What’s in a name?


To commemorate the Sir Doug Nicholls Indigenous round in the AFL this year, three teams – Melbourne, Fremantle and Port Adelaide – will change their names to an aboriginal “in-language” name, with Port Adelaide announcing that their “new” name will be a permanent feature of the round. But what maybe undertaken as an enhancement to a wider purview – in this case the AFL’s reconciliation process – in no way assures an improvement to the odds of a team win this week or any other, and after all, wins and losses is what really matters at this level of sport.

At the outset of his term at the helm of the Sydney Swans, Tom Hafey, the legendary Australian rules coach, was asked for an anecdote about the funny side of football. Hafey replied tersely – “there’s nothing funny about football”. To this tenet of professional sporting doctrine may be added that validly the apex of all professional sport is to win; everything else is surplusage.

But football teams may not turn winning into a habit if they lack a strong and loyal support base, for the two tend to go hand in hand. And for those clubs whose success is neither sustained nor celebrated widely in the form of a robust fan base, fate, aka the AFL bean counters, have been known to organise a relocation elsewhere. So the binding of the one to the other – of fan to club – is of real importance. But how to do that; how does the fan stay tethered to his/her footy side regardless of the on-field performance?

Like any knitting together of a people, one must look to that group’s cultural artefacts to understand their loyalty. In football, it is adherence to a team’s colours, song, and name, that both inspire the triumph of success and equally compensate for a fruitless season. Though the team song maybe rarely sung, the banners seldom held high and only muted barracking from the terraces be heard during a lean season, the fans still know that they and their team exist and one day renown will return. These are the things, of which the name and colours are paramount, that binds the fan to the team.

Over the last decade or so, some major Australian sites have been given the name change treatment as the acknowledgement of aboriginal culture is being encouraged. Places like Ayres Rock – Uluru -and more recently Fraser Island – K’gari – are two examples. A few months ago I saw Kel Richards – the wordsmith – on Peta Credlin’s Sky News show discussing this phenomenon. Richards pointed out that these choreographed names changes are not entirely necessary. All over the country there are thousands and thousands of aboriginal place names, which despite European settlement have remained in place and are still in use. Consequently, the recognition of aboriginal presence in Australia has been accepted from the beginning of settlement. One more name change is neither necessary or certain to inspire further acknowledgement of the reality.

But this policy to acknowledge the aboriginal presence in Australia pre-settlement is today everywhere. The AFL’s significant support of this position mirrors other organisations such as the ABC and SBS. But playing guernseys and WtC/AoC ceremonies are one thing, team name changes, even their temporary use, hold an entirely different point of tension. So while the former has been given prominence during the round, apart from the initial announcements by the clubs of their changes of name, there has been little if any further reference to the latter.

In irony of ironies the names are as lost now as they were at the time of European settlement. There are no listings in the TV guides, nor are they heard from in the match commentaries and no voice carries their vocalisations in the barracking crowds, which shows that the AFL and the Clubs know the entire thing is a bridge too far for the fans and is nothing more than a shallow gimmick. Were the names to have been taken up with the same gusto that the ABC and SBS have similarly embedded in their programming, then it could be asked legitimately whether the Melbourne, Fremantle and Port Adelaide football clubs still exist as actual AFL teams; the result of which would be what ties their supporters to these clubs?

Today in Australia all political, cultural and social roads lead to the voice and the AFL is a vocal part of this massive band wagon. But as Paul Keating famously acknowledged when he took on Bob Hawke the first time for the leadership of the ALP and hence the prime-ministership, he only had one shot in the locker. The voice is in similar territory. If it goes down the country would have dealt with it both democratically and in finito. Yes, in some quarters there will be tears. The country will survive. But unlike politics and constitutional change, a nation’s cultural heritage and artefacts, of which national sports are a major feature, are entirely something else. Consequently, using a team’s members, supporters and their artefacts of identification as cultural appropriation for a political ends is too cute by half.


32 responses to “What’s in a name?”

  1. Rafe Champion Avatar
    Rafe Champion

    Nice work BBS!

  2. sfw Avatar
    sfw

    So far most of these new aboriginal names haven’t stuck, except for Uluru, Uluru as a tourist destination is on the way out now that the climb is closed.

