InFocus: Brandon Jack

From professional athlete to published author, Brandon Jack is kicking goals. But there’s another game he’s working very hard to change, he tells journalist Monica Crouch.

Brandon Jack, 27, went to primary school at West Pennant Hills Public and secondary school at Oakhill College, Castle Hill, where he was also school captain. He has since completed a Bachelor of Arts; written various columns for the Sydney Morning Herald; and in August this year his first book will be published.

And did we mention he has already crammed in a career as a professional athlete, playing for the Sydney Swans from 2013 to 2017. Brandon’s older brother, Kieren Jack, also played for the Swans (2013-16); their father is renowned former rugby league player and coach Garry Jack, who played for the Western Suburbs Magpies and the Balmain Tigers, as well as in the NSW State of Origin side 17 times between 1984 and 1989.

Speaking of teachers

But back to Brandon, who undertook the HSC in 2012. He speaks highly both of his own teachers and the profession. He is also appreciative of how teachers, despite their ever-intensifying workloads, accommodate a wide range of students, many of whom may not excel in conventional ways.

“There are many kids who have forms of intelligence that we don’t measure with exams and assessments,” Jack says. “It’s obviously very tough to give every student that intense level of attention because there is already enough pressure on teachers, there are only so many hours in the working day and people higher up often just want to see results. But sometimes all it takes is a small word of encouragement or recognition so that a student feels seen – that’s all it takes sometimes.”

Several teachers had a big impact on him, Jack says, in particular his Year 9 history teacher who also taught him Studies of Religion in Years 11 and 12. “I’m very much where I am today because of the support and guidance she gave me,” Jack says. “I’d never really viewed myself as a writer until she pointed it out to me.”

Onwards and upwards

After high school Jack began a law degree at the University of NSW, but found it wasn’t for him. “I changed to journalism, then psychology, before eventually finding my passion with sociology,” he says. His BA includes majors in sociology and anthropology, with a minor in creative writing.

Jack’s first book, 28: A memoir of football, addiction, art, masculinity and love, will be published in August. “This is not the book I originally wrote, nor the book I ever thought I would end up writing,” he wrote in an Instagram post in May. “It’s actually the book I was avoiding writing.”

Jack had initially wanted to exclude his football career from 28, but while packing to move house he found the diaries he’d kept during his years with the Swans. “After reading through those pages I started again from scratch and 28 is what poured out of me,” he wrote. “This book is a deep dive into many areas both on and off the field – masculinity, sexuality, addiction, identity and expectation, to name a few.”

Turning the tables

Yet Jack’s honest examination of masculinity didn’t begin with this book. It began when one of his female friends “looked me in the eye and told me her story”. It was a “shattering moment”, he says. It was also a turning point.

“I started listening to the women in my life and their experiences, and I started to reflect on the really masculine environments I’ve come from,” he says. Then he took action.

As school captain at Oakhill, Jack was accustomed to giving speeches, and as a professional footballer he’d given presentations in schools. So he developed a new talk, aimed mainly at boys. The themes echo those of the book: masculinity, equality, respect, sex and consent.

These are the issues at the very heart of the crisis revealed by some 6000 young women and girls in their responses to the online petition that hit the headlines in February this year.

Initiated by Chanel Contos, a former student at Kambala, an independent girls school in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, the petition calls for better education for all students about respect and sexual consent – and at a younger age.

Talking to boys

In his talk, which he tailors to different groups from Years 7 to 12, Jack asks boys to rethink definitions of masculinity. He connects with them in the same way his female friend did with him: by sharing stories about himself, particularly from his high school years.

Jack tells the boys he ticks many of the “typically male” boxes: he plays football; he has plenty of mates; he goes out to bars. “But I also write poetry and I cry in movies – things that guys might hear as ‘sissy stuff’ or ‘feminine stuff’ – but I do these things, so does that mean the definition is wrong or I’m wrong? Or does it mean we can pick and choose, and we don’t have to be a certain kind of male?”

With the news cycle dominated by domestic violence and sexual assault allegations, it’s time to shift the focus from victims to perpetrators, Jack believes. “The entire notion of a victim-blaming culture, putting the onus on the person who’s been really hurt, and expecting them to be the one to speak up when it should never have happened in the first place, is really flawed,” he says.

He wants boys to think critically about their attitudes to girls and women, to question stereotypical “male bonding territory”, and to think about how disrespect can devolve into dangerous attitudes.

During his talks, Jack invariably notices boys nodding in identification. They ask him questions. He’s got them thinking, which is what he set out to do.

Altering attitudes

Tracing twisted thinking back to its roots is one of Jack’s objectives. “Boys don’t come into this world thinking women are less than men, so it has to be taught somewhere or absorbed from somewhere,” he says.

“The lack of respect and commodifying of women is a really unfortunate thing about masculinity and young men wanting to fit in and thinking that’s the way to do it. I think it might start like that – then over time, if boys continually talk about women in a certain way, their view of women becomes distorted. There’s this possessiveness and sense of entitlement and all these things come out in sexual assault.”

In his talk in schools, Jack introduces the notion of affirmative consent: “It’s about being able to continually ask another person ‘is this OK?’ and if there’s any doubt, then it’s a ‘no’,” he says.

His talk also covers harassment on social media and the distorting impacts of pornography. “It’s so easy for boys to consume porn in these days of the smartphone and the internet, but that industry is very damaging to ideas of consent and a normal, healthy sexual relationship.”

How things change

Jack believes there is one crucial resource schools need for this issue: time. “Set aside an assembly to introduce the problem or start a conversation and where possible keep that conversation going. It can be done in conjunction with the curriculum,” he says.

Jack is nothing if not hopeful that the needle on this wicked problem is steadily shifting. “I study this stuff, and when I catch up with friends for coffee, I find more and more of them are asking me about it,” he says. “That gives me hope. I think kids in schools are becoming far more aware of these things than ever before.”


To invite Brandon Jack to speak at your school, email:

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Win a copy of 28: A memoir of football, addiction, art, masculinity and love by Brandon Jack, published in August 2021 by Allen & Unwin. We have one copy to give away. To enter, simply email with Brandon Jack in the subject line by Thursday 12 August.