Redheads to Become Extinct?

There were alarming reports of a National Geographic article having suggested that redheads would eventually become extinct. This story was later debunked in September 2007 and Geelong went on to annihilate Port Adelaide in the Grand Final; taking out their first Premiership since 1963.

Less than 2% of the world’s population are redheads. By contrast, of the 27 players to have currently played more than 200 games for Geelong, five (or 19%) are redheads. Barry Stoneham, Neville Bruns, Cameron Ling, Tim McGrath and Robert Neal have combined to play more than 1100 games for the Cats. You can see how the possible threat of redhead extinction would weigh heavily on the club’s psyche. In time to come, how would these club legends be remembered? As freaks of nature? As veritable dinosaurs of the human race?

Unencumbered by this cloud of darkness, Geelong secured the 2007 flag and backed up again in 2009. A fine tribute to their stable of redheaded champions.

The concept of gingerphobia has grown in prominence in recent times – mobilised through a powerful group of Facebook users. As society has become more embracing of individuality in hairstyles, the less accepting have continued to demonise and ostracise the much-maligned redheads. There is no doubt that Geelong as a club has made a significant contribution to the lives of many redheads. The same cannot be said for other AFL clubs that have been slow to recognise the ingenious and unique talents of redheads and have preferred to ignore them in the draft. Whilst not wanting to directly accuse the club of gingerphobia, it would be reasonable to believe that Collingwood still has some ground to make up in this area. Unsubstantiated reports surfaced in the late 80s that Shane Kerrison felt the pressure to dye his hair blonde, rather than be considered an outcast at Victoria Park. Fortunately, the AFL offers a more tolerant and accepting environment these days.

Perhaps another explanation for the reluctance to draft redheads is that some clubs are simply more fashion-conscious, and have the best interests of the player at heart. There are clearly some footy jumpers that are not suited to redheads. Apparently green is very versatile and looks good on almost any redhead. Other colour gurus will guide redheads to the more gold tones – having them steer clear of the reds, purples and pinks. Footy fashionistas will suggest blue and white hoops.

Redheads have one distinct advantage in the sporting arena – they can be very difficult to sledge. “Try getting a kick fanta-pants” or “Good work carrot top” have been heard so many times before by redheads that they typically fail to get under the skin of the player. They prove to be nothing more than a childish attempt to get a cheap laugh from nearby players (or the occasional reader as the case may be here).

AFL Football is a game that requires extreme physical and mental toughness. When reflecting on redheads who have played at the elite level, you could be excused for believing that this is a trait that comes naturally to the redheaded brigade. In fact, the contrary is the case. There is a growing body of scientific evidence that suggests that people with red hair have a higher sensitivity to pain relative to those with other hair colours. Could this have been a possible defence for Leigh Matthews in the Neville Bruns case? OK, perhaps not. But quoting scientific evidence is always worth a try.

For many AFL players, September can be an empty month; inspiring thoughts of what might have been. Not so for redheads. The disappointment of not playing in an AFL finals series is quickly forgotten as their thoughts move to Redheadday – the Dutch summer festival that takes place each first weekend of September to celebrate redheads worldwide. The festival’s growing popularity provides hope for those continuing to fight for anti-discrimination. Daniel Merrett should consider booking now to avoid disappointment.

Of course, this article would not be complete without offering up a list of redheads – one from each club. Some have been chosen because they are or were great players. Others more for their notoriety. And then there are those that are listed because I couldn’t think of anyone else from that (possibly gingerphobic) club. Maybe you can. Ruadh gu brath!

Adelaide: Ben Hart
Brisbane: Michael Voss
Brisbane Bears: Brad Hardie
Carlton: Lance Whitnall
Collingwood: Shane Kerrison
Essendon: Dustin Fletcher
Fitzroy:  Kevin O’Keefe
Fremantle: Tony Delaney
Geelong: Damian Bourke
Hawthorn: Dermott Brereton
Melbourne: Steve O’Dwyer
North Melbourne: Keith Greig
Port Adelaide: Matt Thomas
Richmond: Daniel Jackson
StKilda: Jayson Daniels
Sydney: Gary Rohan
West Coast: Guy McKenna
Western Bulldogs: Adam Cooney

That is all

About Arma

Much-maligned footy banterer


  1. John Butler says

    A moment in the sun for a put-upon minority.

    Just hope they remember their sunscreen.

    Always has a soft spot for Adrian Gleeson, a fine contributor to the Navy Blue cause, as well as a proud redhead.

  2. David Downer says

    Bravo Arma. Very enjoyable. Some stunning “scientific evidence” to boot.

    “Geelong as a club has made a significant contribution to the lives of many redheads” – worthy of a Cats marketing pitch to attract club donations from those of a ginger disposition.

    Brendan Goddard would be considered “somewhat red”, as opposed to “flaming red” in the mould of say, a Tom Lynch.

    Crow Trent Ormond-Allen’s ginger locks came to prominence with his left-field tranformation into a 5ft9 high-leaping part-time-ruckman.

    Justin Leppitsch was a consummate red in the “freckles and all” style of comic book scallywag Ginger Meggs.

    And while Barry Hall now sports a “cleanskin” look on top (out of neccesity of course) – we tend to forget his ginger roots – not dissimilar to his noted potential FF replacement – J.Gillard.


  3. Dave Latham says

    You had me there Arma, until you listed Voss. Just ruined the moment.

  4. #1 JB – Yes, Gleeson a fine player – I had Adrian Hickmott on my list too.
    #2 DD – Always a need for “scientific evidence”. Although I would suggest that this is more of the “Mrs Marsh” variety.
    #3 DL – Fair enough – I’m not a bully-boy Voss fan either. However, he is a Brownlow Medallist – something that perhaps could have been worked into the article when you consider Voss, Hardie, Cooney and Greig on my list.

    That is all

  5. Arma,

    You might be interested to see that at the start of the season I put together an All-Ranga team. I think if I were to redo the team now, the main player I would add would be Todd Banfield.

    My favourite ranga of all time would have to be Josh Thurgood though – his long red locks made him look like a long, pale-stemmed, flowery plant.

  6. At the Brisbane v Crows game the other week, my wife made a comment about the number of redheads in the Brisbane team. My friend put forward the proposition that it is difficult to tell if Voss can coach, or whether the season malaise is based on his positive discrimination selection policy. There were at least 6 of varying degrees on the park…

  7. Yes Gus, perhaps Voss could use that as justification for poor performance in his “Season Review” …….. “I was just doing my bit to raise the profile of those on the receiving end of gingerphobia.” Not sure that will work for Matthew Knights, however.

    That is all

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