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by Johnson Leung reporting for AFANA in Melbourne

The pre-match entertainment line-up for Saturday's Grand Final between Geelong and Port Adelaide has undergone a significant revamp. In a pre-match show that overturns tradition and emphasizes "multimedia elements", some familiar features have been omitted. The AFL, working with new event producer Peter Jones Special Events (replacing Kerrie Hayes Productions), have ditched giant banners, the Roulettes formation flyers, and the traditional motorcade of retiring players. Peter Jones Special Events boss Peter Jones said that the rendition of Waltzing Matilda, a traditional element for 20 years, might also not be retained for this year.

The revamp also sees this year's Australian Idol finalists being omitted from the pre-match line-up. It is only the second time in the five years of the televised talent competition that its singers have been overlooked.  A Channel Ten spokeswoman confirmed the AFL's decision not to include the 12 Idol finalists, claiming the game wanted to "boost" its pre-match entertainment by including "bigger name international acts who may even help flog the game overseas". (Ten have the rights to both the GF and Australian Idol this year)  The spokeswoman denied rumours that Idol finalists were upset at not being able to perform at the MCG before an expected crowd of 90,000. "No, they're all excited that they get to perform in Federation Square on the Wednesday before the Grand Final, so they'll still be performing to a crowd of tens of thousands," she said.

The Idol finalists snub comes after the AFL revealed that pop singer and former TV soap star Natalie Bassingthwaighte would sing the Australian national anthem before the start of the match.  Bassingthwaighte, lead singer with the Rogue Traders, said from Los Angeles that to sing Advance Australia Fair on match day was "an amazing honour". "To sing at the grand final is an opportunity of a lifetime. To perform at the MCG, in the city I call home, on the last Saturday in September is very exciting," she said.

Bassingthwaighte's performance comes ahead of the release of the band's highly anticipated third studio album Better in the Dark on October 13. The first single from the album, Don't You Want to Feel, will be released on the day of the GF.  Bassingthwaighte, who played Izzy Hoyland in long-running soap Neighbours from 2003 to 2006, will share top billing at the MCG with home-grown rockers Jet. Both Rogue Traders and Jet are pushing into the lucrative US market.

A new feature for the GF pre-match this year will be a parade of as many as 100 AFL-VFL premiership cups, collected from the 15 clubs that have won over the years. Essendon great James Hird will be farewelled alongside fellow AFL retirees including Glenn Archer, Luke Darcy, Anthony Koutoufides and Mark Ricciuto. Coaching greats Kevin Sheedy and Denis Pagan will also be honored.

The long-awaited revamp for the pre-match entertainment came after the AFL copped flak for choosing American Irene Cara as a headline act in last year's title decider between Sydney and West Coast. Cara was picked after one of her past hits, Flashdance … What a Feeling (title song for the movie Flashdance), featured in the TV commercial for Carlton Draught beer.

Sources: Herald Sun, Sydney Sunday Telegraph,

Article last changed on Monday, September 24, 2007 - 11:42 PM EDT

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