prepared by Anne-Maree Liddelow

The Big Game, the second in the football trilogy by Wendy Jenkins, continues the story of Greg Lukin and Matt Tognolini. This time around, Greg’s interest in football has become a driving force in his life and he sets out to achieve his dream of playing AFL. At the same time, Matt is required to assert himself as the captain of his side whilst dealing with the painful breakup with his girlfriend. Essentially about growing up and relationships, this book will appeal to the middle-school years.

Within the classroom it is useful vehicle for exploring language associated with self-esteem and positive mentality. The book contains a range of communications (invitations, magazine interviews, talk-back radio dialogue, news articles) that can be used as stimulus for further language work.

It may also be used to explore issues such as:

The Big Game, the second in the football trilogy by Wendy Jenkins, continues the story of Greg Lukin and Matt Tognolini. This time around, Greg’s interest in football has become a driving force in his life and he sets out to achieve his dream of playing AFL. At the same time, Matt is required to assert himself as the captain of his side whilst dealing with the painful breakup with his girlfriend. Essentially about growing up and relationships, this book will appeal to the middle-school years. Within the classroom it is useful vehicle for exploring language associated with self-esteem and positive mentality. The book contains a range of communications (invitations, magazine interviews, talk-back radio dialogue, news articles) that can be used as stimulus for further language work. It may also be used to explore issues such as: Growing up Relationships (Family, peers and the opposite sex) Identity Physical and mental well-being. Sport "


1.In the novel, both the characters of Greg and Matt must overcome obstacles to achieve their dreams. In Greg’s case, he must learn to be more flexible and respect the opinions of others to achieve his goals in football. Matt, on the other hand, must overcome his own fears and sense of inadequacy when faced with the opportunity of captaincy. The following role-plays are based on the character of Matt and are designed to assist students to relate to his particular dilemma in the novel:

Provide students with the following instructions;

You and your partners must prepare a short presentation in which you dramatise one of the following scenes. Think about how each character in the scene would act and what s/he might say. Be ready to defend the choices you made using your knowledge of the world and how people behave.

Situation A

Two friends, an older student in school and a younger one.

You are the school captain and a very respected student in the school. Student council elections are coming up and you would like a younger friend of yours to try out for the council. You know that s/he is very popular with other students in the school, is a straight A student and secretly wants this position. However, s/he is also very frightened of public speaking and this is something s/he would be required to do in the role of councilor. What will you say to him/her to convince him to nominate for the elections? How does s/he respond?

Situation B

Three people: a student considering nominating for student council, a teacher, another student

You have decided to nominate for student council because you know that you are well respected by your schoolmates and you have always secretly wanted this position. However, you are really nervous about speaking at assemblies and in other classes. You walk into your classroom and overhear a conversation between another student and the teacher discussing your nomination. The student, who has always looked up to you, thinks you would make a great councilor, but the teacher (who thinks you are a great student) thinks that you won’t be good enough at the public speaking and that the extra responsibilities will affect your grades. What would each person say in this scene? What do you decide to do?

Situation C

Two people: friends

Your friend has nominated for student council and you think he will be great in the position; s/he is a top student and is very popular with most other students. You have just overheard a conversation where a teacher has expressed his/her doubts about your friend’s ability to keep up his/her grades with the extra responsibilities of the job. You know that your friend has also overhead the conversation. What will you say to your friend to convince them to ‘go for it’? What will they say in return?

After each role-play, discuss as a class: Were the scenarios realistic? Who was ‘right’ in each?

2. Ask students to complete the following questionnaire to initiate their thinking about some of the issues central to the novel.

Dreams and Goals

3. View a number of sport interviews or listen to talk back radio interviews and get students to make lists of sport related words/phrases. Discuss their function within the interviews.

4. Examine the content of interviews, the ‘roles’ of interviewer/interviewee and the conventions employed. Extend this to an examination of the promotion of sports stars within the media and its impact on the way we view athletes within our society.

5. Modern football players are increasingly defined by their bodies in the media i.e. he has a ‘hamstring’, ‘Johns: Cruciate ligament’. You might want to develop student vocabulary of these using an activity like the one below and then provide activities that encourage students to consider the impact that such labeling has on the way that we view sport personalities.

Divide the class into groups of 4 or 5 and give each group a list of words, written on separate cards, associated with body parts used in athletic activity (biceps, quadriceps, hamstring muscles, cruciate ligament etc.). Ask them to make sure that everyone in their group learns the spelling and meaning of each. Students in the group should help each other to find good ways to understand and remember each word.

After 15-20 minutes of learning time, give each student in the group a number from 1-5 and collect the cards. Test students on the meaning or spelling of the words by using a dice and nominating the person with the corresponding number in each group to write down their answer on a piece of paper and bring it to the front. Keep a tally of correct answers for each group on the board.

After the activity is complete ask students to reflect upon strategies that they used to help them remember the meanings and spelling of the words.

6. An extension of the above activity might get students to compare the way that female and male athletes are presented in the media.

