AFL Grand Final Day: Chook or Chop?


9.18am SGT – River Valley, Singapore

Is there a more cherished Australian word than chook? It speaks profoundly of our affection for larrikin idiom, contraction and, of course, poultry. Given the pit of existential terror that is our condominium’s BBQ, we’re having chicken (chook) and salads at our AFL grand final lunch.

Our exclusive ownership of chook was illustrated to me years ago in a Hertfordshire school staff room when I told a joke that ended with a punch line something like, “And mum said, ‘Trevor! Stop doing that to the chook.’” I expected belly laughs and streaming eyes, but the audience response was Easter Island. Beyond our shores, chook does not exist.

11.55am-Tiong Bahru Park, Singapore

As the boys rush about in the playground and zip up and back on the flying fox, I get the ABC on my phone, and from his temple The Coodabeen Champions’ mystical mentor muses.

Guru Bob: Chess is the superior game.

Torch McGee: Greater than Australian Rules football?

Guru Bob: No rule changes for 500 years.

In the late 1980’s on Sunday night drives back to SA’s West Coast, The Coodabeens would accompany me as I hurtled past wheat fields along Highway 1. With the cover featuring two goal umpires in traditional coats, their Double White Album is the best cassette I ever bought. Even better than Ripper ’76. Using a funked up melody from Cat Stevens’ Peace Train, Champs’ Rhys-Jones (Goes A Bit Mental) remains among my favourite Australian songs.

Rhys-Jones is in there swinging,

Uppercut from Rhys-Jones!

12.05pm- Gawler East, South Australia

It is a sweltering, breathless afternoon here on the equator. Air-conditioning blasting, good folk from Hobart, Vancouver, Kentucky, Brisbane, Henley Beach, and Kapunda are bunched on our lounge. 54 hundred kilometres south it’s a nippy day, and my parents-in-law have lit their fire. Pop! They open a bottle of Bird in Hand Sparkling Pinot Noir, from the Adelaide Hills, to complement their footy viewing.

12.10pm- MCG, Melbourne, Australia

Birds from Tokyo play a couple of songs to an uninterested crowd. It strikes me as forgettable music. Like Brian Taylor’s commentary, it’s affected, cliché, a grating imitation of something much more engaging. “Pre-game entertainment” has always been an oxymoron, but it must be tough when you’re the curtain raiser to the curtain raiser.

12.25pm- Barossa Valley, South Australia

Mum likes the Crows, and does not care much for the rest, so, invited to lunch with some girlfriends, she takes the opportunity. Now home alone, Dad relaxes into his recliner, and a glass of shiraz. He enjoys the match. He’s like me, there are no bad games of football, only ones you don’t watch.

1pm- River Valley, Singapore

Friends from near Louisville are with us, and Mark comments, “Fremantle’s poor kicking might cost them.” I love sharing our game with others. We discuss their visit to the MCG, years ago, when they saw Richmond play.

We also talk about the Kentucky Derby. Mark says, “There’s two ways to experience the Derby. The corporate experience for the rich, and a real experience for the rest of us.” It’s a telling observation on AFL grand final day, in the Fonzie Demetriou epoch.

2pm- Victor Harbor, South Australia

Bob and Trish and their toddler, Jack are on a Fleurieu Peninsula farm stay for the weekend. As the Dockers thrillingly surge in the third quarter, and Bruce brings out his growl, a text appears from Bob

 the purple haze descends

The haze comes, but the brown and gold ultimately disperses the purple smog. Disappointingly, for the specialised subset of Dockers and Prince fans, there is no Purple Reign.

3.10pm- River Valley, Singapore

In our living room, to selected bemusement, the siren sounds. It’s another unique feature to be prized. I always liked the siren at Nuriootpa’s ground, despite it being enemy territory, as its shrill urgency was pure 1939 London air raid. It’s still strangely appropriate in the heart of the German-settled Barossa.

