The 18 theme songs and their origins

Jack never liked being the centre of attention.

WE all love our own theme song, no matter what anyone else tells us.

But some songs are just born great.

Here’s our list, from worst to best, and a rundown of when and how they were formed.

May you hear your song played after every game in 2017.

Except West Coast. It makes our ears bleed.

WEST COAST (We’re Flying High)

Based on: Nothing. Original song.

WHILE entirely appropriate given the illicit drug culture that clouded Perth around the time West Coast won the 2006 premiership, ‘We’re Flying High’ reaches very few highs itself.

Similar to the Bulldogs stop-start train wreck of a theme song that we’ll look at later, this tune – originally penned by Kevin Peek but with Fremantle’s ‘Heave Ho’ creator Ken Walther’s fingerprints all over it – does nothing to inspire or excite.

The Eagles could literally run out to any of Perth-based Tame Impala’s songs and it would create a better vibe. Christ, even Eskimo Joe (who incidentally wrote an alternative Dockers song that was rejected by the members) would do.

Best lyrics: “We’re the Eagles, West Coast Eagles”

Worst lyrics: “We’re the big birds, kings of the big game” (Look, I love this game. But this game is not a big game. Soccer is a big game. Golf is a big game. Aussie Rules is a teeny-tiny game. Don’t try to claim otherwise)

ST KILDA (When the Saints Go Marching In)

Based on: When the Saints Go Marching In

THIS is why you can’t have nice things, Saints fans.

The reason you’ve only won a single premiership in 120 years of existence is because your players don’t want to sing your song.

And it’s not that it’s a terrible song. The song itself is fine. It’s that almost no effort whatsoever has gone into changing the lyrics of the original gospel hymn.

I mean, it’s so generic that when I was a kid and saw Homer Simpson sing it on the TV I thought “that’s awesome, Homer knows the Saints theme song!”

But no. Homer did not know the Saints theme song. It was just a mix of me being an academically dull child and the St Kilda song being completely and utterly unoriginal.

Screw you, St Kilda.

Best lyrics: “Oh when the Saints, go marching in”

Worst lyrics: “Oh when the Saints go marching in”

GOLD COAST (We are the Suns of the Gold Coast sky)

Based on: Nothing. Original song.

GO on. Sing the Gold Coast song in your head. I’ll wait.

Let me guess. You got “We are the Suns of the Gold Coast skyyy, we are the da of the da da da…”

Now this may be the result of the Suns having not won a lot of games or it could just be that it’s an utterly forgettable song.

Melbourne composer Rosco Elliott wrote the tune and it was selected among hundreds of others by a group of footy executives, who, having sat around listening to shit song after shit song decided they’d go with this one because it was a little less shit than one they’d just listened to submitted by Hank the harpist from Harrow.

Maybe it will grow on us eventually. Like a tumour or something.

Best lyrics: “We’re the team who never say die!”

Worst lyrics: “We play to win the flag for you” (I call bullshit. They play to win the flag for themselves. Selfish)

WESTERN BULLDOGS (Sons of the West)

Based on: Sons of the Sea

ALRIGHT everyone, it’s OK to say bad things about the Bulldogs again.

For so long we’ve tip-toed around and whispered in their ears about how much we like them and how we hope they succeed one day.

Well, now they’ve succeeded and we can finally say what we’ve always wanted to.

Their song is shit. GOD that feels good.

Penned in 1940 and based on an old sea shanty, Sons of the West (or Sons of the ‘Scray as it was first known) stops and starts its way through an uninspiring and insipid journey of musical misdemeanours.

Much like St Kilda, we can comfortably come to the conclusion that the Bulldogs’ lack of success comes right back to the players’ unwillingness to trot out this dire piece of rubbish after each match.

Best lyrics: “We’ll come out snarling, Bulldogs through and through”

Worst lyrics: “Bulldogs bite and Bulldogs roar” (You literally just told us they snarl, and now you’re trotting out this bullshit about them roaring? #fakenews)

MELBOURNE (It’s a Grand Old Flag)

Based on: You’re a Grand Old Flag

WHAT came first, the bad team or the bad song?

It’s no coincidence that the teams with the longest droughts have the worst tunes.

The Demons just pip St Kilda’s lack of originality by at least changing a few of the source lyrics – but not many.

The little known and little heard second verse, penned by war hero and Demons legend Keith ‘Bluey’ Truscott, at least verges off the beaten track.

The first verse, however, ain’t much chop.

The oldest club song after being ‘written’ in 1912, the tune follows the template set by George M. Cohan, who wrote his ditty for a musical about really fucking loving America in 1906.

