AFL is not just a code of football, but a way of life. It’s not just about the game itself, but the history, culture and traditions that tie everything together.
Every single AFL team has their own club song. And in an increasingly modernised sporting landscape, the AFL club song stands its ground as a clear link to past glories.
And every single AFL supporter worth his or her salt will knows their team song off by heart. They’ve grown up reciting it as kids in the playground, and now they chant it with gusto in the bars of Melbourne as fully-grown adults.
The club song is not unique to AFL. Indeed, most professional sporting teams have their own official song, whether it was penned during the interwar period for a traditional Melbourne AFL club, or composed by will.i.am for a freshly relocated NBA franchise.
Unlike rugby league, which used to do OK in this respect until 1980s interstate expansionism happened (not to mention Super League in the mid-90s), the AFL does club songs right.
As a first-time attendee at an AFL match, you may be surprised that, upon the conclusion of the match, the winning team’s song will burst over the PA system.
Performed in 4/4, most songs will begin with an eight-bar instrumental (almost always a ‘marching band’ brass ensemble), so you will have time to turn to your partner and gently ask what the fuck is going on.
It is strongly encouraged that you at the very least mime along with the lyrics if you have indeed identified yourself as a supporter of the winning team.
Every AFL club song is ostensibly the same. They all allude to ‘spirit’, ‘the good fight’, ‘striving’, ‘playing the game’, ‘honour’, nobility, and a general assortment of old-timey phases, including ‘grand ol’ flag’ and ‘risking head and shin.’
Regardless of winning or losing, the general takeaway is that AFL teams will always give 100% 110% effort in the face of adversity. So just mime the above phases with gusto and I guarantee no one will know the difference.
Now, let me give you a few quick technical pointers on how to sing a club song, should you ever gain that level of confidence.
First thing’s first: you must sing the song with a discernible vibrato in your voice – kind of like how Brian Henderson used to read the news in the 1990s.
If possible, allow your voice to take on a 1930s-era ham radio tone, as if you are Donald Bradman making a speech at Lords during the tea interval.
Note: Be aware that the song will be played on loop, possibly four or five times over. Unlike Advance Australia Fair, AFL club songs usually consist of just the one verse, so just repeat the aforementioned lyrics over and over again until the bartender/PA announcer deems the song to have run its course.
While a live AFL match can be an intimidating environment for the novice supporter, I guarantee that this vital information on club songs will improve your match day experience ten-fold.
Go forth and prosper! Or, as they say down on Smith Street: Good old Collingwood forever! We know how to play the game!
By Dave Edwards