Middle East Correspondent: What’s in a name for footy clubs? Plenty

By Rod Gillett

When the Ardlethan and Ariah Park-Mirrool football clubs in southern NSW agreed to amalgamate for the 2004 season they could have combined their names in the fashion of another (quite famous) Riverina club, Ganmain-Grong Grong-Matong. Instead they came up with the moniker Northern Power, as they had decided to adopt a Port Adelaide-style guernsey.

However, when it came to registering the name the club found that Northern Power was the name of an electricity distribution company in Armidale in northern NSW!

Subsequently, they became the Northern Jets. The nearest airport is the glider-dome at Temora; the Temora footy club is actually a rival in the Farrer Football League. But given that Ariah (pronounced “Area”) Park-Mirrool were known as the Brown Bombers and Ardlethan were the Stars, the choice of Jets suggests they wanted to maintain an association with the sky.

It definitely did not involve a combination of their respective team colours: Ariah Park-Mirrool wore a brown guernsey with green collar and cuffs and a yellow monogram, while Ardlethan wore red and yellow panels with a white star on the front. None of those colours is the new jumper.

Actually, the Northern Jets are not the only club in the Riverina to offer a challenge for footy punters who want to know exactly where the club is from. Other clubs with generic names based on directions are the Eastern Hawks (formerly known as East Wagga-Kooringal), the Murray Magpies (based in Albury), and the Billabong Crows (a merger of Urana and Oaklands, two towns bisected by the Billabong Creek).

East Wagga were a powerhouse in the old Central Riverina league and were immediately successful on their entry into the stronger Farrer league and then the restructured Riverina Football League. But in recent years they’ve fallen on hard times, hence the “make-over” and new moniker. It hasn’t necessarily changed their fortunes. And it’s at the expense of their fine tradition.

The Murray Magpies footy club was formed in 1999 to play in the then Coreen and District league; they now play in the Hume league. Of course, the Murray River is more than 2500 kilometres long, and so this club could be located anywhere along its path.

There is a club further along the river that provides a better understanding of geography and the associated element of social identity. When fierce cross-border rivals Barham and Koondrook agreed to merge in 1996 they put the names of the towns together and adopted the nickname the River Raiders.

The Billabong Creek is the longest creek in NSW – it flows from the foothills of the Great Dividing Range west across the flat Riverina plain into the Edwards River at Moulamein. That’s a long way! The Billabong Creek flows roughly half-way between the villages of Urana and Oaklands (the nearest major town is Jerilderie, which is also on the creek, as are Holbrook, Culcairn, Walbundrie and Rand; all those towns are footy rivals of Urana and Oaklands.). So when the respective footy clubs merged in 2005 they chose to be the Billabong Crows.

Not many footy fans know where the Billabong Creek is. I suppose not many know where the towns of Urana or Oaklands are either, but at least you can find them on a map. And if the team was called the Urana-Oaklands Billabong Crows you’d know that those towns have a team with a home base that’s not somewhere up a creek.

I reckon this trend toward generic geographic names, rather than the name of the locality, was started by the TAC Cup under-18 competition in the early 1990s. Several regionally based teams were created for the TAC Cup, such as Calder Cannons, Eastern Ranges (shouldn’t it be Rangers? It’s a bit confusing when the team is named not after park rangers but the Dandenong Ranges), the Bendigo Pioneers and the Murray Bushrangers (at least pioneers and bushrangers were living entities rather than geological features).

None of the aforementioned clubs in the Riverina, like the Northern Jets and the Eastern Hawks, can claim to be regional clubs.

I went looking for other clubs that have engaged in this practice. I sought assistance from Paul Daffey who just about knows all there is to know about country, suburban and amateur football. “The Southern Dragons (I have no idea where they’re based) have just started in Melbourne’s Southern league”, Daff told me. “In the country, I know of the Western Eagles (Pirron Yallock and someone else — Purrumbeet, I think — outside Colac),” he added.

Despite my apportioning of the blame on the Victorian-based TAC Cup competition,  the practice seems to be much more prevalent in NSW. In addition to the clubs in the southern part of the state there are two clubs in the Sydney AFL competition with geographic names, namely the Southern Power and the East Coast Eagles.

The Southern Power, which used to be known as the Sutherland Sharks, play in the second division. This is a bit surprising considering the parochial pride of the Shire’s residents. (The locals in the Shire of Sutherland proudly refer to their region as “the Shire”). A major feature of the sporting landscape in Sydney is that the various sporting clubs in a district nearly all wear the same colours and usually have the same nickname—for example, St George Dragons. All sporting teams in the St George of south Sydney wear red and white.

Probably the most misnamed football club in Australia is the East Coast Eagles, a leading club in the Sydney AFL premier league, which is based at Rouse Hill, on Sydney’s far western fringe. Originally formed as the Baulkham Hills footy club in 1976 and known as the Falcons (maroon and yellow stripes), the club changed its name in 1999 after affiliating with the West Coast Eagles. Baulkham Hills is nowhere near the coast. It’s all wrong!

I reckon it’s no good using a generic geographic name; footy clubs are much better off using the name of the town or district where they are located. Even if it’s a mouthful, as is the case with another famous Riverina club, Mangoplah-Cookardinia-Eastlakes United!

