As the countdown continues towards the Tasmanian Devils joining the AFL in 2028, answers to the questions surrounding this much-anticipated new team are gradually trickling in.

We now know where the team will play, what colours it will wear, and who its CEO will be

But one question that remains could be one of the more challenging to answer.

What will they sing?

Crafting a club theme song is a minefield of creative decision-making for whoever chooses to accept it, not least because you have 18 other songs, which a hyper-partisan fanbase is waiting with baited breath to compare it to.

ABC Sport asked two artists who recently took on the challenge what they thought a Tasmanian club theme song should have.

‘What the hell is this?’

The AFL’s most recent club theme song is also among its most recognisable.

Greater Western Sydney’s tune is the first in a minor key, which creator Harry Angus said is what gives it that Eastern European feel.

But he said in other ways, the Giants song sticks closely to tradition.

“Because my background is in old-time Jazz and brass instruments, I have a real interest in that early era of recorded music, and I knew how to arrange it and record it in a way that slotted in with some of the classic team songs,” Angus told ABC Sport.

“All the old VFL club songs come from ragtime hits, so that’s what I brought to it.

“That would be my advice to the Tassie (club song) songwriter — there are very strong formulas, so as long as it fits that formula it kind of feels right.”

Collingwood and Carlton’s songs were written by players in the early 20th century, while Fitzroy player Bill Stephen used the French national anthem as the basis for his club’s song in 1952.

AFL club song census:

– Six are in the key of G major

– Nine are based off early-20th century tunes

– Four have brass hooks before the words begin

– Two have banjo in them

– Three are power ballads

– Two have key changes mid-song

Input from the Giants’ first playing group was also crucial to the success of Angus’ song, and he said their advice was informed by the experience of fellow expansion side Gold Coast.

“When the Suns finally won a game, they didn’t know the song very well, and they kind of weren’t prepared to give it that rousing post-game chorus down in the rooms,” he said.

“I met with the players and the coaching staff and they were pretty keen that when they won a game, they’d be able to belt it out.”

Harry James Angus wrote the GWS club theme song drawing on player feedback and his expertise in early 20th century Jazz and ragtime.

Angus – formerly of the Cat Empire – said the Giants requested words in the song that they could shout.

This is how the syncopated “we will never surrender” line near the end came to be, a line he famously plucked from Winston Churchill.

“I think it was (then-Giants assistant coach) Mark Williams who said we needed a ‘yellow and black’ moment, like in the Richmond song when the whole crowd yells it,” Angus said.

“Kevin Sheedy also had a number of interesting things to say about it. He wanted the song to be based on Road to Gundagai, which is the most common football song that hasn’t been used in the AFL. But we ran out of time.

“To their credit when they did win a game, (GWS players) absolutely smashed it out of the park. You’d think they’d been singing the song for a hundred years.

“A lot of people when it first came out thought ‘what the hell is this?’, but after a while everyone got what I was trying to do.” 

The creative process

It is also common for alterations to be made to existing club songs or unofficial club songs to sit alongside the offical ones. 

The “premiership’s a cakewalk” briefly disappeared from Collingwood’s song in the 80s, while Geelong introduced “the Cat Attack” in the 90s to sit alongside We Are Geelong.

In 2011, Fremantle cast off the last vestiges of the Russian folk tune its song is built on, and St Kilda has flirted with “I do like to be beside the seaside”, and a Mike Brady original.

The Lions did away entirely with the lyrics and tune of the Brisbane Bears’ “Dare to be the Bear” after the merger with Fitzroy.

Most recently, West Coast reworked its team song, enlisting local songwriter and lifelong fan Ian Berney to create some verses around the “We’re Flying High” chorus.

Berney remembers fondly the Eagles’ first premiership when he was five, and the feeling of excitement that he might meet Chris Mainwaring every time he went to his local takeaway.

The song was just as much a part of his childhood.

Perth songwriter and bassist Ian Berney added female voices and an Indigenous pneumonic when he reworked the West Coast Eagles song in 2020.(ABC Sport: Alexander Darling)

“The original version of the West Coast theme song had the theme of ‘you’ve taken all our players for years’. It was a big ‘stick it’ to the east coast clubs saying, ‘now we’ve got our own club and we’re gonna show you how it’s done’,” he said.

“It’s really fun, and (I was) trying to reconnect that feeling.”

The Eagles also asked Berney to include the recently built stadium and the distances the team has to travel to play its east coast matches.

“When we say we’re proud of our isolation, that is kind of West Coast winning their four premierships in a relatively short span of time, and we’ve had to cross the nation every time to do it,” he said.

A different sport also inspired Berney — specifically the Australian cricket team’s renditions of Under the Southern Cross I Stand by Banjo Patterson.

“I really liked that visceral sound that the players had, so we built a chant out of the verses which the club kicks off with now if they win,” he said.

A fan’s touch

In recent months, Tasmanians have been making the case that one of their own should write the Devils’ song.

It’s a call that makes sense to Angus, who hopes the finished product sounds like it’s been around for 100 years.

“I think it would be awesome to see an Indigenous Tasmanian musician write the song,” he said.

“It would be super cool for the song to pay tribute to the cultural history that already exists in Tasmanian football, and maybe it will be drawn from an older club song.”

Berney said the fact he’s an Eagles supporter made all the difference to the lyrics he’s proud of.

“The line about ‘the colours that we share are the West Coast sky’. I didn’t think about that growing up, that blue and yellow as a reflection of the sun going down over the seas, which is a very different experience (compared to) the east coast of Australia,” he said.

“So I wanted to put that into the lyrics, because they had the foresight to make those the colours of the Eagles.”

Young Tasmanian footballers display the foundation guernsey design at the official launch.(ABC News: Luke Bowden)

What is a club song meant to achieve?

Whoever writes Tasmania’s song will also use history to draw on as Berney did for the Eagles. The state has been playing Australian rules since the 1860s, with unique native animals, landmarks and a list of football alumni that speaks for itself.

Berney expects that whatever the Tasmanian Devils are given to sing when they win, it will have a “love and hate” element.

“If you do a masterpiece that’s great, but it’s all just fun and about trying to bring people together,” he said.

While Berney’s song references the club’s history, Angus’ song is itself part of GWS history.

The song had its moment in the sun leading up to the Giants playing the 2019 Grand Final, popping up in memes and internet remixes.

“I wish I could talk to as many journalists as I do when the Giants get into a final as when I release new music,” Angus said.

But the most special feedback has come from the club itself.

“I’ve had people from the club come back to me and talk about how much the whole idea of ‘Never Surrender’ — which they requested — has become part of the club’s architecture and their psychological approach to the game,” he said.

“I don’t really know how I got there, I just did it, but it made sense in the end.”

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