Australian Football

 

 

Adelaide Crows
Flying away

Brisbane Lions
It's Alive!...Maybe

Carlton Blues
Swapping the silver spoons for the wooden spoons

Collingwood Magpies
Side-by-side in scandal

Essendon Bombers
The most hated of teams

Fremantle Dockers
Send in the clowns!

Geelong Cats
Good, even elite, until it really matters

Gold Coast Suns
Football or the beach? The beach it is!

Hawthorn Hawks
Not the coolest kid on the block

North Melbourne Kangaroos
From butchering shinbones to road kill

Melbourne Demons
Like Collingwood, they like white powder

Port Adelaide Power
Statistics matter and Port has 119 reasons not to forget history

Richmond Tigers
From eat'em alive to eat our own alive.

St Kilda Saints
Can't ever say Saints' fans are band wagoners

Sydney Swans
Blood is thicker than water

West Coast Eagles
The AFL equivalent of McDonalds

Western Bulldogs
On welfare and on the move

GWS Giants
A marketing disaster on a par with AFLX

 

 

 


Penrith Panthers

Nth Melbourne Kangaroos

Australian Road Kill

     

The kangaroos are somewhat of an enigma as they have arguably the best mascot in the AFL, great modern success on the field, an emotive history and have pioneered a host of revenue raising innovations. Despite these assets, they are the AFL's least popular club bar the plastic additions of Gold Coast Suns and GWS somewhere.

 The Kangaroos' lack of popularity can be partially attributed corporate machinations that have always battered the club at strategic level. These machinations have conspired to determine what competitions the club could play in, how it could define itself or whether it could play at all. In some regards, the club could be likened to factory workers turning up to work and performing admirably as corporate forces destroy their world for their own interests.

In 1940, the Australasian said of the club,

"In two aspects North Melbourne stands second to none. One is the loyalty of its supporters. The other is the determination to carry on, despite its disadvantages. In the face of adversity, which might well have broken the spirit of most men, we find that from the earliest days there were always enthusiasts to fight for North Melbourne."

By the 1980s, that loyalty to supporters had waned to such an extent that the club was privatised, which allowed new shareholders to try to merge or relocate the club all in the hope of increasing their personal profits. Not only did the schemes not work, they also weakened the affinity with fans and made it difficult to find new ones. Fortunately, in 2008, a fan revolt led to them taking ownership of the club once more. Although many were expecting the Kangaroos to become road kill, the club managed to survive.  

The battle to just play

North Melbourne joined the VFA in 1869. Although it didn't win a premiership, the club proved itself to be a well supported and reasonably strong on the field. Initially, the club was known as the Shinboners. One story proposes that the name came from local butchers who displayed shinbones decorated in Nth Melbourne colours. Since the shinbone wasn't exactly the prime cut, it matched the image of club that did it tough while others enjoyed a sirloin steak. Another story proposes that it came from a local butcher who said that the players were so tight the club reminded him of blowflys on a shinbone. In a perverse sort of way, it was quite a compliment, not least of all because shinbone was a more upmarket description compared to the usual saying of flies on shit. A third story proposes that North players were dirty and liked to start fights with a kick to the shins. Although this gave the club somewhat of a little old lady quality, at least it was a more respectable image than that of a Magpie hitting from behind that was associated with Collingwood

Whatever the origins of their name, North Melbourne's early years in the VFA were characterised by loses on the scoreboard, but consistent victories on the casualty count. The Shinboners developed a reputation as a team that would always give an honest contest and opponents would never win an easy ball.

In 1896, Essendon and Geelong led a breakaway of clubs to form the VFL but Essendon successfully lobbied against North Melbourne’s inclusion even though the Shinboners were 6th on the ladder at the time. Essendon’s concern was that its most successful recruiting suburbs were North Melbourne, West Melbourne and Kensington. Furthermore, Nth Melbourne’s home ground was more centrally located giving it stronger economic prospects. By excluding North, Essendon had a monopoly on the north west region.

To the North Melbourne’s credit, it responded to the VFL’s (Essendon's) rejection in an admirable manner. In the VFA, it became a powerhouse - winning premierships in 1903 and 1904. It also won a record of 59 games in a row.

North again applied to join VFL in 1908 but was rejected once. To make matters worse, the VFA punished North Melbourne by excluding it from the VFA. To save the club, all committee members resigned to allow a new committee to form that was not tainted by the attempted defection.  With the committee punished, the VFA allowed the club to continue. It went on to win more premierships in 1910, 1914, 1915 and 1918.

