Passion for the game
Fans' passion for sport can inspire athletes to strive and achieve more. This selection of fan mail, board games, artworks and memorabilia shows how fans celebrate their love for the game.
Letters & Autographs
Fan letters, often referred to as 'fan mail' and autograph collections are a playful, sometimes poignant, interplay between sports stars and their passionate supporters.
Letter received during hockey tour to New Zealand, 1925 (2025-07-29)Australian Sports Museum
The contents of letters from fans can be meaningful for athletes and sportspeople.
Letters, like this one received by Jack Miller while the Australian Hockey Team was touring New Zealand in 1925, can serve as a powerful and humbling reminder of the impact that sport has on the lives of people who the athlete will probably never meet.
Australia Post official Olympic Team mailbag, used during the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games Australia Post official Olympic Team mailbag, used during the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games (1996)Australian Sports Museum
During major sporting events it is common for fans to send letters of encouragement and support to the athletes. The sheer volume of fan mail sent to Olympic athletes during the Atlanta Games in 1996 required special deliveries from Australia Post to get the letters to their recipients.
Letter from German fan to Winsome Cripps, 1956, with trade card no. 86 of Winsome Cripps & Marjorie Jackson (1956)Australian Sports Museum
Letters can come from close to home or far afield.
This letter to Winsome Cripps from a German fan is a request for her to send him an autographed photograph.
The image of Cripps is from the 4x100m Relay at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, where she notoriously knocked the baton from Marjorie Jackson's hand, costing Australia a Gold medal.
Paper autographed by touring England XI, 1946-47 (1946)Australian Sports Museum
Signatures of sporting heroes are extremely popular items for fans to collect.
Some autograph collectors, or "philographists", spend years collating large collections of signatures. Some collections or significant items that are signed by sporting teams can sell for large sums of money.
Fun & Games
Board games let fans emulate the victories of sports champions from the comfort of their own home.
Board game, Test Match Board game, Test MatchAustralian Sports Museum
Test Match, first released by games publisher John Sands in 1955, was a hugely popular cricket board game throughout Australia.
Board game, Cricket at LordsAustralian Sports Museum
Cricket at Lords was created in the 1940s and featured miniature wooden figures that players would use to bat, bowl and field. Players could keep track of what was happening on a wooden scoreboard.
Board game titled 'Aussie Footy' produced by MurfettAustralian Sports Museum
Aussie Footy was a board game created by Murfett in the 1970s. Players would flick a counter representing the ball, trying to move from one end of the field to the other and score a goal without landing on an opposition character.
Board game, "Jock McHale's Table Football" c1935 (1935)Australian Sports Museum
Jock McHale Table Football was an early addition to the ranks of Australian football board games. Published in the 1930s, it sought to recreate the thrills of a Grand Final football match.
To the Maxx (Max Walker AM) (2016) by Rachel RovayMelbourne Cricket Club
Sport can inspire the creation of fine art and fan art alike. Some artworks are richly detailed collaborations between artist and subject. Others are created at a distance as a homage to sporting stars.
Rachel Rovay's To The Maxx is a portrait of Test cricketer, Australian footballer and commentator, Max Walker AM. The artwork captures Walker's idiosyncratic and expressive style and was a collaboration between the the subject and the artist. Rovay sketched Walker while they sat at a Melbourne cafe.
P. Daicos Miricale Goal (1990) by Timothy James WebbAustralian Sports Museum
This painting by Timothy James Webb celebrates Peter Daicos' "miracle goal" kicked during Collingwood's victory over Essendon in the 1990 AFL Grand Final. Daicos was famous for his ability to kick goals from seemingly impossible angles under immense pressure.
A Better Win (1991) by Steven KraheAustralian Sports Museum
This piece Timothy James depicts the high-flying Collingwood Magpies dominating the grounded Essendon Bombers while their coach, Leigh Matthews celebrates. The umpires are uncharitably depicted as maggots, the insult "white maggot" being commonly directed toward the games officiators at the time.