Nathan is a proud Tasmanian, and a happy Hawks fan. I’m pleased for him. In anticipation, he’s picked up some James Boags. We open them enthusiastically. The fruity softness of these Australian beers, contrasts with the metallic sharpness of Asian lagers. They’re a treat.

3.20pm- River Valley, Singapore

“It seems kinda cruel to keep the losing team out on the field,” suggests Mark as Hawthorn is presented to the MCG in a stentorian baritone by AFL announcer Craig Willis, while Fremantle sit there, heads in hands. “In America, the losers would be allowed to go straight down to the change rooms and lick their wounds in private.” I think this tradition means we applaud the runners-up too, conscious that without them there can be no contest. This should continue.

We agree that it is a chief difference. This day is about parallels and diversity, closeness and distance. Football connects. And as generations of ordinary Australians have known, in the dreadful absence of barbequed meat, on this most sanctified day, these simple celebrations are best enjoyed with chook.


About Mickey Randall

Favourite film: The Shawshank Redemption Favourite song: Khe Sahn Favourite holiday destination: Gold Coast Favourite food: steak Favourite beer: VB Best player seen: Dogga Worst player seen: Frogga Last score on beep test: 3.14159 Favourite minor character in Joyce’s Ulysses: Punch Costello


  1. Hi Mickey – looks like you had a great day – loved how you tied in all the different places you were in touch with on the day. I went out to an Aussie restaurant/bar with friends. Might have to consider a house party next year.

  2. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Enjoyable read Mickey I too like the snippets from the different places
    Totally agree re Birds of Tokyo and Brian Taylor both lack substance
    I am glad we acknowledge the Runnets up there should be medallions given also I no
    Peter Moore stuffed that up by throwing it in to the crowd buy making the GF is a huge achievement just like Tje whole sqad should receive Premietship Medallions overall we act like losing the GF is like committing murder it is wrong !
    Thanks Mickey

  3. I don’t believe in the idea of runners up medallions. I concur with Mr J Barnes…”there ain’t no second prize”. I do believe that every player at the club who pulled on the boots for the team in a premiership year should receive a premiership medallion. They have all contributed to the team’s success. You might put it in the bottom of your sock drawer but you’d never throw it away.

  4. mickey randall says

    Thanks chaps for your comments.

    djlitsa- Given that I’d spent sufficient time (and money) at Boomarang during the season we thought a more relaxed day at home might be in order. Might do a bar next year as it’s always good to mix it up!

    Malcolm- I’m proud that we acknowledge runners-up, and hope it reflects well upon our collective good-nature, but don’t think medallions are required. If the Olympic model is used the third placed team would need one too!

    kevmak- Agree with you, and, as always, Mr J Barnes. It does seem a shame that someone like T. Modra in 1997 can have made such a significant contribution, but not be officially recognised. Especially when Mr A Keating was a medallion recipient in only his third game. Yes, technically sound but not cosmically or morally so!

  5. Loved your piece Mickey. The game was not much chop, but no point in carrying on like a headless chook about it. Just enjoy the food, grog, company and banter. That is what the GF is about for the fans of 16 teams.
    That Bird in the Hand Sparkling Pinot Noir is a bit dodgy thought from memory. A bit thin. One of those ‘blush’ wines.
    As suggested elsewhere, go the jammy Bleasedale Sparkling Shiraz from Langhorne Creek.
    Or as a fallback there’s always the Black Chook.

  6. mickey randall says

    Thanks Peter. Agree with your philosophy about the footy, which of course is also best applied to life. I’m not personally a Bird in Hand fan- don’t do sparkling whites- but it is exceedingly popular among the woman folk in my family and beyond.
    Despite being South Australian I’m a late-comer to Langhorne Creek. It does have some wonderful drops on offer, and as a region is still quite small scale with a hand-crafted atmosphere prevailing. Worth a visit!
    Black Chook is what was formerly known in football as a “utility”! As coach, I’ve asked Black Chook to do a range of jobs! He’s always got us across the line.

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