How the AFL Can Get Back Our Newly Rugby-Leagued Continent

Well, well, well. Hasn’t Rugby League (nee rugby league) gone and got itself all high and mighty all of a sudden? All Billy Big Bollocks. One exciting finish over a whole season and you’d think they’d found the cure for hay fever. One flick pass and every child in the land has signed up for life with their nearest league team. One funny kick and Rugby League has battered its way to the top of the Australian entertainment industry, apparently for good.

I’ve been told by people I trust that the grannie was a pretty good game, quite possibly the greatest piece of entertainment of all time. This could well be true, my love of the round ball means my knowledge of the modern game isn’t all it could be. When I heard said people talk about JT’s critical role my first thought was to wonder when John Terry had decided to switch codes. So I have to trust these good people and, yes, let’s not begrudge them this their moment in the sun, lest they brutally stomp on us with their big, shiny, new ratings winning boots. It clearly was an exciting finish to 80 minutes of sheer tedium, that’s true. The exhilaration of that one team scoring in the very last second. The drama of John Terr … sorry, Thurston hitting the post with his fluffed kick. And the agony of the fella from the other team who dropped the ball. Just what does pressure do to the human brain, eh?

But all that actual game stuff aside what really captured our imagination was Chisel! Effen Chisel, mate!!! That’s what the nation wants at a grand final, old bands reforming! Not Effie Gouldman or whoever that was going the full Milli Vanilli in the middle of our sacred land 11 hours before ‘our’ game got under way. Australians want Flame Trees, one of the most beautiful and hauntingly sad songs ever penned to fire up the crowd before it all kicks off. (Might be a thesis or two in that one?)

“Get the message, you useless AFL idiots?!?!! Paying attention, wankers?!?!?!? Buy your daughter an Effen Chisel album, McLachlan, you tosser!!!”

This, essentially, was the message being sent from right across our green and brown newly Rugby-Leagued continent, all the way to a suddenly shuddering and squirming East Melbourne.

Hey, East. That’s a Chisel album. Weird.

Anyway, desperate times call for desperate measures – and times don’t get any more desperate than this. Let’s get this straight. Rugby League is number one, boys, number one. Even Martin Flanagan admits it. Martin Flanagan! The AFL is on life support. I don’t think I can overstress what an exciting three minutes that grand final in Sydney was and how it signifies the cataclysmically seismic shift north of Australia’s entertainment game that we have just all witnessed. Life JFK being shot, we’ll all remember where we were when Barnesy wore those weird leather trousers. Forever now. Seared into our brains.

There’s only one way the AFL can save the future of the game now, now that Rugby League is BACK IN TOWN! It all comes down to who’s playing in next year’s grand final. Not who’s playing in terms of teams, of course, that’s irrelevant. It’s the band we’re getting to reform, that’s what we need to get right. 100-odd years of tradition is on the line here.

Really there can only be one reformed act next year with the sheer star power needed, one act that’s going to let everyone know that the AFL is BACK IN TOWN and Melbourne still rocks and rocks bloody hard thanks for coming goodbye game over you can all eff off back up the Hume to that place where you don’t have brain melting winds blowing at over a hundred clicks every day in a row for months on end and we’re actually quite jealous of you cause it looks nice and sunny and not windy every time we see the funny opera building on the tele.

Only one reformed band can do all this. And that band – and I know we’re all thinking this – is the Birthday Party.

Think about it. The terrifying raunch of Nick the Stripper blaring out over the PA and into the ears of drunk viewers everywhere. The frightening grind of Junkyard warping its way through the lovely spring sunshine, up to the satellite and straight onto the big screen at the lovely Shepherd’s Bush Walkabout. The title Big-Jesus-Trash-Can appearing on the bottom of the screen as the Hawthorn supporters politely take their seats in anticipation of their 482nd Premiership. Gawd bless ‘em, we’re so happy they’ve won another one.

And sure, a laneway in St Kilda is all well and good, but I can just hear Rowland Howard cackling at the thought of Shivers, one of the most beautiful and hauntingly sad songs ever penned, firing up the crowd before it all kicks off.

That, Rugby League. THAT! That’s entertainment!

I know the Birthday Party are down a couple of key players, but what great band isn’t? Never stopped the Stones, did it? Didn’t stop Effen Chisel, mate. Should’ve stopped INXS but didn’t. Sun Ra’s Arkastra keeps going on even though the man himself exited our earthly dimension years ago. I’m sure the AFL can sort out some gun guitar slingers to make this happen.

They have a year. Going by their track record over the last couple of years, if anyone can do this, the AFL can.


  1. Callum O'Connor says

    Yes, bring back The Birthday Party.
    Just distribute happy pills throughout the crowd as an evener.

  2. Good on you P O’Brien..
    The NRL nailed this one.

    People aren’t at a GF for the music. They’re there for the footy. So if you insist upon a musical act, make it one that everybody knows and has great associations with.

    Khe Sanh, for crying out loud. How to describe this to an outsider?
    Newcomers to Australia should know that this song is as near to an anthem as we have.
    Imagine every share house party/21st/beach party/enormous night you’ve had… and imagine most of them somehow ending with this song and with a rowdy group standing arm in arm and swaying and bellowing out of tune to some hapharzardly constructed lyrics but knowing that these people are friends for life (despite never meeting some of them before, and never seeing others of them again) and that you are at that moment absolutely bulletproof.
    Somehow relevant, somehow not, that It’s the sad story of a returned Vietnam soldier. Written by the great Don Walker. In 1978.

    To see the lads going about their business (of that vintage), check out this one of Cheap Wine – from 1979
    Jimmy Barnes in classic repose as loafer in a share house. Gold.

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