In 1922, North Melbourne and Essendon proposed a merger. For North, the merger was an opportunity to enter the VFL. Meanwhile, Essendon wanted North's centrally located home ground. With the merger agreed in principle, North disbanded and sent their players to Essendon. This was highly problematic for the VFA as North was their only inner city club thus a key asset in their battle against the VFL.  To protect their asset, the VFA persuade the State Minister for Lands to veto Essendon’s move to North's home ground. With Essendon unable to move, the merger was called off. Essendon found another ground but with North Melbourne’s champions Syd Barker and Charlie Hardy now playing for it. Meanwhile, North had to reform and find some players. As far as failed mergers go, it was the epitome of lose win.

 With Essendon having almost 25 years head start and North's best players, it no longer saw the club as a threat. The VFL subsequently gave North an invitation to join the VFL in 1925. Given the circumstances of its entry, it was understandable that the club performed poorly on the field. Nevertheless, it gained a strong following. By 1937, the club had secured a staunch membership of 2400 — then a VFL record.

In 1954, the club made its first innovation when it dropped Shinboners in favour of the Kangaroos because it wanted something characteristically Australian. It remains the only club with a uniquely Australian mascot. In 1967, it made its second major innovation when it established the tradition of the Grand Final breakfast to mark the beginning of Grand Final day. In recognition of its pioneering role, it remains the only breakfast to be officially sanctioned by the AFL.

Throughout the 70s, the Kangaroos had even more success through giving opportunities to Aboriginal players. Although the club had recruited Aboriginal players back in the 1920s, the likes of Barry Cable became genuine superstars at a time that few clubs had any Aborigines on their lists. Cable’s success was followed up with the recruitment of the Krakouer brothers who likewise proved themselves to be excitement machines.

1975 saw the club win its first premiership. A second followed in 1977. The premierships should have set it up for a golden era of off field success, but like many VFL clubs, it got itself into financial difficulty. In 1985, it addressed some of the financial problems by pioneering Friday night football and so gained a monopoly on a prime time television timeslot. Unfortunately, after taking the risks and proving it to be successful, other clubs started playing night footy and the Kangaroos were seen less on the screen.

An additional way it tried to solve its financial problems was to sell shares in the club to private investors. Although selling shares was more dignified than the tin rattling option taken by other clubs, tin rattling pulled heart strings and rallied the supporters in a way that casting an eye over a prospectus did not. Furthermore, selling shares denied supporters a voice and allowed corporate interests both inside and out to gain influence for their own interests. Instead of being guided by a Shinboner spirit, the board was guided by a blade steak spirit with dreams of wagu beef.

The new "shareholders" decided that since they had put money into to the club, they should make all the decisions. Considering the ridiculous statements football fans sometimes make, it was quite understandable that they believed they knew best. After all, anyone who has heard St Kilda fans predict they will win a premiership one day, or seen Collingwood fans struggle not to move their lips when reading anything larger than a comic book, would surely be wary of trusting football fans with a voice in a multi-million dollar business.

Although football fans are prone to say stupid things, they speak with their heart and it is the voice of the heart that needs to be shown in order attract new supporters. As the Richmond Tigers show, a club that seems passionate, and one that wears its heart on its sleeves, can still attract members even when it can't win a game. While dumping a load of chicken manure on a club's doorstep may seem like a stupid way to motivate players, it does make the club look like it has a soul.

In 1991, outside interest came from the Carlton Football Club when it attempted a hostile take over of North Melbourne by purchasing a large parcel of shares formerly owned by Bob Ansett.  Although the takeover was blocked by the AFL, it seemed to foreshadow an inevitable extinction.

In 1993, the club looked like the end would come quickly. Performances had been poor since the 70s, the team list was bland and crowds tiny. In the preseason, it lost to Adelaide by 147 points, which led to the sacking of coach Wayne Schimmelbusch. The prospectus was certainly looking poor.

