LIKE a bat out of hell, Meatloaf was gone the morning after last year's AFL grand final, but the memory of his disastrous performance is still drilled into the ears of fans. His off-key and mis-timed singing rekindled flashbacks to other grand final nightmares such as Angry Anderson bellowing from a Batmobile in 1991 and Billy Idol's power outage at the 2002 NRL grand final.
The history of grand final entertainment is a graveyard populated by has-been performers, out-of-tune warblers and mute singers silenced by myriad technical mishaps. But, this year, the winter football codes are out to right the wrongs of the past.
Rugby league will be making the most of its TV deal with Channel Nine by capitalising on the success of The Voice. Tattooed pop-band Good Charlotte, whose lead singer Joel Madden is a judge on the show, will headline the pre-match entertainment alongside Irish band, The Script. The Voice finalist, Sarah de Bono, will sing the national anthem at Sunday's game between the Bulldogs and Storm.
If any of the three acts suffer on-stage calamities such as Idol's or 42nd Street's embarrassing silent performance in 1989, they will likely be met with a mass exodus from the stands rather than 83,000 jeers.
For the first time, ticket-holders will be given access to a two-kilometre carnival precinct outside the stadium at Olympic Park. The grand final carnival features restaurants, bars, carnival rides, activities and a rugby league skills clinic.
''The NRL is breaking new ground in Australian sport with an entertainment precinct bounded by two kilometres of fencing around ANZ Stadium,'' an NRL spokesman said. ''They [the fans] want a vibrant show that is in keeping with Sydney's international status and that is exactly what we provide.''
Meanwhile, the AFL will attempt to make amends for last year's debacle by allowing 1000 members from the winning club to join the players celebrating on the pitch. Musicians Tim Rogers and Paul Kelly headline the pre-match entertainment and fellow Australians, the Temper Trap, take centre-stage at half-time during this Saturday's clash between the Sydney Swans and Hawthorn. The post-match celebrations includes a two-hour after party on the pitch of the MCG, where Kelly and the Temper Trap will return to the stage for an encore. The general public will be allowed to enter the stands after 6pm to watch the concert, even if they don't have a ticket to the game.
''We've moved on [from Meatloaf]. Our brand this year is 'Australia's game' … It was natural for us to work with Australian music this year to cap that off,'' the AFL general manager of strategy and marketing, Andrew Catterall, said. ''Clearly we want to set a new standard this year and we would love the AFL grand final stage to be held as high a regard in Australia as what the Super Bowl stage is held in America.''