Paul Kelly immortalised the Melbourne Cricket Ground in his lyrics as the sacred home of AFL football, but it’s the grand final entertainment that makes or breaks the biggest day in Australian sport.
Indeed, we all totally respect the two teams – Geelong and the Sydney Swans – who’ve made it to the end of a gruelling season and nailed a place in Saturday’s grand final.
But, it’s the pre-game and half-time entertainment that have often had us screaming in delight … or sobbing.
It all began in 1977, when Geelong-born singer and TV personality Barry Crocker (The Adventures of Barry McKenzie, Neighbours) flew from Britain to entertain footy fans in the first pre-match with The Impossible Dream.
In a stylish beige suit, Crocker also made history performing the new national anthem Advance Australia Fair. He read off a card, but to be fair we’d always sung God Save The Queen or God Save The King.
From Angry Anderson in the Batmobile in 1991, Muhammad Ali’s brief 1998 appearance with Mark Seymour, to Meatloaf’s off-key 12-minute medley in 2011 followed by Ed Sheeran and Tom Jones in slick shows in recent years, we’ve had it all.
Special mention to the late Olivia Newton-John (who died in August), John Farnham and The Seekers, who have all given stirring renditions of the national anthem over the years.
And Mike Brady embodies all that is our childhood, our parents and grandparents and our love of the game as he performs Up There Cazaly.
Yes, the holy grail (also Hunters and Collectors’ unofficial music anthem for Aussie Rules) is who will take home the silverware and be immortalised in their club and in Australian Rules history forever.
But, on a stage in front of a packed MCG crowd, with the two best teams in the competition waiting on the sidelines in the hour before the first bounce (and again at half-time), this year the AFL has promised us a next-level show.
‘Greatest grand final music spectacles’
In July, the AFL announced global superstar Robbie Williams was locked in as the headline pre-game entertainment at the 2022 grand final.
With the grand final returning to the MCG for the first time since 2019, the capacity crowd will enjoy all the big hits from the former Take That singer songwriter, including Angels, Rock DJ and Let Me Entertain You.
Williams, who has sold 80 million records worldwide in a solo career spanning 25 years, will also pick his band for the performance, which will feature Australian musicians.
We know Delta Goodrem, who sang the National Anthem at the Melbourne v Lions clash two weeks ago and did an impromptu dance with AFL boss Gillon McLachlan at a pre-match dinner, is on for the big day.
The “surprise” Aussie performer could be Australian pop icon Kylie Minogue, which would be an absolute crowd-pleaser.
Mr McLachlan was coy about her involvement on stage with Williams on radio earlier this week: “Umm (long pause) … I don’t know, OK … there’s a surprise, we’ll see”.
“There is a surprise, that’s all I can say and he will be joined,” he said.
And Williams himself revealed on Australian radio on September 12 that he’d love Kylie to be on stage with him, as they collaborated back in 2000 with hit single Kids, which formed part of Minogue’s third studio album.
“I need to ask her, maybe I should do that on this radio station right here, right now,’’ Williams told FOX FM’s Fifi, Fev and Nick.
“Kylie, please come and sing with me. I’d love it if you did.”
Australian pop-rock artist and die-hard Collingwood supporter G Flip will headline the half-time show.
Australian indie-rock band The Temper Trap will perform, alongside emerging singer-songwriters Budjerah and Ngaiire as part of the half-time entertainment.
Rock band Goanna will also lead a “super-group” with First Nations artists Christine Anu, Emma Donovan, Tasman Keith and William Barton, according to the AFL’s official website.
‘Living out an absolute dream’
In an emotional Instagram post, G Flip, a passionate footy fan said: “One of my fave days of the year is the AFL grand final (Australian football) no matter if my team is in or not.
“This year I get to play the half-time show in front of 100,000.
“From playing Auskick, to getting to the MCG three hours early to get good seats, to getting my MCC membership in the mail, to hosting after parties for the @aflwomens … I have loved this sport my entire life and in two Saturday’s time I’ll be living out an absolute dream.”
AFL executive general manager customer and commercial Kylie Rogers said it was pleasing to welcome home-grown talent to the MCG to perform at one of the biggest games on the Australian sporting calendar.
She said the day was “shaping up to be one of the greatest grand final music spectacles of all time”.
For a walk down memory lane, for better or worse, let’s look at five of the most memorable grand final days that have gone before.
John Farnham, 2009: Geelong v St Kilda
Angry Anderson, 1991: Hawthorn v West Coast
Meatloaf, 2011: Geelong v Collingwood
Sting, 2016: Western Bulldogs v Sydney Swans
Colin Hay, 2021: Melbourne v Western Bulldogs