Fun fact: Lisa Simpson sung the original in an episode of The Simpsons. Second fun fact: The Simpsons provided me with entirely too much of my pop culture knowledge and essentially raised me. (Sorry mum and dad, you did good too).

Best lyric: “Every heart beats true for the red and the blue”

Worst lyric: “Should old acquaintance be forgot, keep your eye on the red and the blue” (Don’t be just throwing in an Auld Lang Syne grenade on us like that. It’s selfish. Pick a song and stick with it you bastards)

FREMANTLE (Freo Way To Go)

Based on: Nothing. Original song.

THE Freo theme song gets a bit of a bad rap. I mean it’s crap, but at the very least it’s not forgettable.

It used to be one of those songs that when the Dockers ran out you couldn’t help yourself singing “Freo heavvee ho, Freo heavvee ho” like the Wicked Witch of the West’s castle guards. They ended up ditching that part for a faster, modern remix and I must be in the minority for finding that disappointing.

Ken Walther, who we mentioned earlier for his part in the West Coast abomination, wrote both the original and the current song after an advertising agency turned to him in the mid-90s to give the Dockers a song they could be proud of.

On that task, he failed.

The first incarnation of the tune was long-winded, messy, and slower than a Ross Lyon gameplan. But they have adapted over the years – much like the club – and while the song will never be great – much like the club –  it is getting better.

Best lyrics: “Freo, give ’em the old heave ho, we are the Freo Dockers”

Worst lyrics: “We’re the rollers, we’re the rockers, we’re the mighty Freo Dockers” (What rock’n’roll has to do with footy is beyond us. Other than ‘rockers’ being a more appropriate rhyming word than ‘knockers’)

BRISBANE (The Pride of Brisbane Town)

Based on: La Marseillaise

SACRE bleu!

As it’s so poetically put on Wikipedia, La Marseillaise is “a revolutionary song, an anthem to freedom, a patriotic call to mobilize all the citizens and an exhortation to fight against tyranny and foreign invasion.”

They forgot to mention “template for a footy theme song”.

Written by Fitzroy Hall of Fame inductee Bill Stephen on a 1952 end of season trip to Perth, the Lions version of the French national anthem is one of the few things that remains of the old club after the 1997 merger.

Stephen and his teammates, who had just watched Casablanca in a fit of boredom due to them being in Perth, were inspired by the scene where the French drown out the Nazis in a show of croissantational patriotism.

The French government initially complained about its use, before they were assured the tune wouldn’t be heard much in Fitzroy anyway.

Best lyrics: “All for one, and one for all, we will answer to the call”

Worst lyrics: “We will always fight for victory, like Fitzroy and Bears of old” (Using Fitzroy and the Brisbane Bears as inspiration for fighting for victory probably isn’t the best choice)

PORT ADELAIDE (Power to Win)

Based on: Nothing. Original song.

COLD Chisel is packed with iconic Aussie musicians. Jimmy Barnes. Don Walker. Ian Moss. Les Kaczmarek.

Alright, maybe not Les, but Chisel’s original bassist went on to do bigger and better things – namely teaming with Quentin Eyers to pen the Power’s theme song in 1997.

As we’ve seen already, writing an original team ballad is fraught with awfulness and ‘Power to Win’ certainly has its moments.

The second verse in particular is more cringeworthy than a Warren Tredrea goal celebration, especially when they inherit the (mostly) shitty tradition of teams singing about their colours, with the lyrics ‘And the heroes are those, who’ve earned the right to wear the silver, teal and black and white’.

That’s a mouthful.

On a scale from one to Khe Sanh, we give it three jaded Chinese princesses.

Best lyrics: “We’re the Alberton crowd, Port Adelaide proud”

Worst lyrics: “We’ll never give in, ’til the flag is ours for the taking” (That’s not an ideal time to give in)

NORTH MELBOURNE (Join in the Chorus)

Based on: Wee Deoch an Doris

UNTIL the top three, we’re sort of splitting hairs over the next six or seven songs.

North’s tune is held dear to Victorians who remember the glory of State of Origin, because the Big V ever so subtly changed the lyric ‘North Melbourne’ to ‘Victoria’ for their victory song.

Ripped off from a 1920s tune by Scottish singer Harry Lauder, not a whole lot is known about who wrote North’s version.

Personally I reckon it should be adopted as an Australian sporting theme song, with ‘blue and white’ changed to ‘Southern Cross’ or ‘green and gold’ and ‘North Melbourne’ changed to ‘Australia’.

But what the fuck would I know?

