Go Cats!

Geelong town will be exploding tonight after the Cats classic win over the Magpies in the AFL Grand Final. This is Geelong’s ninth premiership and its third flag in five years so to honour the victory, this post is for all you footy-mad Catters out there. I must confess to knowing nothing about football (a bunch a blokes running after a ball in a paddock just perplexes me) but since this is important to 99% of the Geelong population even I have got into the festivities of the occasion… GO CATS!

Some of you may be familiar with a painting which has hung in the Geelong Social Club titled Geelong – Team of the Century by former AFL footballer and Melbourne artist, Jamie Cooper. According to the artist’s website, it was bought for $41,000 by TV personality Sam Newman who lent it to the club.

Jamie Cooper, Geelong – Team of the Century.  Image courtesy of the artist. www.jcap.com.au

The figurative painting is based on a photo taken at Geelong’s victorious 1925 grand final, when the Cats won by 10 points against Collingwood. Cooper has kept the same poses but painted Geelong champions from different eras to create a ‘Team of the Century’. The footballers are arranged in chronological order with the earlier players on the left and more recent players on the right. Some of the players in the painting include Joe Salter (bottom left) who wears a black armband symbolising his death in WW1, Alec Eason who has two fingers missing on his right hand yet still managed to excel at the game, Billy Goggin who is below Polly Farmer, wingman Leo Turner and the great Gary Ablett.

With the passage of time, the styles of uniforms change across the painting, as do the drink bottles. The sepia tones of yesteryear merge into the full colour of the modern day. In the background the evolving grandstands of the club are depicted – the stand at Corio Oval, Kardinia Park’s Brownlow/Young Stand and the Skilled Stadium Ford Grandstand.

To the left, a black cat symbolises the club’s nickname. The Official AFL Website of the Geelong Football Club, notes that the informal name of ‘the Cats’ was adopted after a run of losses early in the 1923 season, prompting a cartoonist to suggest Geelong needed a black cat to bring it good luck. However the artist has a different explanation. He states on his website: The black cat at Rankin’s feet is due to his role in creating the club’s name as the Cats. He apparently brought a souvenir to a game that he received from a relative’s trip to South America. It had a cat painted on it and the team had an unexpected win that day. He was told to bring it again as good luck and so started a winning streak that saw the adoption of the nickname.

Whatever the origin of the nickname, the Geelong football team has a long history being the second oldest club in the league and was called ‘the Seagulls’ in the early days.

The football club artwork is one of a series of ‘Team of the Century’ paintings that Cooper has completed. His first Team of the Century work was for Carlton in 1999. Since then he has painted many icons in Australian sporting culture as well as overseas sporting legends. Cooper is one of four artists in JCAP, a company which specialise in documenting cultural and sporting history with artwork, from single portraits to large-scale paintings and limited edition print runs. You can find out more about Cooper’s work on the company website www.jcap.com.au.


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