One of Australian Rules football’s most iconic and unique traditions, the footy banner, has been documented into a must-read coffee table book for all footy fans.
Available via the MCG Shop both in-store and online, Footy Banners: A Complete Run-Through is a deep dive into the traditions and stories behind the humble banner, brought together by co-authors Leigh Meyrick and Matt Hagias, and published by Simon & Schuster Australia.
A collection of historical images, stories and unforgettable moments that pay homage to one of Australian Rules football’s longest-lasting rituals, Meyrick and Hagias cover banners in all shapes, sizes, materials and messages; from the funny to the offensive, and the emotional to the political.
Banners at the MCG can be dated back to the 1930s, starting as a loose tapestry of woven streamers and first came to prominence in the 1939 VFL Grand Final between Melbourne and Collingwood.
And while the current pandemic climate has forced some temporary changes, Meyrick says the banner has become an essential element of the pre-match build-up for more than 80 years.
“Right from their very origins in the 1930s, banners have allowed fans to connect with their heroes and that remains to this very day,” Meyrick said.
“We wanted to tell the best banners stories but obviously with a book of this nature, we relied upon the images to help tell these tales.
“We’ve spent countless hours trolling various photo archives to pull together this collection and we believe anyone who picks up the book will feel a connection with the passionate banner makers associated.”
Hagias said the idea for the book spawned between the two authors, who grew up in Adelaide and Perth respectively, over a quiet beer, before they then set about to uncover stories from cheer squad members, administrators, players and coaches.
“We feel the stories behind the banners deserve to be told because there are hours upon hours spent on them every week for them to literally be ripped apart in a fleeting moment as the players enter the ground,” Hagias said.
“And while it’s the funny banners that are most often celebrated, we wanted to shine a light on the many different tones that banners can take.
“There are heartfelt banners that pay tributes to club greats, there are banners that celebrate historic milestones, there are banners that challenge authority and there are those that push the boundaries of political correctness.”
The journey of writing the book has taken both Meyrick and Hagias to various corners of Australia, where their favourite stories (to date) have been told.
A publishing deadline, page limit and burgeoning plethora of stories to tell have led them to create a tie-in Footy Banners podcast.
Available wherever you get your podcasts from, the podcast’s special guests have ranged from Western Bulldogs chief banner writer, Danny McGinlay to former Collingwood and GWS GIANTS 300-gamer, Heath Shaw to cover topics from banner creation, meaning and even the superstitious relationship that players have had with running through the banner.
In the book, when it comes to stories that strike a chord, for Meyrick, he points to the story behind Kevin Bartlett’s 400th VFL game at the MCG, a story that not even Kevin himself was fully aware of until interviewed for the book.
For Hagias, it is a chat with former Richmond cheer squad member David Norman, and the meaning behind the Tigers’ banner the day after the death of Jack Dyer.
But for both authors, they feel that readers will discover a new-found soft-spot for this tradition that is unique to the game that is loved nation-wide.
“We feel we’ve written a book that sports lovers from all backgrounds will be able to easily pick up and enjoy – not just because of the stories but because of the iconic moments, now forever frozen via powerful imagery too,” Meyrick said.
“Hopefully people experience a wave of emotions and learn something new along the way.
“Ultimately, moving forward, if people think twice about banners while at the footy – and also spare a thought for the passionate people behind them – we’ve done our job and will be very proud."
Footy Banners: A Complete Run-Through is available for purchase in-store and online at the MCG Shop from $30.