• Armistice
  • My Gallipoli
  • An Anzac Tale
  • Captain Congo and the Crocodile King
  • Captain Congo and the Maharajah's Monkey
  • Captain Congo and the Klondike Gold
  • Fill Out This Application and Wait Over There
  • Captain Stella
  • Thorpey
  • Noodle Pie
  • Catland
  • Orphans of the Queen
  • Stella by the Sea
  • Muck-Up Day
  • NIPS Go National

Lan, Izzy and the gang back in new NIPS story

If you've missed Lan, Izzy and the NIPS XI gang then check this out: they're all back and having a brand new adventure in Ruth's new story Only A Game!

In the first new story since Nips Go National, Lan, Izzy and the rest of the team play one more game, when they are invited to compete against a group of young asylum seekers, and Lan has to make a crucial decision.

The short story is featured in Penguin's new anthology Things A Map Won't Show You, out now.


Can't wait? Read an excerpt from Only A Game below.

Excerpts from "It's Only A Game", a new short story by Ruth Starke
Taken from Things A Map Won't Show You, Penguin (2012)


So there was a fence, a high one, too, easily three metres, and made of strong cyclone wire.

“Told you,” Andy said behind him. “Nobody can get out.”

“They can't get in either,” Lan said, pointing out the window of the mini-bus to the open pastures on the other side of the road. “Maybe that's why they built the fence.”

“Yeah, right,” Andy said. “And that's why there are guards with walkie-talkies. To stop the cows getting in.”

Lan grinned. He'd been winding Andy up. Andy was always so sure he was right about everything. You could probably scale the fence if you were determined, he reflected. He couldn't see any sentry posts manned by armed guards, so it wasn't a prison camp like the ones in movies. No Alsatians straining on the leash, either.

And instead of barracks, there were houses which looked remarkably like the houses he and his friends lived in, and grass and gum trees and clotheslines. In one backyard a woman in a headscarf was unpegging some sheets while a toddler attempted to navigate a red and yellow plastic tricycle along a pathway.

Lan's little sister Lien had one just like it. There were more men in blue shirts at the front gate, and beyond that a barrier like the ones at private car parks. Their driver opened the door of the mini-bus and spoke to one of the guards, who consulted a clip-board then stuck his head inside and scrutinised every face.

“We probably all look like asylum seekers to him,” Andy muttered into Lan's ear. “Except Mr Thistleton, of course.”

The guard stepped back and waved them through as the barrier was raised.

“Doesn't look like I thought it would,” said Izram, who was seated next to Lan.

“Is not like the place we stay when we arrive Australia,” Tomas observed. 'Better, nicer.”

“My Dad reckons they've got swimming pools,” Akram said.

Lan couldn't see any swimming pools. But up ahead, on a grassed area, he saw a tent and trestle tables and a crowd of adults and children and more men in blue shirts. Eleven boys of varying sizes and colours were lined up under a banner that said “Welcome to Braeburn”. They wore shorts and blue T-shirts.

“Well, lads, there's your opposition,” said Mr Thistleston jovially.

“Reckon they speak any English?” Hiroki asked, as they filed off the bus.


“So how would you describe your team?” the man from the Good Neighbour Council asked. “Just so I get an idea.”

Lan shifted the telephone to his other ear and hesitated. Was he asking about their ethnic backgrounds, or about their skills? This was the coach of a potential opposition team; could he afford to be completely open and honest?

He could say: “Some of us had never played cricket at all a year ago. We've got a couple of opening batsmen who aren't too bad, but Tomas Nunez and Satto Basalama are weak links. Andy Chen's our opening bowler and he's pretty fast, and I'm a leg-spinner and getting better all the time, but Hiroki Yoshida doesn't always see too well and Phon Phimo loses his nerve. Only Andy and David Ho can reach the stump from the boundary and Izram Hussein's a better wicketkeeper than a batsman.”

What he did say was: “Um, I guess we're all pretty different. Our coach calls us battlers. But we've got some good players. We always try to win, and we play fair.”

He added, “We like to have a good time, too. Spinner keeps reminding us that cricket oughta be fun.”

The Good Neighbour laughed. “Glad to hear it. A few of these youngsters have played cricket before, in Sri Lanka or on Christmas Island, but most are newcomers to the game. What with one thing and another, they've had a pretty tough time of it getting here, so if this match gets the green light I hope you'll cut them some slack, son.”

What did he mean, cut them some slacks? Was he referring to uniforms?

“My mother made our cricket whites,” Lan said hesitantly.

“Is that right?” said the Good Neighbour. “Well, these kids haven't got anything like that.”

“Maybe we can wear shorts and T-shirts.”

“Good-o. We've got plenty of those.”

So that was all right then. Lan didn't fancy asking his hard-working mother if she'd mind sewing eleven uniforms.

Read the full story in Penguin's new anthology Things A Map Won't Show You, OUT NOW.


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