AFL Grand Final: Barracking for football in general, and banjos in particular

My mate Biddsy bought a banjo, and a banjo manual, so he could learn that brilliant solo from the Swans theme song, from first principles. He barracks for Richmond.

I am thinking of Biddsy and banjos because we have heard a lot of the Swans theme song  in our house over the past few days. The kids, without any prompting, have decided they will barrack for Sydney in the Grand Final, and they have been finding the Swans song on Youtube.

Anna, just turned 3, sings her own version of it:

Cheer! Cheer! The red and the white

Honour the name by day and by night

Lift that snowball banner high

Shake down the thunder from the sky.

What though the odds be great or small

Swans will come in and win overall

While her loyal sons are marching

Onward to victory!


She listens to the trumpet solo, and waits. Then she says, “Pass me my banjo LRT!” Or sometimes, “Pass me my banjo, Goodesy!”


They are in danger of becoming fair dinkum Swans fans. That’s the sort of team the Swans are. You feel like you want them to do well. In the pantomime they are the good guys and they are playing the bad guys.


But I think they also sense something about this September, and the absence of their beloved Geelong. I think they know that the finals without Geelong are like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest with Randall P. McMurphy. It’s natural to think that.


Last Friday night they went to bed while I helped get the Swans home. The Swans were too good; they were too bright in the eyes.


On Saturday we gardened and as Bunnings (“It’s not Bunnings Dad, it’s Bunnings Warehouse”) didn’t have mustard or brown flowers we bought Livingstone Daisies, multi-colooured. We have become ecumenical for the Spring.


Not that I had fallen into the orthodoxy of Hawks as auto-premiers. Footy, like cricket, has been known to be a funny game, and so it was again.


What a match that was as the sun got lower over Melbourne. Fresh, young Adelaide with its new coach, underdog in the extreme against the might of the Hawthorn forward line. Young Talia out and a file of no-names trying to stop the big Hawthorn forwards.


As there is a sense of right and wrong in this nation, much of Australia was with the Crows and their start was encouraging; a whole stack of Crows players clearly didn’t believe in orthodoxy, or being second to the football. They did believe in their coach and so they attacked from half-back, through the corridor, and when they had loose men everywhere they found the leading target; and when the options were covered they kicked high to the big fellas, especially Tippett, a man who looked like he was in the middle of contract negotiations. Tippett was dangerous.


The Hawks had their moments of wobble, but you wondered how long the Crows would maintain the belief. Longer than most. Hawthorn missed opportunities, an obvious element noted by analysts, but so did Adelaide. A number of times they butchered fast breaks with poor decision-making, and poor disposal. They put it together late in the second half, and for the second week in a row Tex Walker put his side in front right on half-time.


Well, the capsicum dip was tasting alright.


The Hawks edged away again but you could feel the nation offering Robbie Flower applause as Crows defenders resisted, backing their own judgment and taking the game on. Just hang in there, we said from Burrumbuttock to Beagle Bay and especially in the shire of Corio and in the city of Norwood.


Some footballers, and some cricketers, play to win games. Nothing else is in their mind. Ian Chappell springs to mind. And Warnie. Their performance is no less powerful or beautiful or skilful, but it all has context. Patrick Dangerfield is just like them, and he was not letting this game go. If ever a young man believed last Saturday afternoon, it was the kid from Moggs Creek. He had a remarkable final quarter.


It became a desperate contest and the Crows just kept coming. When Graeme Johncock put the Crows in front, no-one was paying attention to the veges on the stove. As the Crows celebrated, the heads of a number of Hawthorn players dropped. I suspect that was noted.


They would have dropped further had Patty Dangerfield’s foot not slipped that slightest little bit, shifting oh-so-slightly in the MCG turf, just enough to prevent him turning his opponent and running into an open goal. That would have made it interesting.


As it was took their stars to get them out of strife: Burgoyne, Rioli, Franklin. And they snuck home.


I was disappointed. Imagine how the Adelaide blokes felt.


It was a superb game.


I was barracking for Adelaide but, like so many fans during the finals, I was also barracking for football. Indeed, I was mainly barracking for football, and football won.


And so I’ll be barracking for football on Saturday again, and there is a very good chance it will be another cracking game. The two teams are very closely matched, and if anything Adelaide’s tactics showed that the Hawks’ deficiencies can be exploited. The Hawks lack height in the backline and Reid, LRT, Mumford, Pyke, Goodes and even Kennedy may be one or two too many to contain, if the footy gets down there often enough. Hawthorn are also  a little shy in the ruck department. Their on-ballers rove to the opponent’s ruckman, and are good at it. Adelaide’s Jacobs was again outstanding; the Swans have the boy from Bunyip, and the Canadian Mike Pyke.


At the other end, Hawthorn have a brilliant forward line, which will test Ted Richards and his crew. They also have a fleet of runners who can break the game open, and a couple of the best distributors going around in Mitchell, with his bullet-passes, and Sewell. The Hawks can kick a winning score very easily – on their day.


In the story of the season, though, the Hawks really are under pressure. Indeed, in the story of the recent era, they are under pressure. Sydney will rally to the cause to make this Hawthorn outfit a ‘shoulda’ side. How the Hawks respond to this burden will be one of the elements of the afternoon.


