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The winner of the 2021 AFL grand final is Baker Boy’s tracksuit

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There have been some legendary AFL grand final pre-game performances over the years, and some… less so, but 2021’s somewhat mismatched group of Aussie talent has hit the right notes.

It’s a tough ask to produce a performance that’ll impress everyone at such a hyped-up event, but the combination of Baker Boy, Eskimo Joe, John Butler, Stella Donnelly and more appeared to go down well with fans.

Centred around Western Australian-based artists, the judging eyes of thousands were on Perth Stadium — but considering the venue for the grand final was only confirmed a month ago, the production was nothing to sneeze at.

As a matter of tradition, after the Welcome to Country from Dr Richard Walley, the crowd sang along to Up There Cazaly with Mike Brady, who made a virtual appearance from locked-down Melbourne. 

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The live performances kicked off with a rendition of AC/DC’s Thunderstruck led by guitarist Abbe May — from the roof of Perth Stadium, no less — then it was down to the field.

Coordinated pastel costumes, immaculate choreography and a digeridoo breakdown? Brilliant.(

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Big love for Baker Boy

There was an element of confusion when the camera zoomed in on Yolngu artist Baker Boy while a caption saying “Kylie Minogue” flashed across the bottom of the screen — but the mash-up of Spinning Around and Meditjin quickly got the on-field party started.

Kicking off a dance sequence surrounded by backup performers, Baker Boy and his entourage were magic in pastel (and they were the only ones who got the memo about matching costumes). 

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The energy and talent kept coming with the addition of a didgeridoo solo in amongst dance breaks, sparking some renewed calls for the Young Australian of the Year to represent us at Eurovision next year.

We’re not sure how Baker Boy himself feels about this, but fans are making a pretty strong case for the multi-talented artist to try for a ticket to Italy in 2022. 

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Mixing the classic with the contemporary

John Butler left his trio at home, but still appeared to impress with a guitar solo to bring in a rendition of Great Southern Land. 

Stella Donnelly, Donna Simpson and Vikki Thorn of The Waifs, Gina Williams and Guy Ghouse all jumped in to help with the stadium-wide sing-along, before Eskimo Joe launched into their hit Black Fingernails Red Wine. 

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The combination of originals and covers continued with a version of INXS’s Kick — the band started their performance spread out on individual mini-stages dotted around the centre of the ground, but lead singer Kav Tamperley did jump onto a raised platform directly in front of the crowd at one point — to the horror of COVID-safe marshalls and everyone in Sydney and Melbourne, we can only assume. 

Speaking of classics, we then crossed live to California where a footy-scarf-clad Colin Hay of Men At Work zooms in from the beach to kick off Land Down Under, before being joined by all the entertainers on stage at the stadium to round out the set. 

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Despite the occasional dig about the vintage of some of the acts, all in all, the performances went off without a hitch.

Soprano Amy Manford’s performance of Advance Austraila Fair rounded out the pre-show entertainment, with Birds of Tokyo dropping in at half-time with a similar pattern of covers/originals combined.

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Memorable entertainment of grand finals past

It’s been a decade since Meatloaf graced the stage at the 2011 AFL grand final, in a performance that has remained at the forefront of many an AFL fan’s mind — whether those reasons are good or bad is a matter of personal opinion. 

This time last year we were still getting our heads around both interstate and international border closures, but a group of Australian artists including Cub Sport, DMAs, Sheppard, Busby Marou and Thelma Plum appeared at the Gabba after Brisbane’s finest Powderfinger declined an offer to play.

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From Ed Sheeran to Jimmy Barnes to Delta Goodrem, there have been plenty of memorable AFL grand final performances over the years.

Premiership-winning Jack Riewoldt living his best life on stage with The Killers after the 2017 final is a stand-out for many but he hasn’t given up football for a career on stage, yet.

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