Tina Turner footy anthem The Best originally supposed to be for AFL

  •  It could have been Dermott Brereton instead of Andrew Ettingshausen
  •  Man who discovered the megahit was an avid AFL supporter
  •  Only last-minute dash across the Pacific secured the anthem

Tina Turner’s rugby league anthem (Simply) The Best was originally earmarked for the AFL, Daily Mail Australia can exclusively reveal.

As the world mourns the passing of Turner her 1990s campaign featuring shirtless footy stars and the iconic American singer belting out ‘you’re simply the best’ from the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge has been celebrated.

But it only became the code’s unofficial anthem after a dash across the Pacific Ocean by then-CEO John Quayle to secure the rights from Turner’s Australian-born manager Roger Davies before he handed it over to the AFL.

Speaking exclusively to Daily Mail Australia, Quayle made the stunning revelation that Davies was an AFL fan and the anthem was already being packaged up for the rival code.

‘The moment he heard ‘The Best’ he knew it had theme song for a footy code written all over it,’ Quayle said.  ‘The AFL especially.’

tina turner footy anthem the best originally supposed to be for afl

Turner, pictured with Jimmy Barnes, became the unofficial voice of the NRL although her anthem could well have gone to the AFL instead

tina turner footy anthem the best originally supposed to be for afl

Roger Davies (pictured) the man who brought Tina Turner’s iconic anthem The Best to rugby league, is an avid AFL fan and the song could have gone to them

tina turner footy anthem the best originally supposed to be for afl

The unofficial queen of rock and roll, Tina Turner (pictured) was also the queen of rugby league but she oh so easily could have reigned over the AFL

Fortunately for rugby league fans, Quayle had already struck up a relationship with Davies that would ultimately deliver Turner and her hit song to the NRL.

‘I had becomes friends with Roger a year earlier,’ Quayle said.

‘Roger had introduced us to Tina (Turner) by then and we used her other hit song What You Get Is What You See to launch an ad campaign for rugby league which was very successful so we had that connection, that relationship with him.

‘And because of that, after he heard Tina singing The Best he told us to get over to Los Angeles and buy the rights to its use in Australia because it was such a strong sporting theme song.

‘So we did. And I am very glad obviously because it has become an iconic anthem for our sport. But, Roger loved the AFL more than our game.

‘In fact the closest he had gotten to rugby league before Tina came along was he kicked a rugby league ball once while on the beach he told me.’

Davies was born and grew up in Melbourne following Aussie Rules. He became the manager of Pink, Sherbet, Janet Jackson, Joe Cocker, Olivia Newton-John as well as Turner.

He reasoned that if the rugby league code didn’t see value in it, then the AFL would. AFL would ultimately roll out Angry Anderson’s Bound for Glory as its unofficial anthem in 1991.

Quayle faced opposition in rugby league circles at the time, including from leading commentator the late Rex Mossop who infamously asked if he: ‘was serious about a US grandmother singing an anthem for our game?’

Quayle was adamant and wanted to hear the song and when he did, he talked his board into purchasing the commercial rights in Australia to the song.

tina turner footy anthem the best originally supposed to be for afl

John Quayle (pictured left) exclusively told Daily Mail that Tina Turner’s anthem The Best very nearly was offered to the AFL – only a trip to meet her in LA rescued it from rival code’s grasp

tina turner footy anthem the best originally supposed to be for afl

Ross Oakley (pictured) former CEO of the AFL was at the helm when massive AFL fan Roger Davies offered the song The Best to rugby league first – has often asked ‘why, why, why?’

tina turner footy anthem the best originally supposed to be for afl

Turner surrounded by rugby league stars Mathew Ridge (left of her) and Ian Roberts (right) during a commercial shoot for the ad campaign which blasted rugby league back to the top

As for the song itself, it had quite the journey.

The song had previously been recorded a few years earlier by Bonnie Tyler but met with little acclaim reaching no. 55 in the UK charts.

Tina changed the bridge and tempo of the song and when released it zoomed up charts all over the world – after the rugby league brains trust had launched it across Australia through a stunningly successful ad campaign.

‘The ad was so well made back then, so professionally put together that it could still be used today,’ said Quayle.

‘A million people claim the success of the song but it was all Roger. And he constantly after that was asked by [former AFL chairman] Ross Oakley – ‘why, oh why did you give it to them?’.

Oakley was appointed Chairman and CEO of the then troubled Victorian Football League [VFL] in 1986, remaining as chairman until the role was changed in 1993, and remaining as CEO until the end of the 1996 season.

He watched on in amazement as the rugby league world thrived alongside the song.

He later oversaw the transformation of the VFL into the Australian Football League (AFL), and under his guidance, five new clubs from outside Victoria: Brisbane and the West Coast Eagles (1986), Adelaide (1990), Fremantle (1994), and Port Adelaide (1996) all joined the more professional, national competition.

But many believe that expansion would have come sooner had ‘The Best’ been theirs.

‘I had a great relationship with Ross and I don’t think he ever forgave Roger for steering us into the song,’ added Quayle.

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