Local Footy: Colourful nicknames make footy world go round

By Daryl Pitman

“Go Pies!,” shout Collingwood fans. “Up the Crows,” some even more misguided individuals have been heard to utter. But what about the more original nicknames that have evolved in local football? If you haven’t heard of the Cavemen, the Redeyes, the Yabbies or the Gorillas, then read on . . .

One of the origins of nicknames is, simply, colours. The Riverina’s Coolamon are the Greens (nothing to do with politics) and Francis Bourke’s old club, Nathalia, are the Purples.

Many nicknames are derived from the club’s actual name, such as the Rats (Ararat), Dingoes (Dingley), Hunters (Glenhuntly), Nodders (Mazenod), Barkers (Mooroolbark) and the Monds (Ormond).

The Yabbies (Tyabb) and Gulls (Warragul) deserve a mention, along with the Bucs (Tooleybuc), the Buds (Rosebud) and the Bats (Goorambat). Ocean Grove draw on alliteration to call themselves the Grubbers.

Then there’s the Doves (Doveton), Mowers (Moama), Belles (the former Bessiebelle footy club, near Portland) and the Pointies (the former Golden Point in Ballarat). Golden Point were also known as the Rice Eaters, because of the population of Chinese miners that lived in that area of Ballarat.

Until 1966, Box Hill were known as the White Horses, while former VFA club Brunswick answered to the Pottery Workers before turning into Magpies. Northcote were known as the Brickfielders early in their history, while Yarraville were The Flying Gang during the late 1930s because of the high number of players who were serving in the air force.

After the war Yarraville reverted to being the Villains (my favourite) before becoming the Eagles.

In fact, the VFA had a rich tradition of original nicknames which include the Villains (Yarraville pre-1948), Mustangs (Box Hill’s progression from White Horses), Bullants (Preston), Cobras (Camberwell, and of course, Canterbury in suburban footy), Roosters (Geelong West) and Dolphins (Frankston).

Early in the century, Essendon Town in the VFA were known as the Dreadnoughts – how inspirational!

Mordialloc were once the Robins. In the VFA they became the Bloodhounds.

Sandringham was probably the first club to become the Zebras, although it was really a reporter who coined the name. Writing in the Sun News Pictorial in 1934, reporter Jim Blake said of the Sandringham side after a win over Brighton: “Richmond as Tigers now have a rival in the animal kingdom, for Sandringham, in the new yellow and black striped guernsey, resembled Zebras. “The way they galloped away from Brighton to win showed they could emulate that animal. The team will now be known in the future as the Zebras.”

And they have been!

Still in the VFA, Brighton adopted the Penguins as their nickname in 1947. Williamstown were the Villagers until becoming the Seagulls in the mid-1930s, while Port Melbourne have always been the Borough.

And Sunshine in their VFA days were the Crows long before it was fashionable.

Back in country footy, it’s hard to go past the Caveman (Buchan in the Omeo and District league) and the Timber Cutters (Mathoura in the Picola and District league). Fellow Picola league club Katandra get a nod of approval for being slightly different – they’re the Kats!

It is strange that we have so many non-Australian animals such as Panthers, Bears and Tigers, but very few Australian beasts or birds. How many Koalas, Wombats or Emus have you barracked for? There have been a few Kookaburras about, with Keysborough, Sebastopol and Diggers Rest among them.

There are a few Bulls, but no Goats, Pigs or Foxes. Plenty of Hawks, but no Pelicans, although Irymple (Sunraysia FL) are the Swallows, while the Pigeons can be found at Yarrawonga.

There are some Sharks, but no Whales. Queenscliff are the Barracoutas, but I’m not sure if Blighty in the Picola league are known as the Redeyes because of their fondness for fish or just as a result of too many premiership celebrations.

The Sapphire Coast competition on the southern NSW coast probably has the most original collection of nicknames outside Victoria. It has the Diggers (Merimbula), the Marlins (Merimbula), the Sea Hawks (Batemans Bay), the Sea Eagles (Tathra), the Whalers (Eden) and, formerly, the Wedgies (Wyndham).

I hasten to point out that Wyndham’s nickname comes from the wedge-tailed eagle.

The Southern Football League in Melbourne also fares well in the originality stakes. The Vampires (East Brighton) and the Rosellas (Cheltenham) are real class.

Caulfield were the Gorillas when they won the 1949 Federal league premiership.

