ANZAC Day: Game or Meatloaf?

As a teenager in 1973 I sat with 49,000 people at the MCG on Anzac Day to watch a game of footy.


It was special for a young lad as we firstly had the day off school and secondly had the chance to go to the G to watch two of the top teams that season. Anzac Day was important as there were dawn services for the dedicated and of course the march down Swanston St. Stay at home and watch it on TV if couldn’t get there. Somewhat fittingly then was at one end of the Swanston St view was the Shrine where the march ended while at the other end the huge blue and white Carlton and United Brewery sign. Anzac Day was a time to remember but for me, the media gave the impression that it was a lot about the digger mates getting back together for a beer.


Now switch to the MCG at 2.10pm and the two teams are on the ground facing each other for the playing of the last post. Tigers v Roos. The national anthem was played and it was God Save the Queen. As was the tradition, it was drowned out before the last two verses could be sung by the raucous crowd just wanting to ‘get on with it.’ And they did after this six-minute interim.


And here lies my dilemma and question about what has seemingly become a production on Anzac Day. Are we going to the G to watch the footy or are we being stage managed by clever TV production teams?


It certainly was a spectacle to see the crowd lights at the MCG before the Richmond – Melbourne game – in what will now obviously be a traditional ‘Anzac Eve’ match. I began to wonder when this stage managed show would end when the horses, Olympic style torches and cauldron appeared on the screen. Obligatory was the Last Post, silence and national anthem. All through this show were the two teams respectfully lining up. I’m not sure if the coaches and medical staff would be that thrilled with $20m plus of football flesh slowly starting to tighten up under a gloomy Melbourne night. Quite rightly they took another 10mins again to warm up and thankfully no major soft tissue injuries resulted by night’s end.


The big one – the Anzac Day game: Essendon v Collingwood. The fact that the free to air telecast started 90min’s before the game says volumes. Bruce needed to dig deep with gravity and weight on every syllable as he began building the drama amongst still pics, city parades and crosses to those currently serving. Watching the live vision from the G had its moments. Nice touch with the sash of poppies by the dons. Though I am partial with any Mark Seymour numbers, the crowd were further entertained by parades, catafalque party and a new entry … the NZ national anthem. Wow. Standing respectfully in the rain for more than ten minutes were 44 footballers.


I am a supporter of anything Anzac and that is general term which I apply to anyone who serves in our forces in any capacity. My intention is not to denigrate the deeds of servicemen and women nor the the feelings of loved ones. I understand where Kevin Sheedy comes from when he says that footy takes second place on Anzac Day. It is good that stories, myths and legends of service men and women are interwoven in every football club across the country. Combining the two aspects makes an individual’s service more remarkable and the games as a conduit for these men and women, more appealing.


Nevertheless, I believe we are on the verge of turning a simple game of footy into a Hollywood event. In 1973, we all payed our respects and then watched a ripper game. Are we there today for the show or are we there to watch a game of footy? There is a happy medium. Let’s not Meatloaf this one!


  1. Interesting points Dave.

    It make me think about the seminal work of Guy Debord, “The society of the spectacle:’, where it is now all about appearances. Where as once it was about having or being, now it’s about appearing.

    Appearing is good: it’s good to appear, appears to be the way of our world.

    It’s a conversation worth having Dave.


  2. Stainless says

    There’s some parallels with your thoughts and my piece on the future of the Anzac Day game and also Tony Robb’s piece on the match day experience.
    Fundamentally, what we’re all asking is whether football is becoming secondary to an event, an experience, a spectacle – call it what you will.
    What’s clear to me is that 80,000+ footy crowds turn up to watch footy. We may be more demanding consumers these days and might think that we’re getting extra bang for the buck from sound and lights shows, or by Anzac Day and Dreamtime spectacles. But without the game itself you’ve got nothing.
    The custodians of the game ignore that fact at their peril.

  3. G’day Dave,

    Footy needs to keep itself. No entertainment is needed. The game itself is an entertainment for footy fans and we want it.

    Honouring diggers is important on Anzac Day and Kevin Sheedy established the Essendon vs Collingwood blockbusters with honours. But no cooperate dominated events are needed.

    I’m sad to see St Kilda’s Anzac Day clashes in Wellington having ceased. It was good to honour New Zealand diggers in my beloved Wellington.



  4. G’day Yoshi. Hope all is good.

    We attended the last St Kilda Anzac Day match in 2015. St Kilda started well,but Carlton over ran them. st Kilda weren’t meant to have the 5 years agreement with the City of Wellington but after 3 years it was over.

    Do you know if St Kilda will return to Wellington, Auckland or Christchurch for more footy? There have been rumours of more matches but nothing is definite. I’m curious.


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