An ode to the greatest ode in the land

By Tom Briglia

This song has made my year. I don’t know where I’d be in 2012 without it.

I listen to this song on the train, on the tram, walking down the street and at home. I play it at parties (at my own house thanks, lest I get thrown out before I can sing the first line), and I think about it several times every day.

This week as a “joke” (i.e. I was entirely serious) I posted this song every day of the week on my Facebook wall/Timeline/whatever it will be next month to celebrate the fact that it exists at all – I just needed the Saints to be playing the Giants on the weekend as an “excuse” to do so (although I have posted it several times throughout the year already).

I think it is genuinely fantastic as a “traditional” sounding footy club song, in the vein of the Fable Singers’ versions still being used decades after those were recorded, but with an added Eastern European bent to give it a sharp, mean, purposeful edge. It suits a club with such industrial colours (think V-Line), or colours that we’d probably associate with the toil of working for not much in a small village on the border of Croatia and Hungary (and what we’d assume are the colours of the food there, too, in our first-world minds).

Paradoxically, it also suits a club that is the closest thing to a soulless corporation we have in the AFL. GWS reflects where we are now in the environment created by free agency and the national draft in that it will have the same principal element that makes any other club what it is: the bond between a player and his teammates well and truly trumping the bond between the player and his club, its history and its supporters. This song will be blaring out in the late afternoon on Grand Final Day some time in the future, sounding the triumph of sport as a profession and sport as a business, perhaps after GWS has defeated a luckless Victorian club – not just the Saints, but maybe the Dogs, the Demons or the Tigers – whose supporters once watched players that grew up down the road from Moorabbin or the Western Oval and supported the clubs they played for. This song sounds like this club-as-a-business means business. It’s a fashionable villain.

But back to the pure danceability and aesthetics, this song breaks a streak of ridiculous attempts at modernising something in a way that simply didn’t need to be; of unnecessarily introducing electric guitars and synths when using real big-band instruments has always been the best approach.

The obvious culprit is Fremantle, a club that was aesthetically outdated the second it entered the competition. The inflatable anchors and actors playing wharfies on the ground before the game – not to mention the fan base that thinks a contested Freo mark has cured cancer – made and still makes the club seem silly, and that’s before mentioning the fat elephants in the room: the club’s jumpers and song.

They’ve cleaned up the visual side of things and their purple chevron jumper is one of the boldest and best in the league, a welcome far cry from the mish-mash of clown colours in their home and away jumpers all the way through to 2010. However, last year they had the chance to become a normal club and not a novelty relic from 1995 that was already a relic from 1987 and get rid of their ridiculous, directionless droll club song with four options given to its members to vote on.

Wasted template.

The first upsetting thing about the song is that it’s based on the traditional Russian folk anthem Song of the Volga Boatmen, which makes for a great template for a oompah, resounding club song as did those utilised by the older clubs. Instead, Freo went for a rockin’ cheap synth version of the song and the attitude of their fans followed suit. Secondly, they didn’t even try reworking the song from the ground up for their members’ vote-off, but rather just cutting it up into the chorus/instrumental/chorus format of the traditional songs. The entirely new Eskimo Joe entry was far more in line with what the song should have been in the first freakin’ place. I don’t like either of Eskimo Joe or The Cat Empire at all, the latter whose member Harry Angus wrote the GWS song, but they both got it right when it comes to footy songs. Unfortunately, only one club realised this. The other parallel of course is the Eastern European “influence”. Again, as far as the GWS song goes we’re basing this on our stereotypes of remote Eastern European villages and the oompah music a lot of us would assume goes on in them, but only one club really ran with the theme and that’s the one that really worked.

Slightly less rubbish.

Next on the Freo Shockers list is the Port Adelaide song, which (in)famously found itself at the top of the South Australian music charts when the Power entered the league. Similarly to the Freo theme, it was outdated when it was created. An ill-conceived synth arrangement which sounds tinny, empty and, like the original Freo version, directionless. Admittedly better in its slight reworking – although even that was based on introducing loud percussion – there’s still not much that’s remarkable or emPOWERing (omg get it?) about it.

The year 1997 also bought us the trashing of what was arguably the best song in the league, as a reworked version of the Fitzroy anthem was bestowed upon the Brisbane Lions. The proudest song, one that represented a club with a long history and the most loyal of supporters became a tacky, cheap-synth cop-out and the another stage of the trashing of Fitzroy’s history (see Paddle-Pop lion jumper for the most recent instalment).

I’ve just been informed by RWB Management that apparently there’s a game being played tomorrow.

It’s “Thank You” Round, and it’s a special week for me. My brother Matt says the only reason why I like footy is because of the jumpers (which I’ve banged on about before, and almost certainly will again) and the Saints are wearing a “Thank You” sugar-daddy guernsey featuring the names of the longest-serving members who were willing to put up a bit of coin to have their name on the jumper (had I known there was this opportunity I would not have hesitated to cough up said coin).

Serious Seb Ross will be making his debut in the “Thank You” jumper tomorrow, becoming the fifth player to make their debut in a season which has all got us feeling pretty good about the future. Milera, Newnes, Saad and Dunell have all played their first career games in 2012 and have all shown real promise, to go with that seen in My Favourite Player Siposs, Stanley, Simpkin, Cripps and Ledger and the continued improvement of Steven, Armitage, Geary and McEvoy.

The “Thank You” Jumper, worn by ex-Saint-to-be or 2013 captain BJ

Siposs, Milera and Newnes all find their way back in to the side via the Saints being unable to make the finals strong performances in the VFL, and Ledger is given a chance to get some game time before season’s end in the resting absence of Armo. With The Last Man to Have Captained the Saints to a Premiership of Any Kind out with “soreness” after his handball last week the forward line will be led by The Knife and Beau Wilkes, with Siposs in two as lead up targets. I’m looking forward to seeing Milne, Saad and Milera out there together too; hopefully they can reprise their early-season co-operation.

Newnes is the closest thing to a straight swap for Gram, who, despite 31 touches last week, was the only one the club didn’t bother making up an excuse for missing this week. Cripps was named in the back half too, and even though he kicked 0.2 last week I still he’s best suited to a small forward role at this stage of his career.

With finals out of the question and the horde of youth bought in this won’t necessarily be a walk in the park for the Saints; in fact I dare say their odds will have shortened a decent amount since the side was named. Even then, we might see Cripps used down back to get him used to playing that kind of role and hopefully some maximum game time for Ledger is he can hold up for four quarters. Regardless of the opposition, I’m always looking forward to seeing Stanley play; I just hope he’s recovered well enough after looking rusty and even proppy at times last week to not do his hamstring tomorrow.

Tomorrow will have youth in every part of the ground. Considering the state of our fortunes for season 2012 from this point, that’s a highlight. In fact, it’s a highlight whichever way you look at it.

But really, the highlight of the day will be at approximately 1.35pm when the GWS Giants Corporation run out on to Corporate Stadium to the best song in the land. It’s worth getting there on time for; it’s greater than the rest.