Best lyrics: “Hearts to hearts and hands to hands, beneath the blue and white we stand”

Worst lyrics: “Out we come to play, just for recreation sake to pass the time away” (That’s either really arrogant or really dismissive. Given North’s recent record I’d go with the latter)

ESSENDON (See the Bombers Fly Up)

Based on: Keep Your Sunny Side Up

WHEN I share housed with mates it was all mum jokes and dirty dishes.

For Kevin Andrews and Essendon player Jeff Gamble, it was all pleasant ditties and singalongs.

Andrews wrote the Bombers theme song after hearing housemate Gamble humming the tune to weekly variety program Sunnyside Up in 1959. Knowing the Bombers were searching for a victory track, Andrews wrote the lyrics in about half an hour and assumedly danced his way to Windy Hill with song sheet in hand, surrounded by cartoon birds and Dick Van Dyke.

The happiest of the theme songs, See the Bombers Fly Up saw Andrews awarded life membership with the club in 2014.

Best lyrics: “They all try their best, but they can’t get near, as the Bombers fly up”

Worst lyrics: “See the Bombers fly up, up, the other teams they don’t fear” (Shouldn’t they fear? Or is there some ol’ timey meaning that I’m missing?)

CARLTON (We are the Navy Blues)

Based on: Lily of Laguna

HERE’S a disturbing fact. Lily of Laguna was originally written as a racist blackface song in 1898, before it was stripped of its shitty lyrics around 1930 to become a straight love song.

For the sake of research and not glossing over past mistakes and the errors of those who came before us, the original lyrics can be found here:

It’s not completely clear how it became an iconic piece of Carlton’s identity, but it’s generally accepted the theme song was penned around 1930 by a relation of Blues coach Dan Minogue.

Best lyrics: “Da da da da daa. Da da da da daa. Da da da da da da da daaa”

Worst lyrics: “With all the champions, they like to send us, we’ll keep our end up” (What the hell does that even mean? That line has a bit of ‘if there’s a bustle in your hedgerow’ about it. Maybe if we play it backwards it reveals Eddie McGuire is Satan)

GEELONG (We are Geelong)

Based on: The Toreador Song

THE Cats bring a bit of class to the party with their take on Georges Bizet’s Toreador Song from the 1875 opera Carmen.

John Watts, a Perth native who arrived in Geelong to play with the Cats in 1963, wrote the lyrics to the song not long after joining the club.

In our humble opinion, it’s a shame the Cats sing the weaker first verse after games over the significantly better and less known second verse, which includes the gutsy final line of “and when the ball is bounced, to the final bell, stand up and fight like hell.”

Watts would go on to do a fair bit of media work on radio and television in Perth later in life, according to his suspiciously well-populated Wikipedia page.

Best lyrics: “Stand up and fight, remember our tradition, stand up and fight, it’s always our ambition”

Worst lyrics: “Our banners fly on high, from dawn to dark” (Cool. I guess. I mean if that’s what you’re proud of … by all means sing about it)

ADELAIDE (The Pride of South Australia)

Based on: US Marines’ Hymn

LITERALLY anything would have been better than the original Crows song.

“Here we go, here we go, Camry Crows. Here we go, here we go, here we go.”

Forgetting the unoriginality of the tune, the Toyota marketing was enough to make you Kluger all over the floor.

Adelaide’s current song, penned in 1991 by inaugural Crows CEO Bill Sanders, is perfect in comparison. Based on the Marines Hymn ‘From the Halls of Montezuma’, which in turn is based on the Jacques Offenbach opera Geneviève de Brabant from 1859, the tune does well in completely dismissing Port Adelaide’s claim to being the pride of South Australia.

Best lyrics: “As we fight the rugged battles, the flag will be our goal”

Worst lyrics: “Admiration of the nation” (No. Just … no)

HAWTHORN (The Mighty Fighting Hawks)

Based on: The Yankee Doodle Boy

WHAT do a lawyer named Chic Lander, the song “Along the Road to Gundagai”, and an American patriot tune that includes the lyrics “I’ve got a Yankee Doodle sweetheart, she’s my Yankee Doodle joy” have in common?

Hawthorn, that’s what.

Written by club solicitor Lander and “Gundagai” composer Jack O’Hagan in 1956, the Hawks’ theme song is based on an American ditty from the 1904 Broadway musical Little Johnny Jones – written by none other than George M. Cohan, the man who inspired Melbourne’s theme song.

Although reasonably famous in its own right before WWII, the song became significantly bigger in 1942 when James Cagney performed it as Cohan for the film Yankee Doodle Dandy.

On another note, we’ve always wondered why Hampden league team Terang-Mortlake would sing the Hawks theme song followed by the Demons theme song after a win. Now we know it’s because someone in Terang really fuckin’ loved George M. Cohan.