Matchstick portrait, Dennis LilleeMelbourne Cricket Club
While certainly not fine art, some of the fan art inspired by sporting heroes can be truly unique. Take for example, this portrait of Australian Test cricket bowler, Dennis Lillee, made entirely from used matchsticks.
Family and friends
Some fans with close connections to sporting heroes make their public displays of affection and allegiance known.
Press photograph from Australia v England test match in Melbourne, Jan 1947 (1947)Melbourne Cricket Club
Some fans have important connections to the teams and individuals they support. Mrs Francis Francis was the niece of the first English Test captain to tour Australia in 1877. She is showing her dedication here, not letting her need to peel potatoes for the evening meal get in the way of watching a Test match between the two sides at the MCG in 1947.
Banner, "Get Well Fammo" (1991)Australian Sports Museum
Not all fans are sitting on the sidelines. This sign was held aloft by boxing champions Lionel Rose and Japan's Masahiko "Fighting" Harada during the half-time motorcade at the 1991 AFL Grand Final. The "get well" message was for fellow boxing great, Johnny Famechon, who had been seriously injured when hit by a car while jogging.
Club members are some of the the most dedicated fans, attending matches, volunteering behind the scenes, and often devoting time and energy to supporting their team.
North Sydney Leagues Club Member's Badge, 1970 (1970)Australian Sports Museum
Club membership affords certain rights and privileges, such as entrance to home games or access to certain areas at a ground. Medallions such as this one a identify a person as a paid up member.
Ten membership medallions, South Melbourne Cricket Club 1923-36, VFL Umpires Association & Australian Plumbers & Gas EMPs UnionAustralian Sports Museum
Member medallions such as these were often treasured mementos that people would keep and hand down to family members.
Membership package, West Coast Eagles FC 1997 (1997)Australian Sports Museum
Membership packages sent to fans include stickers, posters and other items offering a connection to the club and players.
This example is from the West Coast Eagles, who joined the Australian Football League in 1986. For many years they were the only team in the competition from Western Australia, allowing them to draw on a huge supporter base.
Fans have always been a central part of Australian football and the place of honour for the die-hard fan is in the cheer squad.
Badge, "Official Richmond Cheer Squad 300th Game"Australian Sports Museum
Taking up station behind the goals, cheer squad members have the responsibility of creating as much noise and colour in support of their team as is humanly possible. It also helps if they can find ways to distract members of the opposition team.
Cheer squads recognise outstanding service to the cause. The owner of this Richmond Tigers Official Richmond Cheer Squad 300th Game badge would have invested more than ten years of their life to cheering from behind the goals for their team.
Six Richmond Football Club 'floggers', c1980 (1980)Australian Sports Museum
Floggers are a common sight along the fence line where the cheer squad sits. They make a colourful scene when your team kicks a goal and are a handy way of attempting to distract opposition players when they are trying to do the same.
Membership medallion for Collingwood FC, season 1975 (1975)Australian Sports Museum
The Collingwood Football Club has one of the biggest fan bases of any Australian football club. Their one-eyed supporters are known as the Collingwood Army and when their club is on the march towards premiership success they can make a fearsome spectacle.
Football boots, Lou Richards Autograph brand c1953 (1953)Australian Sports Museum
One of Collingwood’s favourite sons was club legend, Lou Richards. Born and bred in Collingwood, an inner city working-class suburb of Melbourne, Richards played 250 games for the Magpies between 1941 and 1955. He was captain when they won the premiership in 1953, ending a 17-year drought for the Pies. These boots, emblazoned with his name, were sold in the 1950s, giving fans a connection to Richards and a way to emulate his feats.
Fans Fight Back
Fans can be a driving force when clubs face off-field challenges, standing up against merger attempts and disputes with sporting authorities.
Material associated with proposed Melbourne FC - Hawthorn FC merger, 1996 (1996)Australian Sports Museum
In the 1990s, when several Australian rules football clubs faced being forced to merge, fans were at the forefront of the fight to retain the identities of their beloved teams.
