What’s Old Pussycat?

It’s not unusual for the AFL to use the Grand Final entertainment as a means to demonstrate just how in-touch they are with the general football loving demographic.  Year after year we’re astounded by their canny choice of headlining act.

It is after all “one of the biggest issues facing the AFL each year,” according to Chief Talent Scout and sometime League CEO, Gillon McLaughlin.

Credit to Gill and his cohort.  His predecessors might not have got their man Tom Jones in 1969 when he had the swag to launch a thousand panties, but last year persistence won through in the end.

Tony Bennett and Leonard Cohen have been cruelly snubbed again but in the 2015 decider we will have the edgy Bryan Adams to sing about 1969.  Elderly Tigers at home reminiscing their glory days will be in their element.

The VFL/AFL have tried various imaginative means to flesh out the festivities over the past 35 years, since the first televised decider in 1977 heralded the transition from ‘very important football game’ to ‘very important event’.  It’s no easy assignment and the NRL’s flirtation with little orphan Annie at the State of Origin a few years back demonstrated occasional balls-ups aren’t restricted to the AFL.

Anyway, just for sh!ts and giggles, here’s a potted history of the most noteworthy Grand Final talent inflicted on the viewing public.

1977 – The Impossible Dream

Barry Crocker flew from LA for the North v Collingwood pre-match gig, where apart from the obligatory anthem, he crooned ‘The Impossible Dream’.  This was apt, for the Magpies were on the cusp of a Cinderella Story wooden spoon to premiership feat.  I’d contend the needle has remained stuck on 1977, for compelling pre-match entertainment has remained an impossible dream, the League putting on a ‘Barry Crocker’ most years thereafter.

1981 – Ol Black Eyes

Jon English sang Waltzing Matilda at the 1981 Grand Final.  He must have spent months honing his pithy pre-song patter…

1988 – Zzzzzzzz

The 1988 Grand Final was a dirge, and so was Noel Watson’s rendition of Waltzing Matilda. Someone at AFL House must have been enamoured with, or related to this glorified busker. ‘Football I gave you all the best years of my life’ was Watson’s other contribution to footy’s back catalogue of musical treats.  Unfortunately, every time Channel 7 played it they took another 3 minutes of the best years of my life.

1989 – Dean Lupson, nutter

This video doesn’t quite do justice to Lupson’s  ‘performance’.  Still, the ‘Roys got up after a thrilling comeback to snaffle the VFL Reserves premiership.  Easily the best pre-match entertainment over the past 35 years.  A football match…  Who’d have thunk?

1991 – Na na na na na na na na

The Hawks were Bound for Glory in 1991, not so Angry Anderson in his AFL approved Batmobile.  Personally, I found the kitschy, unintended comedy act mesmerising.  Carlton Draught commissioned an ad ‘proud supporter of the AFL since 1877 (except for 1991)’ with footage of Angy, topped by long distance runner Yobes Ondieke wetting himself with laughter.  They always have the best ads.

1993; Superbowl this ain’t 

No, it was barely junior school review.  If ever NASA launches another Voyager probe, I suggest prudent risk management to avert alien invasion of Earth would include carrying this footage.  For there’s clearly no intelligent life forms worth exploiting here.

2003; I have a confession to make

As a Collingwood supporter, obtaining a ticket to the big dance takes ingenuity.  You know the kids who waved big tarps and banners year after year after freaking year?  As a grown adult, I endured several tedious tarp spinning rehearsals in a desperate bid to get in the door.  It was a surreal experience out in the middle, and difficult to stay focused having endured sleepless nights fretting over the impending two and a half hours. I may as well have stayed on the ground, for I couldn’t have done much worse than the Magpies’ nightmarish effort.

2010; Double trouble

INXS would have been a fine choice – a quarter of a century ago.  The lack of Michael Hutchence was cunningly camouflaged by the band’s location amid the crowd, tucked away above the vomitory at the Ponsford end.  After a few too many nerve settlers before my team entered the fray, and being perched up high in the Olympic Stand with vertigo, I was in my own potential vomitory.

The $20m windfall gleaned from the draw helped Andy to secure Lionel Ritchie for the replay, to apparent widespread acclaim.  For mine he was patchy at best.  The consummate entertainer should have left out the coma inducing ‘Hello’.  Interestingly, the Triple M commentators lampooning finished with an ominous request by Garry Lyon.  Careful what you wish for…  Meanwhile, Advance Australia Fair honours went to Julie Anthony @lastminute.com.  It’s the only song she knows the words to, but as the tried and tested option, the AFL safely lumped for the musical equivalent of taking a cold shower before bed.

2011; Out of Hell

Besties…   until Marvin dropped the ball

Whilst His Meatiness sounded like he was choking on a mouthful of Chum, I missed the full impact of his awfulness as I belatedly sought a decent vantage point in the standing areas. All credit to someone who’s forged a 30-odd year international career from one decent album, but some due diligence might have ascertained his voice was shot.  More sympathy again to those who’d already forked out to see his full concert, their tickets about as valuable, and his performance as uplifting, as a tour of the Lost Dogs Home.

Four years on and the events of 2011 are still shrouded in acrimony.  Fending off the aggrieved performer’s accusations of being cheap (the AFL providing 97 motorcycles less than the 100 promised), AFL Chief Gillon McLachlan’s response was that Meatloaf’s half million dollar pay day was “probably about $499,000 too much”.  Unexpectedly, Mr Loaf had a change of heart, apologising for his rant (but not his performance).



2 Comments Add yours

  1. Ross Slater says:

    Great stuff Jeff. I think the singer doing the national anthem in 1993 forgot the words too.

    I remeber that Don Watson song from 1996 to ‘celebrate’ the centenary season was more like a funeral dirge than something to get you excited about football.

    No mention of Kath & Kim showcasing suburban Australiana to the world or the Australian Idol singers on every Chanel 10 grand final?

    Angry Anderson looked to be very hard to beat but then along came Meatloaf….


    1. JD says:

      You have a good memory Ross, I’d forgotten about Noel Watson’s very forgettable follow up contribution. So too Kath & Kim. If I can find it on YouTube I’ll make an update.

      It seems we either promote ourselves as a cultural backwater or throw up our hands and get some has been from o/s.


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