WHAT’S IN A NAME? CLUB IDENTITY THAT’S WHAT!

When the Ardlelthan and Ariah Park-Mirrool football clubs in southern NSW agreed to amalgamate for the 2004 season they chose not to put their names together a la’ Ganmain-Grong Grong-Matong but to come up with moniker the “Northern Power” as they had decided to adopt the Port Adelaide style guernsey.

However, when it came to registering the name the club’s new officials found that was the name of an electricity distribution company in Armidale in northern NSW!

Subsequently, they became known as the “Northern Jets”. The nearest airport is the glider drome at Temora, a nearby rival in the Farrer League. But given that Ariah (pronounced [Area])Park-Mirrool were the “Brown Bombers” and Ardlelthan were the “Stars” suggests they wanted to maintain an association with the sky…

It definitely did not involve a combination of their respective team colours: Ariah Park Mirrool wore a brown guernsey with green collar and cuffs and a yellow monogram while Ardelthan wore red and yellow panels with a white star on the front. There is none of those colours in the new jumper.

Actually the Northern Jets are not the only club in the Riverina to adopt a generic geographic name that makes it a challenge for the footy punter to know exactly who are they are and where they are from. The Eastern Hawks (formerly known as East Wagga-Kooringal), the Murray Magpies (based in Albury), and the Billabong Crows (a merger of Urana and Oaklands in 2005) are all in that category.

East Wagga were a powerhouse in the old Central Riverina League and were immediately successful upon their entry into the stronger Farrer League and then the restructured Riverina Football League, but have fallen on hard times in recent years and so they decided to do a “make-over” and adopt a new moniker. It hasn’t necessarily changed their fortunes. And it’s at the expense of their fine tradition.

The Murray Magpies were formed as a new club in 1999 to play in the then Coreen League; they now play in the Hume League. Of course, the Murray River is over 2,500 km long, and so this club could be located anywhere along this trajectory.

There is a club further along the river that provides a better understanding of geography and the associated element of social identity. When fierce cross border rivals Barham and Koondrook  agreed to merge in 1996 they put the names of the towns together for the name of the club and adopted the nickname, the” River Raiders”.

The Billabong Creek is the longest creek in NSW – it flows from the foothills of the Great Dividing Range west across the flat Riverina plain into the Edwards River at Moulamein. That’s a long way! The Billabong Creek flows roughly half-way between the villages of Urana and Oaklands ( nearest major town is Jerilderie  which is also on the creek as are Holbrook, Culcairn, Walbundrie and Rand – all footy rivals) so when the respective footy clubs merged in 2005 they chose to be the Billabong Crows…

Not many footy fans know where the Billabong Creek is but then again I suppose not many know where Urana or Oaklands  is either, but at least you can find them on a map. And if the team was called the Urana-Oaklands “Billabong Crows” you’d know they have a team that has a home instead of a base somewhere up the creek.

I reckon this trend toward generic geographic names rather than the name of the locality was started by the innocuous TAC Cup Under 18 competition. It created many new regional based teams for the competition such as the Calder Cannons, Eastern Ranges (shouldn’t it be Rangers?), the Bendigo Pioneers and the Murray Bushrangers (at least that’s the name of a living thing rather than a geological feature).

None of the aforementioned clubs in the Riverina can claim to be regional clubs.

I went looking for other clubs that have engaged in this practice. I sought assistance from Paul Daffey who just about knows all there is to know about country, suburban and amateur football. “The Southern Dragons (I have no idea where they’re based) have just started in the Southern League”, Daff told me. “In the country, I know of the Western Eagles (Pirron Yallock and someone else outside Colac)”, he added.

That just goes to prove my point, I reckon.

Despite my apportioning the blame of poor club names on the Victorian-based TAC Cup competition the practice seems to be much more prevalent in NSW. In addition to the clubs in the southern part of the state there are two clubs in the Sydney AFL competition with geographic names, namely, the Southern Power and the East Coast Eagles.

The Southern Power, which used to be known as the Sutherland Sharks, play in the second division. This is a bit surprising considering the parochial pride of the Shire’s residents. (The locals in the Shire of Sutherland refer to their local entity as “the Shire” as a means of asserting identity). A major feature of the sporting landscape in Sydney is that the various sporting clubs in a district nearly all wear the same colours and usually have the same nickname, e.g., St George Dragons.

Probably the most mis-directed name of a football club in Australia is the East Coast Eagles, a leading club in the Sydney AFL premier league that are based at Rouse Hill, on the far western fringe of Sydney. Originally formed as the Baulkham Hills club in 1976 and known as the “Falcons” (maroon and yellow stripes), as a result of an affiliation with the West Coast Eagles, the club changed its name in 1999.

If you didn’t know this you really would wonder who they are and where they are from. Ditto the rest that use a generic geographic name rather than the name of the town or district where they are located. Even if it’s a mouthful like Mangoplah-Cookardinia-Eastlakes United!

Comments

  1. jezzaOWNZ says:

    I reckon this malpractice started with the Western Bulldogs circa 1997

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