Top 10 AFL Grand Final Music Performances

23 September 2022 | 9:30 am | Stephen Green

The good, the bad and the Meat Loaf

Some of them are great, some of them are car crashes, but one thing's for sure, the AFL Grand Final entertainment always has everyone glued to their screens to see which way the pendulum will swing. We've gone back through the archives and bring you the ten performances you need to re-live before this Sunday's big return of Grand Final footy at the MCG. 

10. Jon English (1981)

It was a toss up between this one from the late great Jon English and one from a couple of years earlier from Daryl Sommers. It's just not an early VFL/AFL Grand Final without a rendition of this Aussie folk classic. Jon English has the time of his life razzing up the crowd. In fact we're not sure he actually sings a note in the second half of the song. But it's the Grand Final. If you're not here for a sing-a-long, then where the blood hell are you?

9. Barry Crocker (1977)

We've mentioned 'Waltzing Matilda', but of course we need to pay tribute to the National Anthem, of course performed at every Grand Final since its adoption. It doesn't get much better (or much more 70s) than this cracking rendition from Barry Crocker. The best part? The fact he's reading the lyrics off palm cards. I mean, Bazza was a pretty busy guy back then. Learning the words to the national anthem before performing it in front of a packed MGC and television audience of millions is a pretty grinding chore. 

8. Ellie Goulding (2015)

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The early 2010s weren't very kind to the AFL. Ellie Goulding is no doubt an international superstar, but she's never quite been as big in Australia as in the US and UK. She was coming off the back of her Fifty Shades of Grey monster hit, 'Love Me Like You Do', but didn't quite have the long-term profile of most Grand Final imports. So you start a performance with most of the audience scratching their heads and asking who you are.... and then the backing track starts without you, revealing the vocal on the track. Some bright spark realises Ellie is singing but isn't yet at the microphone and starts the track again as the stadium erupts. You can almost feel AFL HQ waiting for the 'miming' backlash which inevitably came.... and Ellie wondering why she ever agreed to do this in the first place. 

7. The Seekers (1994)

Coming off the back of a few rough performances in the early 90s (coming up soon), The Seekers were the first version of the 'keep things simple' strategy that the AFL always successfully returns to every time they over-reach with a disaster. You couldn't go wrong with the always on-point Judith Durham and her band of merry men. 'I Am Australian', 'Georgie Girl', 'Waltzing Matilda' and the national anthem. See.... it's not that hard. Simple. Aussie. Oh and a children's choir. And a marching band. Let's hope Robbie Williams brings his marching band. 

6. Jet (2007)

In 2007, Jet WERE Melbourne. Not only were they the biggest band in Australia, but they were international superstars. What could possibly go wrong? Well, your track could stop. Your monitors could disappear. You could stop singing. The AFL Grand Final really is a game of russian roulette and unfortunately Nic Cester found the wrong chamber.

5. The Killers (2017)

Proving that bringing in International talent doesn't ALWAYS go wrong, it's roundly agreed that The Killers appearance in 2017 was a huge success. International superstars with a catalogue of big hits and a stage presence to match. Not only did they perform the pre-match; always a difficult task in the light of day, but they did a 45 minute 'after party' set at the MGC after the game. In case the crowd wasn't already enamoured with the band, they chose to bring out Richmond's Jack Riewoldt to duet on their monster tune Mr Brightside' It wouldn't win the Riewoldt a karaoke competition, but it epitomised the fun and spirit of what AFL Grand Final entertainment needs to be and showed (arguably for the first time) how overseas imports can work at such a parochial national event. Whether this performance is what cemented the song in Australian music history is debatable, but it remains in the most played and streamed songs on Australian radio and streaming services to this day. 

