AFL: is your team Liberal or Labor?

In case you’ve recently been on a jaunt to Mars, an election looms. And you can be as certain as a betting ad invading your sensory field within the next 10 seconds that our politicians have been tapping into the pre-eminent cultural phenomenon that is Australian sport in order to enjoy some reflected glory.

We are going to run through a list of some of the most intemperate, arch and potty mouthed politicos, power-brokers and social climbers in Australian history in order to understand how some Australian Rules teams came to enjoy their historical reputations.

Fans may disagree with the political verdicts below, but we’re not talking about the politics of the suburbs or political orientation of the fans, but the historical and prevailing politics of the clubs’ leading lights.


Patron/founder Redmond ‘The Hanging Judge’ Barry: the judge responsible for sentencing Ned Kelly to death and known for hating the ‘low Irish mob’. Other interests included windbaggery, as evidenced by a lecture he delivered to workmen at the completion of the State Library of Victoria, which by accounts was “a strange compound of classic history, obscure philology and medieval gleanings”.
No1 ticket holder Robert ‘Eyebrows’ Menzies: Australia’s longest serving PM, Conservative and anti-communist crusader. Menzies loved his luxurious Bentley so much that he arranged for a special ramp to be constructed at Princes Park so that he could watch his beloved Blues from the confines of that stately automobile away from the riff-raff.
Typical club president John ‘Pig’s Arse’ Elliot: former Liberal party president and longest serving Carlton president, who was bowled out after presiding over salary cap breaches.
Political geography Red
Aberrations Frederick Bromley: THC President, long standing MLA and state Labor leader. Carlton president in 1895.
Verdict: Liberal wets


Patron/founder John Hancock: apprentice compositor, president of Trades Hall Council (THC), first THC endorsed Labor candidate for Collingwood. After strike breaking by soldiers during the maritime dispute of 1890, stated the sight of a soldier made him sick.
No1 ticket holder The democratic Pies have never been big on No1 ticket holders, but the closest thing was Paul Keating: the boilermaker’s son and Labor PM who preferred a Wagnerian opera to sport and thought tries were a feature of Australian Rules football.
Typical club president Eddie McGuire: Republican advocate, Broady boy, fan of a little bit of socialism in footy – his brother Frank is a Labor MP in Victoria.
Political geography Red
Aberrations Justice John Madden – bête noir of Magpie benefactor, John Wren – was a key Collingwood patron who launched an unsuccessful parliamentary sortie as a Conservative.
Verdict Staunchly Labor


Patron/founder Alexander McCracken: Scotch College boy who inherited his father’s brewery before it went belly-up, but soon became director of Carlton and United Breweries. Was president of the Royal Agricultural Society and first president of the VFL. Was a massive dabbler in sport and associated activities who died of cirrhosis of the liver.
No1 ticket holder Peter ‘Dollar Sweets’ Costello and Andrew ‘the Perfumed Gigolo’ Peacock climbed to the upper echelons of the Liberal Party and enjoyed No1 position at Windy Hill. Sadly the political ice-cream dropped on their respective pants before they took a lick of PM flavour.
Typical club president Wally Crichton, Liberal Party councillor and club president who was deeply concerned about the socialist octopus.
Political geography Red
Aberrations Lindsay Tanner, the erstwhile Rudd supporter who returned to the soil.
Verdict Liberal


Patron/founder Co-founded in 1883 by businessman George Toms and former Fitzroy mayor John MacMahon.
No1 ticket holder ‘Heavy’ Kevy Rudd: is, like Keating, not quite a No1 ticket holder but his nerdish seal claps and desire to get into the frame for electoral purposes can never be forgotten. We know he’ll wish the fellows all the best for 2014 and do Queenslanders proud.
Typical club president Sir Robert Best: started as a solicitor before entering politics in 1883 where he went from protectionist liberal, to Liberal to Nationalist. Best enjoyed the faint praise of the conservative Punch for “an overwhelming love of adjectives and heavy sentences”. President from 1897 to 1910.
Political geography Red
Aberrations The world war two Labor PM, John Curtin, was an earnest supporter of Fitzroy and his nephew Claude was the clubs leading goal-kicker for a few years in the 1940s. The ‘red ragger from the east’ was an anti-conscriptionist during world war one, whose beliefs at that stage were born of pacifism and a Marxian analysis of war as an outgrowth of capitalism.
Verdict Wildly swinging.


