Club songs are one of the unique features of the AFL, but where did they come from? The AFL Record's Sean Callander and John Murray have been on the case.
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The Brisbane Bears actually had their own song, but wisely embraced the former Fitzroy club song (with a couple of minor changes) when the clubs merged in 1996. Fitzroy had a song written for them by poet Norm Byron after winning the 1944 premiership, but on a trip back from Brisbane in 1955, a group of players, including Bill Stephen and Ken Ross, came up with the words, set to La Marseillaise, that remain virtually intact today.
Player power was the driving force behind the introduction of the Blues anthem in the early 1930s. Club historian Stephen Williamson explained that as the team boarded the coach after a game, the players complained that they had no song to celebrate their victory. Also on board that day were the daughters of coach Dan Minogue. Spurred on by the team's displeasure, they decided to write the lyrics to We are the Navy Blues with the assistance of players such as captain Frank Gill.
Magpie player Tom Nelson rewrote the words to the American Civil War and Boer War marching song Goodbye Dolly Gray in 1906, making Good Old Collingwood Forever the oldest of the club songs. An attempt to change the line 'oh, the premiership's a cakewalk' to 'there is just one team we favour' in the early 1980s was never embraced by the black-and-white army.
The dispute over composer's rights to the Bombers song still simmers today. According to Gregor McCaskie from the Essendon Hall of Fame, two separate parties have approached the club in recent years claiming different identities wrote the song. The common theme is that a member of a band, which regularly played at Essendon club functions, sang Sunnyside Up at a club board meeting sometime during the 1960s. It was met with overwhelming approval.
A traditional old-style tune didn't seem appropriate when Fremantle prepared for its entry to the AFL in 1995. Instead, it was decided by the 303 Advertising agency that the song should represent the club's move forward into the twenty-first century. Composer Ken Walther was signed up to pen some lyrics based on a speeded up version of Stravinsky's The Song of the Volga Boatmen. Part of Walther's directive was that catchy lines such as 'Hit 'em real hard, send 'em down below' had to be included.
The Cats originally had a song that blended aspects of the current day Kangaroos and Melbourne songs, but in 1963 a group of players, led by John Watts, penned a new version, set to The Torreador's Song from Bizet's Carmen. However, the song was probably inspired more by Stand Up and Fight, a song from the 1940 movie Carmen Jones set to the music of Carmen. Like other club songs, there is a little-known second verse.
The birth of the Hawks' song arose from a meeting in 1956 between Chick Lander, the club's honorary solicitor, and Jack O'Hagan, who was a member of the stock exchange club that Lander frequented. O'Hagan was a popular Australian composer, best known for writing Along the Road to Gundagai. He received 25 guineas for his lyrics, which were written to the tune of Yankee Doodle Dandy, and promptly donated the money towards the players' end-of-season trip.
Based on an American marching song (few words have been changed from the original tune of You're A Grand Old Flag), the Melbourne club song is one of the oldest. Club historian Lynda Carroll said the song dated back to 1912 and was first sung on a trip to Hobart. There's even evidence of a song dating back to the 1870s. Keith 'Bluey' Truscott is credited with the little-known second verse added in the late 1930s.
Nobody really knows the origin of the Kangaroos' song. According to Father Gerard Dowling, the club historian, the players sang the theme back in the 1920s, but the rest is a mystery. We do know that the song is based on Wee Doech 'n Dorus, which was written by Scottish singer, Sir Harry Lauder. He toured Australia near the start of the last century, which might explain how the tune fell into North Melbourne's hands. The Victorian state team also used a version of this song.
On its entry to the AFL in 1997, the Power held a competition to find a club song. After more than 70 entries were considered, The Power to Win was declared the winner, composed by well-known local composers Quentin Eyers and Les Kaczmarek (the original bass player with Cold Chisel before Phil Small joined the band). The song even hit the No. 1 spot on the South Australian charts late in 1997.
In 1962, cabaret singer Jack Malcolmson was asked to come up with a new theme song for the Tigers to replace the one set to Waltzing Matilda. After settling on the old showtune Row, Row, Row, he came up with the famous lyrics that still make this the most popular of any club song. Coach Des Rowe and players were said to have given it a standing ovation the first time they heard it. And for those wondering, it's 'risking head and shin', not 'risking head and skin', and 'Tiger of old', not 'Tigers of old'.
Saints historian Russell Holmesby said the club went through a few tunes before settling on When the Saints Come Marching in (with few changes to the original jazz classic) sometime in 1965 or 1966. At the Junction Oval, they used to belt out a version of I Do Like to be Beside the Seaside and briefly used a home-grown tune titled We are the Saints, the Red-Blooded Saints.
The Sydneysiders briefly flirted with a reworked version of Mike Brady's Up There Cazaly (Up There for Sydney) before returning to the South Melbourne song set to the tune of the Notre Dame Victory March made popular in the 1940 movie, 'Knute Rockne, All American'. The club actually wrote to the university to ask permission for its use. Supporter Larry Spokes is credited with penning the lyrics, which were conveyed to the club via former captain and coach Ron Clegg.
An interesting amalgam of two songs - the original penned by guitarist with prog rock outfit Sky and Western Australian producer Kevin Peek for the club's debut in 1987, featuring many references to 'Eagles' and 'flying high'. Ken Walther, the same man responsible for the irrepressible 'Freo, heave ho', supplied the verses later in the song's history.
A few words to Sons of the 'scray may have changed along the way (the latest coming in 1997 when the name changed from Footscray to the Western Bulldogs), but the club has used the song set to the tune of Sons of the Sea for as long as anyone can remember. However, nobody knows when it was first used. 1954 premiership coach Charlie Sutton said it pre-dated his time at the club, which stretches back to the early 1940s.