 Schimmelbusch's replacement was Denis Pagan, an ex-back pocket who had continued on with a low profile while coaching the Essendon reserves. Pagan’s major innovation was to reinstate talk about a “Shinboner” spirt. It was a term that hadn’t been used since the 50s but it proved to be a powerful motivator. As one journalist noted:

"Pagan's much-loved Shinboner spirit was a phrase that often had the cynics rolling their eyes, but which reinforced over and over the impression that the Roos would never offer anything less than an honest contest. "

From preseason basket case, the Roos finished the season in 3rd place. 3 years later, they were premiers. While the club found the highest success on the field, it still had a corporate board that wanted a gold mine but felt North Melburne was nothing but discarded tailings. In 1996, board decided to merge with the bankrupt Fitzroy on the belief it would expand the supporter base and provide access to more players. AFL clubs voted against the merger 14-1 (North was the dissenting voter). Instead, Fitzroy’s carcass was sent to Brisbane as it offered a better deal to the administrator.

With merging being knocked back, in 1998 the shareholders tried market expansion by hatching a plan to become Sydney’s second AFL team with five "home" games. So confident in their prospects, they dropped North Melbourne from their name to just be known as the Kangaroos, which they believed would fool Sydney sports fans into thinking they weren’t really a Melbourne team.  To support the Kangaroos, the AFL signed a contact to play 11 games a year at the Olympic stadium from 2001 onwards, which was reconfigured to host Australian football on the basis of the contact. The Kangaroos' Sydney experiment was such a disaster that it never played at the ground.

After the Sydney failure, the Kangaroos tried Canberra in 2002, where they didn't receive the same hostility but didn't receive the positive support either. While there was a certain dignity of the stoic working class that could only afford a shinbone, the constant rejection of a door-to-door salesmen made the club look somewhat pathetic.

To make matters worse, captain Wayne Carey was caught having an affair with the wife of his then-best-friend and Vice Captain Anthony Stevens.  Even though Carey was considered possibly the greatest player of all time and essential to the team’s success, his team mates refused to play alongside him ever again. He left the club and joined Adelaide the following year.
Meanwhile, for all his years of championing a Shinboner spirit of persisting in the face of adversity, Denis Pagan seemed to have become jaded at the constant hardship and moved onto Carlton in the belief it was a silvertail club. Ironically, in his first year at the club, prior salary cap breaches were unearthed causing it to be stripped of its draft selections. As much as Pagan would have loved to have spoken of a silvertail spirit, or spirit of the cash-filled brown paper bags, he just lacked the motivating narrative and his coaching tenure at Carlton was a failure.

Meanwhile, Nth Melbourne struggled onwards. Canberra was another failure so it signed an agreement to play three home games on the Gold Coast in another perpetual search for paying customers. In 2006, Queensland's Southport Sharks made another attempt at share purposes with an eye of moving the Kangaroos to the Gold Coast full time.

In 2007, the AFL put an ultimatum to the Kangaroos; either they move to the Gold Coast or they are as good as dead. In a rare show of determination, the club rejected the ultimatum, reverted back to its North Melbourne name and vowed to fight on in Melbourne.

At the time, the rejection was seen as a virtual act of suicide. That said, to accept the offer would have amounted to letting the people hit them with a semi-trailer, transfer them to a Gold Coast zoo, and sharpen the butcher's knives in preparation for an inevitable death. By choosing to fight on in Melbourne, the Kangaroos faced an almost certain death, but at least they would die with some dignity, and die with some fight. Against the odds, the club survived and reverted to a members-owned structure in 2008.

Although its supporter base is the lowest in Melbourne and on-field performances are ordinary, it is financially stable enough to throw multi-million dollar offers at star players from rival clubs, which are duly rejected much like the Kangaroos were rejected by the cities of Sydney, Canberra and the Gold Coast. Nevertheless, in comparison to the other problems it has faced in its history, just being alive to make the offer was a victory in itself.

 

Roy Morgan research

Kangaroos supporters are:

2001 when compared to other Australians

  • 94% more likely as the average person to have drunk bourbon in the last four weeks;
  • 43% more likely to have drunk scotch in the last four weeks;
  • 27% more likely than the average person to vote for the ALP.

2004 when compared to other AFL supporters

  • 47% more likely to go to a theatre restaurant, pub or cabaret for live entertainment
  • 46% more likely to have three or more children (under 16) in their household
  • 30% more likely to be paying off their home
  • 30% more likely to have played a sport
  • 36% more likely to have been to a nightclub/disco
  • 28% more likely to believe they were born to shop

2006 - When compared to other AFL supporters

  • 20% more likely to love to do as many sports as possible
  • 24% more likely to agree they seldom have time for breakfast
  • 26% more likely to agree Australian beer is the only beer worth drinking
  • 37% more likely to have played a game of pool, snooker or billiards in the last three months

 

Kangaroos theme song

Hearts to Hearts and hands to hands,
Beneath the Blue and White we stand.
We shout "God Bless our Native land"
North Melbourne, North Melbourne.

