AFL's amazing automotive moments

Here are five good and bad ways cars have been entwined with our national game.

Richmond Jeep Jpg

A word about sponsors

The motoring industry is a keen supporter of the Australian Football League. Toyota has been its major sponsor since 2004 and has just inked a record $74 million four-year contract that for the first time will include the AFLW (women's competition).

AFL supporters span all social demographics across each state, which makes the sport fertile ground for car manufacturers. A 2014 survey showed that on average, around 13 percent of football club members intended to buy a new car in the next four years.

Ford Ranger Joel Selwood Patrick Dangerfield

Which is why Toyota is happy to dish out $18.5 million per year and why other brands feature on team jumpers.

Incredibly, Ford recognised football’s marketing potential as early as 1925, when it started building Model Ts in Geelong and decided to sponsor the local footy team.

The blue oval has been a fixture at the Geelong Football Club ever since, which is one of the longest sponsor partnerhips in the world. The company also supports the Cats' AFLW side and the relationship looks like enduring despite the closure of the local engine plant. 

The Adelaide Crows have enjoyed Toyota Sponsorship since joining the AFL in 1991 and for a time a marketing campaign saw the side called the Camry Crows. And this year was the 21st that North Melbourne featured the Mazda logo on its jumpers.

Rory Sloan Adelaide Crows

Other car companies involved as major or key sponsors with AFL clubs in 2019 include:

The Batmobile

The words ‘shameful’, ‘car’ and ‘AFL’ in the same sentence could refer to a litany of player drink-driving offences but they’re equally apt for one of the most cringeworthy episodes in the game’s history that doesn’t involve The Footy Show.

Yes, we’re talking about the pre-game entertainment at the 1991 Grand Final, when singer Angry Anderson and marathon champion Robert De Castella sheepishly entered the ground in a daggy blue winged-car which that was instantly nicknamed the Batmobile – an insult to the Caped Crusader’s excellent taste in modified cars.

In front of 75,000 people at Waverley Park (the MCG was being redeveloped) the car, based on a 1970 Chrysler Valiant VG coupe, stopped in the middle of the ground before Anderson stood up and – we hope with a sense of irony – sang his hit Bound for Glory.

A curious aside was the 14 Aussie-built Ford Capri convertibles parked in the centre square containing Brownlow Medallist Jim Stynes, retiring players and other dignitaries, whose bemusement at the unfolding spectacle turned to laughter that only stopped during Meat Loaf’s Grand Final performance 20 years later.

Jonathan Brown v Hyundai

Brisbane Lions hard man Jonathan Brown was hit by a car while riding with a group of 20 cyclists on the Gold Coast a month after the 2012 Grand Final. He was taken to hospital but was released a short time later after receiving 10 stiches on his left elbow.

Brown described the incident as a hiccup and was right as rain by the time pre-season training began a few weeks later.

The Hyundai i30, however, appeared to come off second best and was towed away after sustaining a badly damaged windscreen and broken side mirror. 

Sam Newman's Lambos

Former Geelong ruckman and The Footy Show star Sam Newman has to be the footy world’s biggest rev-heads among (yes we meant rev). He dabbled in motorsport a few years ago, racing everything from Holden Vectras to Lamborghini Diablos, and owns a collection of vintage and prestige cars. He has also owned a string of Lambos including a Diablo, a Murciélago and no fewer than three Aventadors.

Newman’s Lambo fetish turned sour in March 2006 when, several months after taking delivery of a yellow Murciélago roadster, the company released the more powerful Murciélago LP 640. Newman reportedly sued for the $750,000 cost of the car, claiming he was assured that no improved model was pending. Prior to that, he had taken the yellow terror to the Northern Territory to try out the speed limit-free roads, apparently clocking up 300km/h.

His beef with Lambo didn’t last long – in 2011 he became the first person in Australia to take delivery of an Aventador (see video) and is apparently now on his third, a blue LP 750 SuperVeloce.

Not in the pink

Former Sydney Swans owner Dr Geoffrey Edelsten is one of the more flamboyant characters in the game’s history and is still invited to the Brownlow Medal presentation so the media can comment on what his latest wife is barely wearing.

Edelsten epitomised 1980s excess with his helicopter and stable of exotic cars, including an Aston Martin Lagonda and Ferrari 308. The popular perception today is that all his vehicles – including the chopper – were painted pink. After all, he made his millions by decking out medical centres like discos.

Dr Geoffrey Edelsten Getty

But the fact is Edelsten’s helicopter was a conservative blue and white, and the only pink car in his garage was one he gave to his then wife Laeanne for her 21st birthday – a De Tomaso Pantera.

Edelsten’s obsession with expensive cars continued and in 2012 three were stolen from the car park below his Melbourne CBD apartment – a black and gold Lamborghini Aventador, a blue Mercedes SLS Gullwing and his then wife Brynn’s BMW 335i. The cars, worth more than $1.4 million combined, were all eventually recovered.


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