    Anyway, years ago the Vic Gov changed the name of the Grampians to Gariwerd or similar, that was 1989, everyone still calls it the Grampians. Up our way they changed the name of the Niggerheads to ‘The Jaithmathangs’, no one can spell it, much less pronounce it. I’ve only ever heard one person use that name since the change in 2009. To be fair I’ve rarely ever heard the name Niggerheads used either as no one really go there, or talks about it.

    In Cairns a few months ago, the airport had the Melbourne flight listed as ‘Narm’ or similar, I’ve never heard anyone use that word. It has to be an invented name as there was nothing there when the aborigines live there pre settlement. The best thing we can do is ignore this stupidity and keep using the names we all know.

  3. Roger Avatar
    Roger

    Fraser Island – K’gari

    Recently heard an ABC QLD news report referring to K’gari.

    As nobody up here, let alone anywhere else, knows where or what it refers to the announcer had to slip in Fraser Island anyway.

    It’s all a bit pretentious. In QLD, at least, where indigenous languages faded out of use many, many generations ago, we generally only know what these places were called because the explorers or later the missionaries recorded it.

  4. Christine Avatar
    Christine

    I never heard anyone complain about the many towns all over Australia that were given Aboriginal names all those years ago. Mooloolaba was ‘my’ beach and Old Woman Island had its Aboriginal name used as well.

  5. Roger Avatar
    Roger

    Oh…and while we’re on the topic of preserving history and culture, perhaps some of the German place names in SA, VIC & QLD that were erased during WWI could be restored?

  6. dopey Avatar
    dopey

    And Iron Knob will become….?

  7. wal1957 Avatar
    wal1957

    I always refer to Ayers Rock as Ayers Rock.
    K’gari Island? Nah!
    I refuse to acknowledge “preferred” pronouns or refer to a man as “she”.
    What’s in a name? I think of Mister Coon of Coon cheese fame. His family name had to be obliterated because some do-gooders were offended.

    The more you turn the other cheek the nore your ass will be reamed.
    Don’t acknowledge this woke BS.

  8. Rabz Avatar
    Rabz

    If it goes down the country would have dealt with it both democratically and in finito

    Not a chance. Collectivists will keep pushing this crap onto the populace as they won’t be able to help themselves. See also “the republic”.

    However, the more injuns and chinamen that are imported will see anything similar even more roundly rejected.

    I was stuck in a meeting the other day listening to some karen crapping on about her labore connections (including Teats Peanuthead) and that they were now resigned to the Screech going down like the Hindenburg and were consequently looking for a new “momentous legacy” they could inflict on the country.

    The polling must be really starting look bad.

  9. Bar Beach Swimmer Avatar
    Bar Beach Swimmer

    Rabz,
    That’s the point: they can scream all they want but Aussies hate being pushed, not to mention, pushed and pushed.

    Something goes down and we’re not about to revisit it. Finally, whether politicians like it or not, they’ve given up on the change to four year terms. Why, because it’s never going to get up.

    While on the republic, it’s nearly a quarter of a century and we haven’t yet made it to that second drink. The “in crowd” will continue to vent but that won’t change us.

  10. Boambee John Avatar
    Boambee John

    Rabz

    However, the more injuns and chinamen that are imported will see anything similar even more roundly rejected.

    Collectivists boast of their greater (than non-collectivists) ability to think “holistically”, but then do stupid things like import people who will reject one of their pet projects.

  11. Fair Shake Avatar
    Fair Shake

    Listening to the Weekly Sceptic there was a comment that these woke institutions in fact do not like the people they represent, in fact may even hate them. Universities, Church of England… AFL teams have become guilty of this. Brisbane Lions who I used to support came out and shit-canned Australia Day. Most of the BL supporters do not share this view. As far as Indigenous round goes…it goes for two weekends. I choose not watch as the Trough Hunters go super sensitive and look for offence in every sook and granny. They can stick their AFL up their collective Uluru.

  12. billie Avatar
    billie

    who would vote for the introduction and embedding in the constitution of a caste system?

  13. Miksa Avatar
    Miksa

    I happen to support the Melbourne football team, so for two weeks running I have had to put up with confusing and ridiculous references to ‘Naarm’ playing a team described with some other gobbledegook I have never heard of before. Australian football was basically created in the Victorian era city of Melbourne – not ‘Naarm’, a vaguely delineated area in which small tribes of indigenous people roamed around foraging for food, focussed on survival. Indeed the people of ‘Naarm’ could not have even had the faintest concept of such things as organised team competitions, codified rules, uniforms, recorded scoring, standardised equipment, etc, etc. And while I am sure that many people who identify as indigenous follow football, the vast majority of followers are not indigenous. So why are we using these silly labels?