Other rare names include the Rams (East Burwood and Rockbank), Parrots (Leongatha), Pythons (Pines) and Stonecats (Frankston YCW). Corowa were known as the Spiders until combining with Rutherglen in 1978, while Hampton Park are the Redbacks.

And the Beans or Beanmen had a certain ring to it for Bena before they combined with Korumburra.

Certainly the most unacceptable in modern times would be the Niggers, as East Malvern (Federal league) were known during the 1960s and Benalla All Blacks (Ovens and King league) were known until the late 1990s.

Quite a few clubs have called themselves the Grasshoppers, including North Albury, Dromana, Navarre and Yarroweyah.

But my favourite is that of Parkdale (the old St Pat’s Mentone) in the Amateurs: the Vultures. The name’s not a winner on its own. But it is when you put it with their catchcry: “Eat ’em dead!”

Now I wonder what Poowong call themselves?

Comments

  1. I’d guess team nicknames would generally derive from popular usage by the clubs’ fans. Club historians would know, I suppose. How goes it on club launch day? The president and crew cluster and bawl an officially sanctioned name and see how it takes? The way nicknames have evolved down the years makes an intriguing study.
    Grammarians don’t get a look-in with this “Go Pies”, “Go Bumbers”, “Go Blues” stuff — it orta be “Go, Pies”, “Go, Bombers” and “Go, Blues”, I reckon.

  2. Correction to previous post: Make that Bombers on first mention, not Bumbers.

  3. pauldaffey says:

    Hues,

    No problem with Bumbers (or former students of Melbourne, Mentone, Essendon, etc, grammar schools). I do, however, have a problem with Tasmanian clubs that wear black guerneys with red sashes and call themselves the Bombers. Essendon’s nickname is derived from the fact that the suburb of Essendon hosts an airport. None of the Tassie clubs that wear red and black are based near an airport. I liked the Tassie tradition of red and black clubs calling themselves the Robins. I like it, I suppose, because it happens in no other state and yet it’s such a strong tradition in Tassie. In recent years North Launceston and a couple of red and black clubs in minor competitions have changed from the Robins to the Bombers, entirely because of the AFL influence. Ulverstone, to their credit, wear red and black jumpers but remain the Robins. Long may they twitter (not the phone version).

  4. Pamela Sherpa says:

    Everytime I see an old school friend at Cohuna I tease him about how a country Victorian team -the Cohuna Kangas chose the Freo jumper. Before the merger Cohuna wore red and white and Union(the Kangas) wore green and gold.
    A compromise with some AFL influence.

  5. I think it’s sad that any club copies the AFL (or copied the old VFL) when it comes to colours, nickname or club song. I thought us Aussies were supposed to be the masters of originality. And as for copying an interstate club such as Adelaide, West Coast or Freo by adopting their colours for a Victorian country or metro club, that is really pathetic!
    In decades past, 50 or 60 years ago at least, there may have been a genuine economic reason for buying a set of Collingwood, Richmond, Essendon or Melbourne guernseys for your club as they were more readily available and therefore much cheaper (no AFL logos and sponsors logos in those days). But now that every club’s guernseys are custom-made, there is no excuse for any lack of originality.
    I love the approach of the VAFA in regard to original colours and wish more leagues would adopt a similar philosophy. The old VFA was the same. What on earth are people thinking when they change their club’s traditional colours to something that looks like it’s out of a circus? Flashes, lightning strikes, emblems over the top of stripes and hoops – more colours in some jumpers than in a rainbow. They look tacky when compared with the original basic designs.
    And for those clubs that sport an original nickname – take an extra bow!
    Go (sorry grammarians, the comma can have a rest here) the Wombats!
    And as for club songs, I would love to know the percentage of clubs songs that are straight from the old VFL’s 12 clubs. I reckon it would be around the 90% mark.
    Some originality please!

  6. pauldaffey says:

    Pamela,
    The Cohuna Kangas nickname and jumper strike me as the most stupid in country footy. Why couldn’t they come up with something derived from the two merged clubs? Why choose Freo’s jumper and call yourselves the Kangas? The idea of any inland club wearing a dirty big anchor on their jumper is incongruous. Birchip-Watchem are just as culpable — 350 kilometres inland and they, too, wear the Freo jumper, replete with an anchor. The town of Birchip has a massive statue of a Mallee Bull in the main street. I see no reason they wouldn’t be the Bulls.