7. To demonstrate and encourage students to employ a range of processes and strategies to make meaning prior to and during their reading of the text, complete a range of prediction exercises like the one below:

On an overhead projector display the front and back covers of the book and ask students to write down their responses to the following questions:

Place students into groups to discuss their responses and demonstrate the clues they used from the pictures and text to make their predictions.

Share some of these with the class, highlighting the different strategies that people used to make their predictions.

Read the blurb provided on the inside cover and direct students to write an explanation of how this additional information has encouraged them to:


1. To assist students to clarify their interpretations of major characters and events in the novel, ask students to complete a chart like the one below:

Greg feels: When How we can tell

2. The relationships in the novel are presented largely from the male perspective. Encourage students to consider the perspectives of the female characters by either writing a series of diary entries that Jaz may have made whilst she was grounded from seeing Greg or a series of unsent letters from Alison. When students have completed the activity encourage them to discuss HOW they ‘filled-in’ the details using both the text and other sources. Discuss how the inclusion of these communications in the story may have changed the way that we read it.

3. The direct aftermath of the fight at the party is not presented in the novel. The narrator reports that ‘Four weeks later the dust still hadn’t settled’ and, from Greg’s perspective, we learn that Jaz’s parents reaction had been pretty bad. Students can write a script of the dialogue for the scene where her parents came to pick her up or role-play it. Encourage students to reflect upon HOW they gained the information to complete this, referring to both the text and other sources.

4. Use the naming ceremony as a prompt for discussion on the importance of names and identity ps 83-86. Examine the different characters attitudes to names that they were called i.e. Gary wants to reject his nickname altogether. Why? Sarah appears to be happy with her Australian-English name but she says she wants to also keep her Chinese name and be able to say it out aloud at the party. Why is it important for her to have both names? Why is it important to her to be able to say it at the party? Students can extend this with an examination of their own, and friends, names and nicknames and the contexts in which they like them to be used

5. Another way of examining how naming and labeling reflects particular values and attitudes would be to examine the kinds of labels that characters in the novel might apply to Greg. For starters you might try, TROUBLEMAKER, STUBBORN MULE, GEEK and discuss with students which characters might say this about Greg and why. Ask students to think of other characters and what labels they would use for Greg?

6. Read 116-117 to examine the impact that other’s perceptions are having on Greg. Evaluate the accuracy of Greg’s interpretations.

7. Clichés are a prominent feature of this novel. Both the characters of Greg and Matt repeat clichéd sayings to help develop their confidence in various stages of the novel. However, these clichés also provide some of the most vital lessons. This activity assists students to consider the messages contained in the sayings and how they relate to the development of the characters in the novel

Read page 64 of the text where the word ‘cliché’ is mentioned and discuss what it means.

8. Matt’s phone call to the radio talk back host on page 64 is referred to more than once in the novel. The following activity may encourage students to consider the significance or this event and their understanding of irony and humour. Direct students to examine a range of cartoon strips focusing on the conventions of framing, dialogue balloons and punch lines. Allow them to discuss their understandings of HOW the humour has been created. Get them to draw a cartoon strip for the radio talk back scene and explain their choice. Discuss why this scene in the book is considered humorous?


1. The novel presents three major relationships and their development. To encourage students to explore the kinds of attitudes towards love that each represents and evaluate some the underlying values within the text, complete an activity like the one below:

Divide the class into groups to examine one the following relationships:

In their groups students should construct a graph like the one below placing major events in the relationship on the bottom axis and plotting the level of intimacy displayed by the characters against each of these:

Students use the graph to discuss, as a group, the relationship between the events and the character’s feelings of togetherness. They might consider:

Direct students to decide which of the sayings below best applies to this relationship: Ensure they justify their choice by discussing the specific events and what they know about how the characters were feeling at the time. They will need to share this with others

Redistribute groups to reports the findings and compare the three relationships. In the new group students discuss which of the following statements the author might agree with. They must be prepared to justify their choice:

2. Provide students with the following sayings from the book and instruct them to write down ‘who said it? To whom? Why? Discuss where else they remember the same idea being expressed in the book and why

In groups students should discuss the sayings and classify them by grouping together those that had similar ideas or meanings in the novel. For example “Gunna burn” really meant the same thing as ‘You have to stay in the positive zone’ and ‘you’ve got to believe in yourself’ – Ask students to label each group with a statement that is a lesson in life i.e. You must believe in yourself if you are going to succeed.

Discuss which were the most important lesson/s for the major characters in the book. Students write a paragraph justifying their reasons.

3. An extension of this activity would be to get students to think about what the book is saying. Give them statements like the ones below, discuss the meaning of each and allow them to decide which they agree the book is saying. When they have done so, ask them to decide which they feel most in agreement with and prepare to justify why they think this is what the book is saying. Use listening triangles of speaker/listener and observer to present opinions and encourage students to discuss any differences/similarities between them.

4. Students re-read the magazine interview on ps 104-106 and identify conventions of this style of writing; focus on layout, structural elements and language. Discuss the function of this within the book and how they would read it differently if they found it in a magazine at the news agency. Get students to write their own magazine article/interview, providing them with a range of ‘imaginary choices’ from which to choose. You may wish to re-direct his from a writing focus to a reading one by instructing students to write an interview with the author.