The Melbourne Hawks was a proposed Australian Football League team that would have been formed by the merger of the Melbourne Demons and Hawthorn Hawks at the end of the 1996 season.
Sign, "No Merger" Melbourne FC - 16 Sept 1996 (1996)Australian Sports Museum
A merger between the clubs came close to happening at the end of the 1996 season. However, fans of both clubs were determined to stop the deal. Anti-merger groups and prominent former players called for the deal to be scrapped. In a touch of unscripted drama, the two teams met in the final round of the season, with Hawthorn needing to win to make the finals. A large crowd of 63,196 people watched Hawthorn win the “merger game” by a single point, in a spirited contest that could have been the last game ever played for both clubs. Thousands of fans held no merger signs, like the one shown here.
Three pamphlets, Melbourne FC Anti-Merger Demon Alternative Group c1996 (1996)Australian Sports Museum
Melbourne members voted narrowly in favour of the deal under controversial circumstances, which left some fans unable to vote and angry at the process. Hawthorn members were yet to vote when, in a famous moment, former player Don Scott tore the Hawthorn colours off the proposed new jumper, to reveal a Melbourne guernsey underneath, and gave an impassioned speech against the merger.
The Hawks members voted the deal down, and both clubs retained their identities.
Season ticket, Fitzroy Football Club 1889 (1889)Australian Sports Museum
Not all fights against mergers have been so successful. The Fitzroy Football Club was formed in 1883 and was one of eight foundation member clubs in the Victorian Football League.
Known variously as the Gorillas, the Roys, and, most famously, as the Lions, the club won eight premierships to 1944.
Fitzroy FC membership ticket, 1931 season (1932)Australian Sports Museum
The club then endured one of the least successful periods for any VFL/AFL club, finishing in the bottom three of the ladder eleven times in the 1960s and 70s. Beset by financial difficulties, by the mid-1990s a merger with another club had become an almost foregone conclusion.
Proposed Fitzroy Bulldogs Football Club amalgamation socks, 1989 (1989)Australian Sports Museum
Fitzroy almost merged with the Footscray Football Club at the end of the 1996 season, yet Footscray fans refused to let their club die, raising $1 million in six weeks to save the club and stave off the merger.
These socks would have been worn by the proposed Fitzroy Bulldogs.
Sign, "Go Bears Go" (1995)Melbourne Cricket Club
The Fitzroy Lions merged with the Brisbane Bears after the 1996 season and the Brisbane Lions entered the national competition in 1997. Some Fitzroy supporters transferred their loyalties to the new club, but many fans felt deeply betrayed. The newly formed Brisbane Lions team went on to win three successive premierships in 2001, 2002, and 2003.
Essendon Football Club membership card, 2013Australian Sports Museum
“Whatever It Takes”. The now infamous Essendon Football Club Membership slogan of 2013 has come to symbolise one of the most difficult periods in the club’s history, the supplements controversy dubbed the “Blackest Day in Australian Sport”.
An investigation by the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) found that that Essendon had run an illegal supplements program during the 2012 AFL season. Thirty-four Essendon players were found guilty of having used a banned peptide and were suspended, and the club was banned from the finals in 2013.
Stand by Hird' placard, 2013 Stand by Hird' placard, 2013 (2013-04-20)Australian Sports Museum
One of the central figures in the drama was the club’s coach, James Hird. A former premiership captain, Brownlow Medallist and one of Essendon fans’ favourite sons, Hird was suspended from coaching for 12 months over his role in the affair. Many defiant Essendon fans rallied around their hero, under the slogan “Stand by Hird”.
Stand by Hird' placard, 2013Australian Sports Museum
Supporters raised money to create tens of thousands of banners like the one featured here which were distributed at games in 2013. The banners became a common site at Essendon games and the refrain was prominent in social media and talkback radio.
As the saga rolled on over the four years of litigation and more revelations emerged from the club and people involved in the supplements program, some fans never wavered in their support for Hird. He resigned from all roles at the club in 2015.