Almanac Sport: Coodabeen Champions, eh? The irony is, they are.




The news became public on Saturday, but I’ve known for a fortnight. A group of us received a message from Champs telling us the end was nigh. And so I’ve had a couple of weeks to gather some thoughts before pulling my reflections together into a few (hopefully) coherent paragraphs.


Champs is, of course, Greg Champion; and the news is that after 43 magnificent seasons, the final siren has sounded for the Coodabeen Champions, a bunch of blokes whose musings and banter have been a weekend staple for footy fans in Melbourne and around the country for four decades.


The Coodabeens will be eulogised heavily in the coming days, and rightly so. Without wanting to simply echo the well-deserved accolades that have already begun to flow for them, I’d like to a share a few thoughts on what the Coodabeen Champions have meant – and given – to me over those past 43 years.


I can’t recall the exact moment I became aware of these boys who added a new dimension to the great game of footy, but I know it came in their very early days. I became an avid RRR fan in 1981, a year in which I was awakened to music that would not necessarily get airplay on 3XY or even on the ‘new kid on the block’, EON FM (later to become Triple M).


Just as 3RRR’s music shows taught me that there was more than one approach to appreciating music, the same was true of sport.


In 1981 I was in Form 5, or Year 11, depending on your age. My own age at the time was 16. Music was making a big impression on me, as were my high school peers. I was a footy nerd. I devoured stats and I took wins and losses to heart. Footy was a serious business.


But sometimes I would go to games where ‘wags’ in the crowd would engage in a bit of banter or yell out a funny comment. I began to appreciate that humour could play an important part in footy culture, no matter how passionate you were about your team.


In fact I began to learn that humour helped to deal with not just sporting heartbreaks, but those in life overall as well.


My witty mates at the footy, along with the Coodabeen Champions on the radio each weekend, played a big part in my developing understanding of this.


As the Coodabeen Champions settled in to radio life, their repertoire expanded. While Greg Champion used songs to express his thoughts on the game, the other panel members provided commentary on footy by bouncing witty observations off each other.


The ability to broaden the scope of these thoughts came with the introduction of footy talk-back, and the characters which were developed as callers to Tony Leonard first, and in later years ‘Torch’ McGee.


Many of these characters – Digger, Peter from Peterborough, Danny from Droop Street and the like – were grounded in stereotypes, but as we know, stereotypes are born of truth. Between them, the Coodabeens developed these characters ingeniously and many of them came to represent us, the footy fans, their calls summing up our own thoughts on our teams’ performances with poignancy and hilariously.


Greg Champion did the same via ‘Guru Bob’ and through his thousands of songs. Many of these were parodies, of course, brilliantly rendered by Champs with the help of listener ideas and contributions.


But to know Champs only by those parodies is to do him a great injustice. Let’s not forget his own many fine compositions, and not just the best-known ones such as ‘That’s The Thing About Football’.


The one that sticks out for me is ‘The Day the Goal Ump Went the Screamer’ from the brilliantly named Double White Album. ‘This is a song that takes a bizarre occurrence in a match – a goal umpire who spontaneously abandons his duties as the ball sails towards him and rises above the pack of players in the goal square to take a speccy.



Double White Coodas



It’s a ludicrous storyline, which fits the Coodabeens narrative well. But it’s also the story of all of us on the other side of the footy oval fence – occasionally fantasising about what might be – “Imagine if that was me out there, starring!”


We’ve all had that dream, and that dream is also at the heart of who the Coodabeen Champions are. Indeed, their very name derives from that unfulfilled dream.


How were the Coodabeens able to so brilliantly fuse footy tragedy and comedy? Perhaps its no coincidence that core of the original team was made up of supporters of clubs long starved of success. Simon Whelan a Saints fan, Ian Cover a Cats diehard, Tony Leonard a Footscray tragic. Later Billy Baxter (another long-suffering Cat), Torch McGee (a Swans disciple and former player himself) and Demons’ fan Andy Bellairs were able to draw on their own footy suffering to create more brilliantly-crafted tragicomedy for the show. (Like all the great acts, the Coodabeens lineup changed several times over the years.)


‘Richo’ (Jeff Richardson) was an exception. When the show began his beloved Tigers were reigning premiers. But, for better or worse, he came to know what his Coodabeens teammates were being subjected to over the next 37 years.


Over those decades I’ve been an avid Coodabeens’ fan. And in recent years I’ve had the privilege to appear as the guest on the show (discussing The Footy Jumper Book, co-written by Tim Rath and me), and become a very small part of Champs’s parody songwriting team. Both of these were dreams come true.


Now the Coodas have taken their last talk-back call – at least on the radio. The good news is that they plan to continue doing the odd live show. I eagerly await those


Coodabeen Champions? They have been all along. Thanks to each every one of them for helping me understand that footy can be funny and poignant at once. Footy season weekends will never quite be the same.




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About Andrew Gigacz

Well, here we are. The Bulldogs have won a flag. What do I do now?


  1. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Well played Gigs.

    It was fun while it lasted.

  2. Malcolm Rulebook Ashwood says

    Excellent Gigs and yes a huge footy institution- loved the talk back the most from the regular callers – superb and v v clever

  3. The Coodabeens and the Almanac bunch have always felt like peas in a footy-shaped pod to me. Good stuff Gigs, hope we still hear from the gang from time to time.

