and dialogue which show the depth of this couple’s relationship. To sex it up would have done them a disservice I think. Even though I’m usually pretty happy to read about sexing it up. There are exceptions to every rule, as they say.
Simon, a self-described “Eeyore” is a funny guy. Even when he’s miserable, he has a way of describing things which make me laugh. Here are a couple of “Simon-ism’s” to whet your appetite.
“We’re super,” I said, and internally winced. Why on earth did I keep coming out with that? Soon I’d be riding on bicycles with the Famous Five, enjoying lashings of ginger beer and racially profiling gypsies.
“Really?” I asked, idly wishing that my life was like a wua-hua film so I could throw my letter opener at him and stab him in the forehead.
I did find myself asking if the media would be quite as interested in a relationship Heyward and Dec had had some 6 years earlier. But, the media are weird. It’s not quite as salacious as when Wayne Carey porked his teammate’s wife in a cupboard at a party (true story) but when Kurt Tippett decided to defect (the traitor!) to Sydney from the Crows everyone here went nuts, so really, it could happen.
The book is peculiarly Australian – there are plenty of references to Australian TV shows, sights and culture which I wonder if non-Australian readers will fully understand. But as I am an Australian it didn’t bother me at all.
It saddened me to realise that Simon and Dec had to be so careful about something as innocuous as holding hands in public. It’s not a reality that heterosexual couples encounter. Simon and Dec are welcome to visit me anytime and they can hold hands as much as they want to at my place. Hug even.
Simon, as usual, gets himself into a series of sticky situations which made me laugh out loud. It was a pleasure to spend time with these people again. It felt like visiting old friends. Oh, how I had missed them. Note to Sean Kennedy: When marriage equality finally makes it Down Under, will you please write
a short story another book so we can see Simon and Declan get married?
Don’t forget the giveaway! Comment to enter. 🙂