Patron/founder Tom Wills – son of the wealthy pastoralist and strident nationalist Horatio – was schooled at the prestigious English public school Rugby before returning to the antipodes. And Captain Fraser, a commander in the Maori war.
No1 ticket holder Billy Brownless’s foray into conservative politics was sad and ill-fated. However he and the club top brass did convince Felicity Kennett to take the mantle of No1 female ticket-holder, despite the fact she was a Hawthorn supporter.
Typical club president Jack Jennings: hotel owner and Barwon councillor. Political persuasion uncertain.
Political geography Marginal
Aberrations Steve Bracks, the affable former Labor Premier with big hands.
Verdict Liberal


Patron/founder Michael O’Grady: head of an insurance agency and appointed a Knight of St Gregory by the reactionary Pope Pius IX.
No1 ticket holder Ex-Victorian Liberal premier ‘Bloody Jeff’ Kennett – hater of public transport and organised workers, lover of casinos – was a former No1 ticket holder, later became president of Hawthorn.
Typical club president Jacob Jona: responsible for spawning long-serving state Liberal MP, Walter Jona.
Political geography Blue
Aberrations None
Verdict Rusted on Liberal


Patron/founder Tom Wills (see Geelong).
No1 ticket holder Rupert Murdoch was mooted as Melbourne’s No1 ticket-holder in 1981. But it was Sir Keith MacPherson, former owner of the conservative Herald and Weekly Times who enjoyed that position from 1982-84.
Typical club president Failed federal Liberal leader Billy Snedden was the ultimate kiss of death for a club heavily veiled under a cloak of fogeyism. As in politics, so too in football, Snedden was bolloxed in a fiery Melbourne members meeting in 1985, resigning the next year.
Political geography Blue
Aberrations None
Verdict Liberal heartland

North Melbourne

Patron/founder James Gardiner was born on the London docks and earned his fortune as a perambulator manufacturer. An avowed protectionist, he became mayor of North Melbourne in 1894 but would later butt heads with North Melbourne Labor heavyweight George Prendergast.
No1 ticket holder Simon Crean: the ALP former Grand Poobah was as popular outside the Labor Party as Robespierre was as a member of the Committee of Public Safety in revolutionary France.
Typical club president George Prendergast: apprentice printer, THC president, stump orator, Labor MLA, anti-conscriptionist and Victorian Premier. Described by the conservative Punch as ‘a violent demagogue’ for his services to the labour cause.
Political geography Red
Aberrations John-Michael Howson, hysterical commander of Tony Abbott’s cultural praetorian guard.
Verdict Solid Labor


Patron/founder HCA Harrison was the son of a sea captain who spent his career as a public servant. Some say the founder was James Charles, of which little is known.
No1 ticket holder Sir Dallas Brooks was a Briton educated at Dover College, a royal marine, all-rounder for Cambridge University, future governor of Victoria and grand master of the Victorian freemasons.
Typical club president Frank Tudor started his working life at a sawmill and boot factory before entering the felt hatter trade where he became a union organiser. Tudor was an opponent of conscription, supporter of home rule in Ireland, Labor whip and federal Labor leader after the defection of Billy Hughes. Richmond president from 1908 to 1918.
Political geography Red
Aberrations William Trenwith: pugilist, early trade unionist then Labor apostate.
Verdict Labor

South Melbourne/Sydney

Patron/founder Andrew Lyell: one of the club’s first patrons, businessman, devotee of JS Mill, free trade advocate and MLA. He was prominent in negotiations during bitter industrial contretemps, such as the 1890 maritime dispute.
No1 ticket holder Bob ‘the silver-haired bodgie’ Hawke: popular Labor PM, noted for his prowess with a yard-glass and champion of The Accord, which emasculated trade unions. Hawke jettisoned his ticket-holder status when Dr Edelsten – famous for private medical practices with chandeliers, grand pianos and mink-covered exam tables – became president.
Typical club president George Elmslie: a stonemason and trade unionist who hoped to establish “the unification of the workers in one all-comprehensive and extensive union” and went on to become the first Labor premier of Victoria.
Political geography (in the South Melbourne era) Red
Aberrations Henry ‘the Commercial Bismarck’ Skinner made his fortune in catering and booze and was known for his lavish public generosity, although in private he made his waiters empty their pockets at shift’s end and claimed the property as his. Was El Prez from 1904 to 1911.
Verdict Hard Labor

St Kilda

Patron/founder James J Casey: a 19th-century oddity, Casey was educated at Galway College and worked as a gaol warder on a Mississippi steamboat before arriving in Australia where he took proprietorship of some local newspapers. He became a judge, public servant and politician with a mixed bag of views encompassing federalism, naturalisation and temperance.
No1 ticket holder Eric ‘Chopper’ Bana: humble showbizzer.
Typical club president Graham Huggins: businessman and enlightened despot who engineered the move to Moorabbin.
Political geography Marginal
Aberrations Lindsay Fox, transport magnate and mate of Bill Kelty. Hot-and-cold political dabbler.
Verdict Swinging

Western Bulldogs

Patron/founder Charlie Lovett: publican, wine merchant, artist and club captain.
No1 ticket holder Julia ‘the Welsh Wonder’ Gillard and one time love interest of Big Bad Bustling Barry Hall. Patron saint of lost left Labor causes like socialism and feminism. Remember her?
Typical club president David Smorgon: western-suburbs steel merchant and Byzantine dabbler in conservative politics.
Political geography Red
Aberrations Nicola Roxon: young Labor firebrand and avowed daughter of the West
Verdict Marginal Labor

*Originally appeared in The Guardian