4. Angry Anderson (1991)

The very first "worst ever" Grand Final performance award went to Angry Anderson in 1991. Anderson was driven onto the field in a bizarre Batmobile style vehicle with marathon runner Robert De Castella in the other seat giving a quick speech to start, acknowledging the Olympic bid that was underway. Anderson starts the performance with "Melbourne! Let's show the world what we're made of!" before proceeding to belt out a poorly received rendition of the sporting anthem, clearly failing to achieve that goal. With the begining of the performance looking like a serenading of De Castella before Anderson alights the car, the camera pans the dignatories and crowd with many visibly unimpressed. Media labled the performance 'career ending' and subsequently Angry retired his solo career and went back to Rose Tattoo. We're going to come out and say it.... when put in this list against some of the other abominations, we reckon Angry got the rough end of the pineapple. Or the batmobile as it were. Travelling around the stadium and with no in-ears was probably in hindsight risky and in this case didn't pay off. 

3. Hunters & Collectors (2013)

After the debarcle of.... well that's coming up..... the AFL realised that we don't need Hollywood. Footy is about meat and potatoes and it doesn't get much more meat and potatoes than the Hunners. They already rolled this one out at the 2002 Grand Final, but this is the performance that put the Grand Final entertainment back on track. Doesn't matter they aren't from America. Doesn't matter it had happened before. Just get out there and play a bloody Aussie anthem. Job done. Nice one Hunters & Collectors.

2. Mike Brady (1979, 1996)

We would have posted the 1979 performance, but doesn't look like it's on the interwebs. It doesn't get more footy than Up There Cazaley. We can only imagine what it would have been like hearing that one for the first time at the G when it was riding high in the charts. Having said that, the 1996 performance is its own piece of amazing. The 90s weren't just about a musical act, there was a whole 'opening ceremony' going on. You couldn't have a performance unless there were strange looking large pieces of plastic in the shape of jerseys being unfurled across the field. And of course what would a proper opening ceremony be without a giant inflatable football that then collapses to reveal.... oh we can't ruin the surprise, but it doesn't QUITE go to plan. But before you can take that in, cue the children's choir in smocks to bring it all home. It's everything you expect from a 90s extravaganza and it doesn't disappoint. You could tell something special was about to happen when even the drummer was in a suit. Footy. Mike Brady. 90s Aussie spectacle. Tick, Tick, Tick. 

1. Meat Loaf (2011)

Sorry for being Captain Obvious, but when you have one of the world's biggest selling albums of all time, but when you pass away media still reference your AFL Grand Final performance, you know you've made a historic impact on culture. In what could be seen as either the pinnacle or nadir of Grand Final entertainment, the AFL thought the had secured a real coup, getting Mr Loaf to head downunder for a twelve-minute medley of his biggest hits. Set up in the stands with a large (and probably incredulous) band to back him, about three minutes in we're pretty sure the bookers realised that sometimes less is more. 

With the entire country in uproar, Meat Loaf initially blamed the AFL, telling Billboard Magazine “We did a thing called the AFL, I thought it was like halftime in the middle of a field, which I’ve done for NFL and World Football League finals ... These were the cheapest people I’ve ever seen in my life. They said: ‘We’re gonna have 100 motorcycles, they had three.’”

When someone obviously pointed out to him that the motorcycles weren't the issue, he recanted both the performance and the harsh words, saying on social media "I can’t take it back. It happened and I am truly sorry. I have learned one lesson from now on, no matter what happens or when it happens there is only one person to blame and that is myself. Stand like a man and say I am sorry. I may never see you again and I can never repay what the people of Australia have given too me. I betrayed your trust, I apologise for any feelings that I have hurt. My behaviour was extremely inappropriate, immature, and lacked the respect for the people of Australia and the Australian football league. Again, I am sorry for my actions and I hope that we can put this matter behind us.”

Well, we're not sorry. In hindsight, culture is made by failures as well as successes and something this memorable is worth saluting. 

This Year....

Well, the hapless contender is Robbie Williams. Come on Rob. We know you can do it. PLEASE do a twelve-minute medley.