  7. Dave Mapo says:

    I’ve often dreamed of being the captain, coach and president in the inaugural year of the
    Mullumbimby Mudcrabs. Major Sponsors would be Earth and Sea Pizza, Byron Bay. We would play every second week against either Byron Bay, Ballina, Nimbin or Bangalo.

    Prizes for names of the other four teams.

  8. Dave, what about:
    – the Byron Bay Property Developers.
    – the Ballina Bombers (I understand there’s an airport there).
    – the Nimbin Buds.
    – the Bangalo (Bangalow? Hope Hues doesn’t see the mispelling) Fire Batons.

    Can I play?

  9. Rod Gillett says:

    Thanks Daryl for these revelations – there have been some pretty interesting nicknames for footy clubs over the years. Couldn’t agree more about the need to retain original, unique nicknames.
    However, Coolamon are not the Greens – never have been. The Coolamon Rovers Football Club’s nickname is the Grasshoppers, mostly they’re called the Hoppers.
    The Leeton rugby league team are called the Greens, better known as the Greenies. The Leeton footy club were the Reddies before the merger with neighbouring village Whitton (once were Tigers)- now the club is called the Leeton-Whitton Crows – no imagination in that nickname.

    Daff – I’m pretty sure that the Birchip-Watchem footy team are called the Mallee Bulls… what ever happened to the ‘Corack’ part of the merger between the Watchem-Corack football club & Birchip? Always a shame to see a town’s name dropped off the name of merged footy club.

    The Blighty football team wear a red jumper with a monogram featuring the cartoon character, Redeye. That’s original.

    The most intriguing nickname for a footy club that I have come accross is for Devenish in the Benalla & District league – they wore a red and white striped guernsey and were called the Barbers. Sadly they folded just last year, or the year before. Just as the league will at the end of this season.

  10. pauldaffey says:

    Rocket,

    I think you’re right. Birchip-Watchem might indeed be the Mallee Bulls. So what’s with the purple Freo jumper with the big anchor?

    Watchem-Corack went out of business in the mid-1990s. Birchip would have been fine without a merger but they took on the secondary club to help out. Corack was dropped during the process.

    Birchip used to wear white with a red V and were called the Swans (even though there’s no lake or waterway for several days’ ride). No sure about Watchem-Corack.

    Yes, Blighty are the Redeyes but no one at Blighty knows why. I think it’s just instead of being called the Reds. I actually would prefer they were called the Reds. Is any Australian football club called the Reds? There’s the Blues but not the Reds or (it seems) the Greens.

    Peter Chisnall (North Melbourne’s 1975 premiership wingman) coached the Barbers from a last-gasp fourth to the Benalla and District league grand final in 2000. Longwood gave them a haircut.

    Chisnall now runs the Tungamah Hotel, as anyone would know who read Josh Barnstable’s charming piece on achieving his footy goals in his match report on the Round-12 game between Richmond and West Coast.

  11. Thanks for the comments Rod and for the correction on Coolamon. Perhaps there should be a category for the most offensive nicknames. I think the Niggers (East Malvern and Benalla All Blacks come to mind) would just about win. I have some old newspapers dated as recently as the 1970s with “Niggers” in banner headlines describing East Malvern’s feats in the old Federal League. And I love some of the names given by supporters to their clubs. Nandaly (Tyrell FL) was often referred to as Nanny in reports from the mid 1960s. Just think of the brownie points accrued by telling the missus you were off to see Nanny!
    And I just love the Goons (at Nar Nar Goon). The Bohemians (Donald in the 1890s), Emites (Emerald c1925) and Cocks of the North (North Ballarat c1952) also grab my attention. Is it true that Lindenow South is known as the Swamp Rats (or Swamp Hawks)? And surely Cabbage Tree (Snowy River FL c1950s) had to be the Cabbages (perhaps not)!
    Stratford was known as the Avonites in the mid 1960s and whilst on a show business thread, The Coasters were strutting their stuff as Tyrendarra in the state’s west in the late 1920s. The current nickname of the Darras doesn’t quite measure up. And then there were The Jets (Leeor – Kowree Naracoorte Tatiara FL mid 1990s) and Wallacedale (now Branxholme-Wallacedale) was known as The Wanderers.
    Opens the door for some better club songs perhaps.
    Ah, those were the days!