Out we come, Out we come, Out we come to play.
Just for recereation's sake to pass the time away,
Heaps of fun, lots of fun, enjoy yourself today,
North Melbourne boys are hard to beat when they come out to play.

So Join in the chorus, and sing it one and all.
Join in the chorus, North Melbourne's on the ball.
Good old North Melbourne, we're champion's you'll agree,
North Melbourne will be Premiers, just you wait and see!

They may not have many fans to sing it, but the Kangaroos have a great song.

Rivalries

Carlton Blues- Nth Melbourne was once listed on the stock market and Carlton bought shares. Later there was talk of a merger, or more specifically, Carlton increasing its shareholdings. Nth fans didn't think kindly of either option which made defeating Carlton in the 1999 Grand Final that much more special.

Sydney Swans - The Kangaroos defeated the Swans in the 96 Grand Final. In the 98 and 99 seasons, they played five "home" games in Sydney, trying to bludge off the Swans good work in raising the profile of the AFL in Sydney. The Swans didn't appreciate the Kangaroo's marketing and instigated the "boo a roo" campaign. In theory, this history should make for a good rivalry but in one SCG game at the height of the feud, the clash only drew 14,000 fans. 

Collingwood Magpies - In 1999 Collingwood fans produced a banner that had a Kangaroo in crosshairs and the slogan "endangered species", in reference to 'Nth Melbourne' and 'fans' being a contradiction in terms.

Essendon Bombers - Because they drew supporters from the same area, Essendon managed to have Nth Melbourne excluded from the VFL when it broke away form the VFA in 1896. Nth Melbourne didn't enter the VFL until 1925 and they have blamed this lack of history as the reason it lacks Essendon's supporter base.

In 1998, some Nth fans decided to inform Essendon of their softness by throwing marshmallows at coach Kevin Sheedy.

Nth Melbourne's Grand Final victories in 96 and 1999 have both came against opponents that had defeated Essendon by a point in the preliminary final. For a while, Essendon saw defeating Nth as the flags they should have had.

Nth Melbourne Kangaroo jokes

1)What's the difference between Skippy and Wayne
Carey? Skippy can root who he likes and still be a kangaroo!

1)Whats the difference between Nth Melbourne and a Bing Lee store.
Bing Lee has some fans.

2) The chief executive of Essendon, Richmond and Nth Melbourne were all invited to a party. The Essendon executive brought six bottles of Crown Lager. The Richmond executive brought a six pack of VB. The Nth Melbourne executive brought six friends.

3) The Nth Melbourne coach was playing the pokies and hit the jackpot with winnings of 20,000 dollars. "We've made it at last" he exclaimed to the team. "What are you going to do with the begging letters?" the team asked. "Keep sending them I suppose" he replied.

 

Icon

  • Malcolm Blight - Eccentric, tough and talented forward. Coached the club for one year in 1981. Continued a nomadic coaching career with stints at Geelong, Adelaide and St Kilda.
  • Syd Barker - Ruckman who left North in 1921 to play with Essendon as part of a ploy to merg the teams. The merger never happened and Barker came back to North in 1927.
  • David Dench - Full-back who became the league's first rebounding attacking backmen, not afraid to run off his opponent and set up goal scoring opportunities.
  • Jim Krakouer - Great talent who was often the victim of racial abuse aimed at making him play worse. Always stood up for himself and so had a habit of throwing punches at even the biggest of opponents. After retirement, was sentenced to 16 years' prison thus unable to watch his son Andrew make his debut.
  • Wayne Carey - Nth's best ever player and also its most immoral. Had to leave the club after it was revealed he was having an affair with the wife of Anthony Stevens, his best mate and club vice-captain. The affair was exposed after Carey and Mrs Stevens ventured to the toilets while celebrating the birthday party of Glen Archer's wife.
  • Anthony Stevens - Tough, hard-at-it midfielder. One of the most courageous players in the club's history.
  • Glen Archer - Arguably, the toughest player in the club's history. Back man who made opponents earn every kick.
  • Mick Matyn - Huge hulk of a man who never lost a battle of strength.
  • Jason Macartney - Suffered severe burns in the 2002 Bali Bombings. Returned to training and eventually played one final game. After getting back on the horse, announced his retirement.

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Other


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