As I tap this out, the betting does not reflect how evenly matched the two sides are. Sydney are still $2.70 to win at TattsBet. I reckon they will continue to shorten until there is a late rally for Hawthorn at the right price. This generous Swans price has a lot more to do with the situation bookies find themselves in. They are trying to balance their books as they hold big money on Hawthorn to win the flag, and big money on the Hawks-Storm double. That’s good for those who are keen on Sydney.


I will be watching at home with the family, possibly with a fire going. We will wait as the Swans run through their snowball banner. Anna maybe ahead of her time.


The kids will be red and white for the day, cheering every goal (in the first 12 minutes), wishing against the infidel Hawthorn. I’ll have Biddsy’s phone number handy, just in case the score falls the right way.


It’s set up to be a wonderful Grand Final, despite the weather. And, as the late Bobby Davis used to say, “I hope both teams play to their ability, I hope there are no injuries, and I hope the better side wins.”


I love football, and on Saturday I’ll be barracking for it.


Enjoy your day.

About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and He has written columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted [email protected] He is married to The Handicapper and has three kids - Theo13, Anna11, Evie10. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst three. His ambition is to lunch for Australia.


  1. Stephanie Holt says

    Aah Bobby Davis. Words of wisdom. And blow me down, correct use of the much-abused comparative adjective. Indeed, may the better team win.

  2. Lovely article, John. And Bobby barracked for the Bloods when he was a kid.

  3. Shane Kennedy says

    Spot on Harmsy. I can’t really decide who to get behind for this one.

    In past years it has been too easy, anyone but Collingwood, the Cats (for the locals), my Eagles. But for this one I am still torn between the two.

    Perhaps I may just have to concede defeat and like your good self, sit back and enjoy football.

  4. Why are the Hawks disliked so much? I can understand the sympathy for the Bloods with the South connection, but Hawthorn seems to grate on many fans. Is it Clarko, their nouveau success, class, excremental colours? Most people love Buddy, Cyril, Hodgy and Mitchell. The Hawks play an attractive brand of footy. Kennedy and Jeans are respected figures in footy history. Kennett maybe?

  5. If a new team got invented and had a banjo on their jumper I’d barrack for them.

  6. Neil Belford says

    Sydney I think. By 27 points I think.

    Shake down the Thunder from the Sky.

    Easily the best song too, Brisbane 2nd, Crows 3rd – can I be the first to say that Tigerland is tedious and banal.

  7. Neil Belford says

    How about the new boom expansion club – ‘Bellerive Banjoes’ Les. Are you in (Blue and White vertical stripes).

  8. The ‘Taswegian Banjos’. It has a certain twang to it. The inbreeding, folk music, alcoholic cider and the rocking chair on the front verandah. It all works.

  9. Lord Bogan answered his own question with his last two words Kennett maybe?

  10. I will be keeping my recording of last Saturday’s game despite the loss. Adelaide will be a formidable side over the next few years.

    As for this week, alas I have found it very difficult to maintain an interest. It will be tough to watch a game that my side was less than a kick away from being in.

  11. bout time the hawks lost one.
    i think they’re 10 from 15.
    10 from 15.
    that’s an amazing strike rate.
    collingwood has a similar strike rate.
    but in a different way.

  12. Skip of Skipton says

    Malceski and R.Shaw look very ‘banjo’. LRT more Fender with lots of distortion.

    Lord Bogan, ask my 87 year old mother and she will tell you they are an awful bunch of wowsers from the wrong side of the Yarra, and should never have been admitted into the league to begin with.

  13. At this point, I’d just like to remind everyone that JOBE WATSON is an anagram of TWO BANJOES.

  14. Pamela Sherpa says

    Likewise JTH – barracking for football. It’s sure to be a good tough contest. I will be fireside as well. Snow and wild weather predicted here. Yesterday, on the way home a small country pub had half it’s roof blown off.
    GIGS – what a beauty .Yay Jobe

  15. Mathilde de Hauteclocque says

    It’s/we’re trying to be sunny up here in Sydney. Off down the park for a GF brekky. Waiting for banjo …

  16. Pamela Sherpa says

    What a sensational GF. Football certainly is the big winner. I’m still buzzing from it. Watched the replay . Thanks Ch 7 . Well done to both teams for a fantastic nail biting game of footy .Enjoy the aftermath Swannies. There were so many great moments and great stories to come out of this game .

  17. Is that the late great Smacka Fitzgibbon playing the banjo on the Swans recording? Also is it the Fable Singers who sing all those terrific team songs? I wonder where they are now. It must be 40 years since the recordings were made. They’ve certainly stood the test of time.

    We had an enjoyable breakfast with contented Swans supporters (one of whom has just turned 1) on a sunny but cool Sunday morning down St Kilda way. Saw the odd red and white snowball banner flying too. Later went home and watched the Storm salute in Sydney. Two excellent Grand Final contests. A wonderful weekend for football.

  18. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Enjoyable read JTH and apart from a bit of luck and surprise surprise a interstate team crucified by the umpiring eg Port against Geelong, to a lesser extent Freo against Hawthorn In the GF
    Dangerfield is a amazing player his ability to lift and inspire others to jump on board is extraordinary he should be Crows Captain now!
    The 2012 GF was a brilliant game and full credit to Sydney but like Ben , bitterly disappointed that Adelaide , weren’t there

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