  12. I see the misspelling of misspelling as “mispelling”, Paul. I’ll bypass on Bangalo/Bangalow.

  13. pauldaffey says:

    Hues, Whoops! Got me there.

  14. Rod Gillett says:

    Onya Daryl – keep ’em coming!

    Reckon you’re a bit harsh on the Benalla All Blacks – they were Benalla’s other club, the Benalla Demons played in the O & M – and the distinguishing difference was their black colours…

    Daff – Ballina are in fact the Bombers.
    A couple of other original nicknames from the far south coast of NSW are the Bermagui Breakers (an absolutely idyllic surfside village) and the Mallacoota Tiger Sharks, who I think now are no more.

    As for Reds, I only know of the Red Lions – the University of Queensland footy club, named after the Glencoe pub (just out of Glen Innes on the New England Highway) which they frequented before and after annual games against UNE in Armidale for the Clem Jones Shield.
    Very Qld, of course, to wear a maroon guernsey/jersey and call your team the Reds…

    A much celebrated old Red Lion is our own John Harms.

  15. Dave Nadel says:

    Fitzroy Amateurs were Fitzroy Redz and before that University Reds. I seem to remember that Greensborough were called the Greens when I used to see them in the Diamond Valley League many years ago. I don’t know whether they have a later nickname.

    The Purnim Bears, a predominately Koori team formed by Geoff Clark at Framlingham near Warrnambool in 1987, wore the Brisbane Bears colours in the first year that the Brisbane team played. Unlike their Northern counterparts, Purnim Bears won the premiership in their first year, which turned out to be their only year after the Mt Noorat League expelled them from the competition.

    I suspect that Purnim were the only club in Australia to borrow the Carrara Koalas very odd jumper.

    Speaking of South West Victorian clubs, I find it interesting that When South Warrnambool borrowed South Melbourne’s jumper they called themselves the Roosters rather than the Swans or the Bloods.

  16. pauldaffey says:

    Rocket,

    Daryl is not hard on Benalla All Blacks at all. They kept the Niggers nickname until the late 1990s, long after the gestalt switch forced by the Michael Long and Damian Monkhorst incident, and such references were really unacceptable by then. And the All Blacks gave up the nickname only grudgingly; several club stalwarts were very reluctant to let it go for reasons of “tradition”.

    I like the story of how the club came to be called the All Blacks. When they started before the Second World War, the players all pooled their jumpers but there was no one dominant theme. Neither was there the money to buy a new set of jumpers. So the easiest thing to do was chuck everyone’s jumper in a vat of dye that would leave the polyglot jumpers a uniform colour. That dye was black.

    Dave,

    Never knew South Warrnambool were the Roosters but the explanation might be linked to the fact that they only started wearing South Melbourne jumpers in the 1970s. Before then South Warrnambool wore maroon jumpers with a white SWFC monogram, so of course they were the Roosters.

  17. Dave Mapo says:

    Daff,

    You can play as long as you create a club. You can even plonk yourself at full forward and kick some snags.

    You can get carried away thinking about the possibilities here, but you have to remember that the competition doesn’t actually exist.

    It’s a pipe dream

  18. pauldaffey says:

    Dave,

    Is pipe dream a surfing reference?

  19. Arnna Pickering says:

    I googled Watchem-Corack football club and come across this post – I’d just like to clear a few things up – better late than never.

    PaulDaffey and Rod – here is some info for you:

    Birchip-Watchem are the Bulls yes. They adopted the jumper style as they amalgamated near the time that Freo came into the AFL competition and provided the club with jumpers I believe. It was also a colour scheme and jumper that the two clubs agreed upon. They have since dropped the anchor and now how a bull on a white background.

    Watchem-Corack amalgamated with Birchip start 1997 (I remember, because I went off to boarding school that year). Being a farming community, Watchem-Corack had money, but since the closure of the local school and a not so appropriate and friendly publican, W-C really had nothing to offer the players so approached Birchip for an amalgamation. W-C was a highly successful club in netball and on the social front – it also provided great opportunities for the ‘excess players’ from neighbouring towns (particularly Donald) to participate in sport.

    Watchem -Corack wore a red jumper, with a bright blue V-neck sash. Additionally there is a lake 5 minutes out of Birchip, so the Swans was appropriate.

    As you can see, I’m very passionate about W-C. Whilst I was only young during my tenure with the club – it was the best years ever.

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