The following provides an overview of how the activities suggested may be matched to the Student Outcome Statements in the Curriculum Framework for Western Australia.

It is important to note that these are the Target Outcomes. The extent to which students demonstrate the different levels within the Outcomes will vary according to

  • The individual abilities of the students
  • The way that the activities are implemented within the classroom.

    Many of these activities can be extended to encompass other Outcomes.

    OUTCOMES Pre-reading Activities During Reading Activities After Reading
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 1 2 3 4
    R. Use of Text X X           X X X X X     X X X X
    R. Context Under.             X   X       X X X X X X
    R. Conventions             X X X     X X X X X X X
    R. Process & Strat.         X   X X X X   X   X X X X X
    S&L Use of Text X   X         X   X             X  
    S&L Context Unde X       X         X X              
    S&L Conventions X   X             X X           X  
    S&L Process & Strat X                 X             X  
    V Use of Text       X   X                        
    V Context Under.       X   X X                      
    V Conventions       X   X X                      
    V Process & Strat       X   X X                      
    W Use of Text                   X               X
    W Context Under.                                    
    W Conventions                   X           X   X
    W Process & Strat   X     X         X               X


    As you are reading through the novel, you might wish to keep a journal to record your reading experiences and help you understand the text.

    Here are two examples of reflections that show you how you might approach this:

    Students were asked to find a part of the story that they thought was strange, took them by surprise or annoyed them and to describe their reactions and what they did as they were reading. Here is an example of a reader’s reaction to a scene from Killer Boots, also by Wendy Jenkins, where the character of Matt suddenly karate kicks a cigarette out of the hand of a man who had been giving him a hard time in a restaurant:

    At first this scene took me by surprise just like it did the character of Matt. The writer tells us that Matt was shocked by what he did but I found it really hard to believe that he could all of a sudden just become this karate champion so I went back to look for clues where the writer might have shown us that Matt had learned karate as a kid or done it as part of his training. I couldn’t find any mention of him learning karate at all and that really bugged me. I thought it was really silly of the writer to just have him act like this stereotypical action hero all of a sudden and I couldn’t understand why she had done it, but then I thought about who she was probably thinking of when she wrote the book. Since the book is probably meant for boys, I figured she put this scene in to make Matt more like the film action heroes they like to watch. Even though I could see why she had done it, I didn’t really like it! I like characters to act more ‘real to life’. I just couldn’t imagine a football star becoming this big action hero all of a sudden and, if they did, I would probably think they were a real jerk!

    Students were asked to write about where they found they were relating to a character as they were reading and what they were learning as they were doing so:

    I felt really close to Toggo when he kept saying to himself ‘Remember this’ when he was thinking of his dog. I have a pet cat called ‘Misty’ who I have had since I was really little and she is getting really old. My mum says she is in a lot of pain now and that I should have her put down but I can’t bear to think about it. I know I should try to do the best thing for her but I really don’t want to lose her. So, when Toggo is saying to himself that he must just keep the memories and storing them, I think it is telling me that I have to just keep remembering the good times I’ve had with her and accept that I wont have her for much longer.

    The following are ideas to help you get started –these are just prompts, you can respond in other ways if you wish!

    1. As you are reading, what do you know is helping you to understand the story? What might you need to know more about to understand more of the story?
    2. Whilst you are reading, what are you imagining might happen next? Draw pictures or scenes or construct timelines, flow charts etc that show how you think the story might develop.
    3. As you notice a conflict in the novel, predict how it might end. You might draw this or construct a flow chart, diagram or map to demonstrate.
    4. Keep a record of clues that you are given to the personalities and appearance of the characters. You might want to devote a page to each of the following characters: Matt, Greg, Chris, Nick, Rowan, Jaz, Allison. Collect headlines, pictures, drawings etc that you think represent the character and then write down quotes from the text and explanations of what made you choose these items.
    5. Reflect on some of the incidents in the novel and describe how you feel about the characters at this point in the novel. For example, how did you feel about Jaz when she doesn’t turn up to Greg’s football match and doesn’t return his calls? Why? Have you ever experienced a situation like Greg’s when he tries to confront Jaz? Explain how your reaction and feelings were similar or different Greg’s?
    6. Consider vital scenes in the narrative and how the story might have changed if they hadn’t occurred. For example, how might the story be different if Jaz and Greg had stayed together? If Greg had been accepted into the other football team? If Toggo gone out with the other girl? How might we have read the story differently if the narrator didn’t tell us how miserable Greg felt when he and Jaz went to the movies and how he felt afterwards?
    7. If you had to make a movie of this book and cast your friends in the key roles, who would you have playing the different characters? Explain why.
    8. If you were filming the story, when would the music or lighting change? Why? When would characters change? How would you show this by costumes, looks, gestures?
    9. As you were reading the book were their times when you thought ‘yes, the writer is right!’ or ‘No, that could never happen/could never be!’ Explain
    10. What has been the most important part about the book for you? Would you recommend it to others? Who? How?