Best lyrics: “Team work is the thing that talks (4, 3, 2), One for all and all for one is the way we play at Hawthorn, we are the Mighty Fighting Hawks”

Worst lyrics: “Riding the bumps with a grin (at Hawthorn), come what may you’ll find us striving” (Come what may just reminds me of that shit Moulin Rogue song)

SYDNEY (The Red and the White)

Based on: Notre Dame Victory March

THE Swans have been through more songs than Plugger would eat pies before game day. I mean, before he looked like he just drank from the wrong goblet in the quest for eternal youth.

Originally going with a remade version of Gene Autry’s “Springtime in the Rockies” until 1961, the Swans adopted this college victory march after club supporter Larry Spokes wrote the lyrics in the 1950s and Notre Dame gave the club copyright in 1960.

And then, as always, marketing stepped in and screwed everything up. When South Melbourne moved to Sydney in the 1980s, the marketers with their bulky mobile phones, shoulder pads and pastel suits decided a new song was needed, and butchered “Up there Cazaly” to create “Up there for Sydney”.

As any average Joe without a perm and a thick sense of self importance would have told you, the song was shit, and the Swans eventually went back to the Notre Dame Victory March tune.

Best lyrics: “Lift that noble banner high, shake down the thunder from the sky”

Worst lyrics: None. Solid – if not a little too bouncy – tune.

COLLINGWOOD (Good Old Collingwood Forever)

Based on: Goodbye Dolly Gray

DON’T tell Collingwood fans, but there’s something spine-tingling about hearing the Magpies theme song bellowed around the MCG.

Playing the Magpies at the ‘G on a cold but sunny July day is exactly what footy is about.

Written by 3-game Collingwood veteran Tom Nelson in 1906 on a club tour of Tasmania, the song is based on “Goodbye Dolly Gray”, a tune from the Spanish-American War that became popular as a Boer War anthem.

A journalist from the Collingwood Observer, who was travelling with the team, described the song by saying “the sentiments are very pretty and the Tasmanians were delighted with them, but the ideas are too confident for the writer’s liking.”

After about 80 years the hierarchy at the Pies agreed, and changed the self-assured lyrics of “oh the premiership’s a cakewalk” to “there is just one team we favour”, before realising that was even worse, and they changed it back.

Best lyrics: “Side by side they stick together, to uphold the Magpies name (cor blimey)”

Worst lyrics: “Oh the premierships a cakewalk” (Just because it was better than the replacement doesn’t mean it’s good”

RICHMOND (We’re from Tigerland)

Based on: Row, Row, Row

IT’S a good thing the Tigers don’t win more often, because this is the type of tune you’d hang around for at the end of the game even if you’ve just lost by 100.

Widely regarded as the best song in the league, “Tigerland” was penned in 1962 by entertainer Jack Malcolmson after being commissioned by Richmond committee member Alf Barnett.

The tune is ripped from “Row, Row, Row”, which was used in the Ziegfeld Follies, a series of theatrical revue productions on Broadway from 1907 to 1931.

Best lyrics: “Oh we’re from Tiger (YELLOW AND BLACK), oh we’re from Tigerland”

Worst lyrics: “In any weather you will see us with a grin, risking head and shin” (The head I get. But the shin? Less important)


Based on: Nothing. Original song

THIS is what happens when original theme songs are done right.

The youngest song in the AFL is also the best, despite criticism from ex-Demon and wannabe musician Russell Robertson, and Rose Tattoo’s Angry Anderson – which, really, only strengthens it’s claim to the throne.

Penned by The Cat Empire’s Harry Angus, the song wasn’t asked for or commissioned – Angus just wrote it and handed it in to the club.

“I wasn’t an advertising guy following a brief. We’re not trying to be cool here,” Angus said.

“(Inaugural Giants coach and AFL legend) Kevin Sheedy and the GWS players see Yellow and Black as the benchmark. They asked for the same energy in their theme.”

Nailed it.

Best lyrics: “You feel the ground a-shaking, the other teams are quaking in their boots before the Giants”

Worst lyrics: None. It’s the mutt’s nuts.

3 Replies to “The 18 theme songs and their origins”

  1. Goodness, that was a lot more interesting than I thought it was going to be. As a Crows fan I think you might be being a bit generous but your point about it being infinitely better than the old one is well made.

    I would also like to point out that the original song, the Gendarmes Duet, is a frankly comic number dealing mainly with just what cowards the subjects of the song are. Of course, if the Marines weren’t worried about that I don’t suppose the Crows need to be either but it doesn’t sit well.


  2. I always thought that lyric for the Tigers’ song was “risking head and skin” – as in, that’s what hunters take when they kill a Tiger, so that’ what they are ‘risking’ in a battle.

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