Australian politicians love nothing better than a bit of stage-managed sporting fandom. In honour of the AFL and NRL grand finals weekend, Crikey has put together a brief collection of politicians’ dalliances with sport, from the disingenuous and opportunistic, to the downright cringe-worthy.

Scott Morrison backs Perth

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is, of course, a true blue Cronulla Sharks fan. But when it comes to the AFL, his loyalties are a little more questionable. Ahead of this week’s AFL Grand Final, the PM announced he was backing ‘Perth’. We’ll give ScoMo the benefit of the doubt and assume he means the West Coast Eagles. But just weeks ago, Morrison appeared alongside Liberal MP Tim Wilson in a Melbourne Demons scarf. A series of tweets from back in 2009 show Morrison professing a love for the Western Bulldogs. As someone from north of the Barassi Line, Morrison’s indifference towards the AFL can probably be excused. His constant bandwagon jumping, less so. Just pick a bloody team!

Here’s to Hawkie, he’s true blue

Projecting a heartfelt love of sport was a key part of Bob Hawke’s Rhodes Scholar turned everyday relateable larrikin schtick. Nothing sums this up better than Australia’s America’s Cup win in 1983. Decked in a jacket emblazoned with the word ‘Australia’ (that in 2018 would no doubt be turned into some kind of meme), Hawke famously declared that “any boss who sacks anyone for not turning up today is a bum!” Ever the irreverent larrikin, a septuagenarian Hawke can still be found sculling beers in the SCG stands. 

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Fake Collingwood fans I: Paul Keating

Unlike his predecessor Hawke, Paul Keating had more time for Mahler symphonies than he did for sport (he once reportedly walked past the entire Australian cricket team without recognising a single face). Nobody really fell for the Bankstown boy’s attempt to pass for a Collingwood fan. Given the pies had one of the AFL’s largest, most solidly working-class fan bases, the PM’s allegiance seemed a little too opportunistic. To his credit, Keating didn’t try too hard to hide his indifference, once describing rugby league player Steve Roach as having “kicked a lot of a tries for Balmain”.

Tony Abbott and ‘Mike’ Jedinak

Abbott, the one-time mediocre boxer, budgie-smuggler aficionado, and former Manly Sea Eagles No. 1 ticket holder has never struggled to prove his athletic bona fides. His knowledge of football, however, has been found wanting. On the eve of the 2014 World Cup, then-prime minister Tony Abbott donned a green and gold scarf to wish the Socceroos well before their opening group game against Chile. But in characteristic gaffe, Abbott managed to get the name of Socceroos captain Mile Jedinak wrong, sending a message instead to “Ange, Mike and the Socceroos”. Much like Abbott’s adventure leading the government, the Socceroos’ adventure in Brazil was short-lived. 

Fake Collingwood Fans II: Bill Shorten

A quick glance at Bill Shorten’s social media accounts would indicate that the Opposition Leader is a true-blue Collingwood fan. But like his allegiance to prime ministers, Shorten’s loyalty to footy teams is subject to change. Once upon a time, Shorten was a South Melbourne fan. When the Swans migrated north to Sydney, Shorten jumped ship to Collingwood. A solid choice for an aspiring Victorian Labor hack. 

John Howard’s leggies

John Howard’s regular morning walks kitted out in a Wallabies tracksuit epitomised his “daggy dad” aesthetic. So too did his “tragic” love of cricket. But Howard’s most tragicomic sporting moment came on the dustbowls of Pakistan, where the then PM was invited to have a bowl. Rather shamefully, he managed not to land a single delivery on the pitch

Honourable mentions

Just last week, Bill Shorten tried his hand at some awkward banter with Melbourne Storm captain Cameron Smith. “You’ve had your finals, mine’s not till May of next year,” Shorten ribs.

In 2010, just weeks before the knifing of Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard (a diehard Western Bulldogs fan), announced that she had more chance of playing full forward for the Western Bulldogs than becoming PM.

Turning briefly to the UK, former British PM David Cameron, a self-confessed Aston Villa fan, once rather embarrassingly forgot which claret- and blue-coloured football team he supports.

And finally, here’s Kevin Rudd playing handball at a high school visit in 2013. He hasn’t looked this happy since November 2007. 

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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