  4. Great tribute Gigs.
    An institution they were, personally I first found late 1980s at high school age. We would listen to them on our 2 hour trip to the footy on the ABC (I think they were on after Dr Hugh Wirth).
    Always loved the team of the week (which you had to send by mail) and Tony’s talk back. I think this was when they were at their peak as Tony and Simon were very funny especially as Digger, Timmy and Ivan along with Peter, Massive and Helen.

    I have a few of their cassettes so will have to give them a rerun

  5. Nice work Gigs.
    The Coodabeens worked on radio for me as they were authentic and sharp ( KG in SA was/is similar I think).
    Qualities like these are scarcer now.

  6. Yes, unfortunately all good things must come to an end.

    My favourite part of the Coodabeens were the song parodies and my favourite song from Greg Champion was “I Made a Hundred in the Backyard at Mum’s!”

  7. Mark O’Conor says

    So much enjoyment from them, but don’t forget the Sunday nights too. Magic moments.

  8. Excellent summary of the Coodabeens, Gigs.
    I had a feeling that the writing was on the wall once they went to Friday arvo. That, and the fact that they are not getting any younger (like all of us!). It is probably for the best.
    I have a number of their cassette tapes stashed away somewhere.

  9. Mickey Randall says

    Like many, I’ve some of their tapes and a few CDs too (Champs posted these to me when I was in Singapore- most kind). Their White Album remains a firm favourite. My introduction to the Coodabeens was on long Sunday nights drives back to the West Coast and their great magazine-style programme. They were excellent company.

    I also recall trudging up from Adelaide Oval one lunchtime during the Test to meet Ian Cover and Champs at a book signing at the ABC Shop. That was a funny interlude.

    Someone like Swish might know but I reckon Champs might’ve had a brother (oddly enough a Mr Champion) who taught me in about Year 5 at Kapunda Primary. He was tall and skinny with curly black hair and fancied himself as a sportsman!

    Thanks for this fine tribute, Gigs.

  10. How good was that mid-80’s Saturday morning line-up on 3RRR?
    Punter to Punter, the Coodabeens, Lawyers Guns & Money, Film Buffs’ Forecast.
    Just superb.

  11. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    I can confirm the Kapunda connection Mickey.

  12. Keiran Croker says

    Thanks Gigs,
    A great institution. I remember mailing in entries to their comps in the early 80s. Great fun! I was also an avid listener to their Sunday night shows in ABC. Brilliant and funny!
    I was living in the UK in 1991. My brother sent over some cassette tapes of shows he had recorded off the radio. It was terrific to hear those familiar voices from home. I can still recall some of the talk back calls off those tapes.
    Vale the Coodas. Well played.

  13. Thanks Gigs for your classic article.
    The Coodabeen Champions natural home was the ABC.
    Such a dumb move by ABC Management not to renew their contracts.
    Will forever miss Peter from Peterborough, Timmy and Digger.
    Greg Champion is an Institution in his own right.
    He wrote so many classics but his and Richard Evans ‘The Day Mick Malthouse Smiled’
    to the tune of American Pie’ is an epic and simply the best.

  14. Daryl Schramm says

    Thanks for this tribute. I have so many memories of the Coodabeens after stumbling across them on ABC radio one Sunday night back in the eighties. Being from Adelaide, the footy show hadn’t got an airing until later. The Sunday night became must listening for me with their musings on life in Australia in general. So many interreactions since, mainly with Champs. I have enjoyed listening to all of his country albums over the years and seen him many time live. So many memories. A bit like this website. I just absolutely love “clever”.

  15. Peter Fuller says

    I was an avid fan of the Coodabeens through the eighties and early nineties and enjoyed many of their public events/performances whether lie broadcasts of their radio program or Brownlow Nights and other specals. My umpriring schedule in the 1990s caused me to drift away from my committed Saturday morning routine with the program.
    I was also a regular competition entrant, and I still have some of my submissions filed away.
    I’ve loved Champ’s songs, although I hesitate to confess in my musical ignorance that I was more familiar with “My Home Ground” than the Boss’ “My Home Town”.
    Other favourites include “Killing Us Softly with Handball”, “Filthiest Player in the Whole VFA”, “The Under 19s” and a couple of Imre Saluszinsky’s, “The Greatest Game” and “On His Own again Lethal Leigh”.
    Disappointed that this is the end, but that’s life. Don’t be sad it’s over, just think how lucky we were to experience them.

  16. Damien Morgan says

    I remember the excitement, and the phone calls back and forward with mates, after a submission I sent in was read out by Simon, around 1996! Probably the highlight of my footy career!

  17. Probably the highlight of my football career was getting some of my emailed song ideas played by Greg Champion on the radio and my real name read out before he played that song. Of course, Champs uses his own lyrics in his football or cricket song parodies to make it sound funny.

  18. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Peter Fuller, I have checked your bona fides and your name appears in the credits of the book shown at the beginning of this article, just before Bring Back the Dozen Bottles Faction.

  19. Luke Reynolds says

    Lovely tribute Gigs. I’ve been a Coodabeens listener since the late 1980’s, they will be very much missed.

  20. I think I know, now, what it must be like when your children die before you do. I always thought of myself fading away while Greg sang his most-recent witty ditty. What now? It’s said that the only certainties are death and taxes. I’ve paid my taxes….. I think that now I’ll have to go quietly into the night. Damned shame.

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