  14. WolfmanOz Avatar
    WolfmanOz

    I really enjoy your weekly posts BBS . . . keep ’em coming.

  15. Morsie Avatar
    Morsie

    All of these special rounds are performance in nature for pollies and media.
    The only people who take note are the AFL and the media who routinely say how well accepted and embraced whatever the particular round is.
    The fans couldn’t give a rats but their opinions don’t matter.

  16. Alamak! Avatar
    Alamak!

    time for a “bogan” round or three to remind people where these sports draw there main support and who actually pays the team bills.

  17. Roger Avatar
    Roger

    Brisbane Lions who I used to support came out and shit-canned Australia Day. Most of the BL supporters do not share this view.

    How many cancelled their membership?

    “If you don’t fight you lose.”

  18. Perplexed of Brisbane Avatar
    Perplexed of Brisbane

    Rogersays:
    May 26, 2023 at 7:08 pm
    Brisbane Lions who I used to support came out and shit-canned Australia Day. Most of the BL supporters do not share this view.

    How many cancelled their membership?

    “If you don’t fight you lose.”

    The fans love their teams above all else and don’t care about anything else. Probably why they put up with the crap. Some may have their heads up their bums. But we are still (so far) free to think what we like so fair is fair.

    I recall hearing that 9/11 and the Wayne Carey shagging scandal were around the same time and a radio host commented that people were more concerned about that than the attack. A fan rang up and said something along the lines of, “I know a lot died but this really affected people.”

  19. Rabz Avatar
    Rabz

    then do stupid things like import people who will reject one of their pet projects

    Collectivists will always remain incapable of comprehending the concepts of “unintended consequences” and “opportunity cost”.

    As we are all about to discover – there is (allegedly) a lot of ruin in a nation – until there isn’t.

  20. Bar Beach Swimmer Avatar
    Bar Beach Swimmer

    Perplexed,
    how many more “incursions” will people accept?

  21. Muddy Avatar
    Muddy

    There is of course no irony in that the ability to visually depict an indigenous name is a cultural ‘appropriation.’

    In regards to professional sport, I tuned out long ago. I’d much prefer to watch the slow motion replays of the World Extreme Knitting Championships.

  22. Muddy Avatar
    Muddy

    Christine mentioned Old Woman Island on the Sunshine Coast. I’ll probably get the details backwards, but the local indig legend about Mudjimba Island involves a young woman named Maroochy (which is a conjunction of two words: Muru and Kutchie, meaning ‘red nose’ (black swans breed in the area), and two warriors from different clans: Coolum and (either Mudjimba or Tinbeerwah; my memory is very fuzzy on this). To cut a long story short, one warrior kidnapped Maroochy from a neighbouring clan; someone went to get her back, a fight ensued, and (I think) Coolum’s head was knocked off and tumbled into the sea, creating Mudjimba Island. His body – Mt. Coolum – remains. The woman Maroochy, was devastated, and her tears created the Maroochy River.

    Something like that anyway.
    The irony being that it was an early European settler who recorded that myth (now in a library local history section), otherwise it may not have survived.

  23. Rabz Avatar
    Rabz

    Professional sports has long been over, peoples.

    Follow it and you’re engaging in and enabling the civilization wrecking insanity.

    Confession – I went and watched two NRL pre-season games in late February (30 degrees in the shade) at the local sports ground (the spiritual ‘ome of one of my least favourite teams when I was a league fanatic in primary school), which is within cooee of the cottage.

    I actually enjoyed it because it was not ruined by woke idiocy – and the “local supporters” would not have tolerated it. Lots of beautiful young women as well, enjoying the possibility of “being seen” by an unrepentant alpha male. Of course, the team in question now plays most of its games every season at one of the soulless megastadia built for the sole purpose of enabling the unrepentant crony corruptocratism that we’re now blessed with. That and trying to fool (unsuccessfully) any unfortunate TV viewer’s eyes.

    We were seated directly behind a thirty something local, his woife, his infant daughter (three months?) and son (two) the former of whom easily engaged the three of us in intelligent conversation about the ground, the club, the joys of being a local (which I had to agree with) and his interpretation of events throughout the matches.

    Family, community, belief. It was the very opposite of toxic corporate megasport.

    Might have to do it again sometime, Cats. 🙂

  24. A reader Avatar
    A reader

    I cancelled my netball membership when they stopped playing something resembling netball. Deliberately came in late for the “Indigenous” round when they threw that in last minute.

    Today I’m mighty pissed that a sporting body I’ve been a member of for more than a decade has had the temerity to announce that we all support the voice. We bloody well do not..

  25. Tom Avatar
    Tom

    Tom Hafey’s Swans played my Blues on Friday night and duly saluted because, despite their surplus of talent, Carlton are playing like millionaires and are sh*tting on their supporters.

    People forget Sydney make it to last year’s GF and, under John Longmire, they’re all business no matter what their weekly injury list is. Go, West Bondi – the millionaires who deliver for their theatregoing fans because, if Sydney don’t make the finals, they lose interest.

  26. Robert Sewell Avatar

    Miksa:

    So why are we using these silly labels?

    Got me beat. Aboriginal culture is not my culture but I am expected to vote for a Voice that puts it ahead of my culture and I’m damned if I’m going to do that – they can get stuffed.

  27. Robert Sewell Avatar

    Alamak:

    time for a “bogan” round or three to remind people where these sports draw there main support and who actually pays the team bills.

    about 40 years ago, a sports commentator in the US made the point that the business class were going to turn the US Football code into a spectacle that few bothered watching or following because it would be swallowed up by the gimmicks and the ever growing parasite class which would bleed it dry.
    He hasn’t been proven right – yet. But the Australian code is showing every sign of heading that way. From a community based sport, it has morphed into a plaything of the rich, famous, and woke, and is becoming irrelevant to the communities which fostered it.

  28. Bar Beach Swimmer Avatar
    Bar Beach Swimmer

    Robert:

    From a community based sport, it has morphed into a plaything of the rich, famous, and woke, and is becoming irrelevant to the communities which fostered it.

    It’s been a long time since the AFL Commission had an actual footballer on it. All now are corporate identities. They’re ponds for particular frogs and some frogs are in numerous ponds.

  29. Louis Litt Avatar
    Louis Litt

    Mike’s
    Excellent – that is the arguement against this.
    As previously written might have been by Kuckles, Aboriginies were the closest civilisation to hunter gathers, walking around naked in the desert with a wooden spear, trying to hunt an animal. As written previously, they were not found in the tropics as the humidity washed the ash off their bodies which protected then from insects and other thing going near them.
    It’s American patriotism dressed up. Just show you what the idiot Marxist’s really want.

  30. MatrixTransform Avatar
    MatrixTransform

    AFL clubs understand their own club’s unique advantages

    what better way to stand out among your competitors.

    than having your players pronking around a footy oval with the same stupid shit on their club jumper as all the other clubs players

    marketing geniuses

    MBAs for sure

  31. Mantaray Avatar
    Mantaray

    In my neck of the woods, I suspect that plenty of indij will NOT be Voice supporters. Plenty of non-“white” Aussies too.

    Coz I live in the sticks, I do lot of stuff with part-indij folk, and my street is about 25% either part-indij or part-islander. Twice I’ve heard disdainfully from the indij “There won’t be anybody from ***** in the Voice. It’a a city thing” AND , from the islander-heritage (Kanaks) “Why would ya want those bludger Murrays telling you what to do?”

    I reckon the real problem is that white city leftists think all Aborigines are like cute golly-wogs you can cuddle before dozing off. Rag-dollies. Comfort toys for stressed urbanites.

    For leftists Marcia and Noel and Lidia and co are also kinda like fluffy little puppies: sure they grumble and look sad (hang dog?) from time to time, but geez they are just so darned adorable you just gotta pet them, and give ’em treats dontcha?

    Woof!

  32. Beertruk Avatar
    Beertruk

    “Why would ya want those bludger Murrays telling you what to do?”

    Was in the Army with a full blood TI (who was a Corporal) who absolutely despised the ‘Murrays.’ Had nothing good to say about them at all.
    If his jokes and what he said about the Murrays were said by a ‘white fella,’ the ‘white fella’ would be in a world of shit.

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