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Writer, critic and broadcaster, Clive James, wrote in his “Unreliable Memoirs” that Australian boys tend to be named after athletes. Although much has changed since his birth during World War II, and naming practices have considerably broadened, plenty of baby boys are named after sportsmen in Australia even now. In the period leading up until Father’s Day, we’re going to have lists of boys names from the two main (rival?) football codes to look at some of the less common names found amongst the players. (Don’t worry – at some point we’ll have two lists of girls names to balance it).

Alwyn (Davey) – Essendon Bombers

Alwyn Davey is from Darwin in the Northern Territory, and his tribal ancestry can be traced to the Kokatha Mula people from the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia. He was a late starter to professional football, being considered a bit short. He was picked up by Essendon in 2007, and at 22, was thought to be a little old to make of a success of it. He quickly gained a cult following due to his explosive speed, and won the AFL Army Award (for bravery) in the year of his debut. Alwyn was named after his father, and surely must have a connection with Wales, for his full name looks very Welsh. Alwyn is said to be derived from the name of the River Alwen, which may mean “winding and fair”, but could also be influenced by the name of a Celtic god of healing and prophecy, Alaunos. The meaning of the god’s name is extremely unsure, and may mean “pale, faded”, “brilliant white”, “dark grey”, or possibly “treasure”. A soft and lilting name, this sounds a bit like Alan and Alvin, and is easily shortened to Al or Ally, although personally I like Wyn.

Amon (Buchanan) – Brisbane Lions

Amon Buchanan is from the country town of Colac, west of Melbourne, and his brother Liam plays cricket for the state team. He made his debut in 2002, and was traded to the Lions in 2009. In Egyptian mythology, Amon is a fertility god who was believed to be father of all the Pharoahs. So popular was he that he became combined with the sun god Re into the supreme solar deity Amon-Re, and was worshipped devotedly as a protector of the poor and weak. His name means “the hidden one”, and is pronounced AH-mun. Amon is also the Greek form of a Hebrew name meaning “skilled workman”. In the Old Testament, Amon was one of the kings of Judah, and gets a bad rap for idolatry and general depravity. However, in the New Testament he is listed as one of the ancestors of Jesus. Amon has a bit of baggage, and might seem slightly overweening, but it’s a nice simple name that doesn’t sound too different from Harmon, Eamon or Aidan.

Chance (Bateman) – Hawthorn Hawks

Chance Bateman is from Perth in Western Australia (pictured). He was Hawthorn’s first indigenous player to play 100 games, the first Aboriginal life member, and the club’s longest-serving recruit from WA. He is one of Hawthorn’s most valuable players because of his speed and hardness. He is notable for his dreadlocks, which he once cut off for charity and donated to the Rioli Fund for Aboriginal health. Chance is a surname of Old French origin, derived from a nickname given to someone blessed with good fortune. The English word “chance” can mean a stroke of luck or good opportunity, but now also has connotations of accident or randomness. This is one of those names that people tend to either love or hate, find cool or ridiculous. Nearly always the name is given meaningfully, and boys called Chance often have a story attached to how their name was chosen.

Maverick (Weller) – Gold Coast Suns

Maverick Weller is a young player from Burnie in Tasmania, and made his debut this season. The word “maverick” refers to someone unconventional, independent or even controversial in their thinking; someone who follows their own rules. The word comes from the name of Samuel Maverick, a Texas lawyer who refused to brand his cattle. (In reality, Samuel wasn’t so much an independent thinker as uninterested in ranching). His surname may be Welsh, and derived from the Gaelic name Muirgheas, meaning “seafarer”, or from the Welsh Mawr-rwyce, meaning “valiant hero”. It’s been used as the title of both a Western TV series starring James Garner and a Western movie starring Mel Gibson, so still has rather a “cowboy” image. Maverick Weller seems to have been named after Tom Cruise’s callsign in the movie Top Gun, as he has a tattoo of his namesake. It’s another vocabulary name that can draw strong opinions from people – no doubt, just like the original Mister Maverick!

Kade (Simpson) – Carlton Blues

Kade Simpson is from Melbourne, and was drafted by Carlton in 2002. He has the club record for most consecutive games played, and won the Jim Stynes Medal in 2008 for best player on the Australian national team. His name is a variant of Cade, a surname which began as a form of the personal name Cada, coming from the Germanic for “swelling, lump”. This slightly unflattering name may have begun life as a nickname for someone overly plump, but to me it almost sounds like a “womb name” – the sort of epithet you might fondly give the baby swelling your belly out (“my little lumpkin”). The surname has another source, the Old French word cade meaning “barrel”; although this also has connotations of stoutness, it’s an occupational name for someone who made barrels, and thus is the same as Cooper. There is another meaning which parents might find more appealing: a cade is a baby farm animal reared by hand; these pet lambs and calves tend to be cossetted and well-fed little darlings. It’s a name filled with cute, cuddly, childish and chubby connotations; however I’m guessing most people will assume it’s a short form of Kaden.

Kepler (Bradley) – Fremantle Dockers

Kepler Bradley is from West Australia, was drafted in 2003, and began playing for Fremantle in 2007. Tall and agile, he won the Lark Medal for players 18 and under in 2003. Kepler is a German surname meaning “hooded cloak”; it’s an occupational name for someone who made such garments. The name is given in honour of Johannes Kepler, a mathematician, astronomer and astrologer. A key figure in the 17th century scientific revolution, his laws of planetary motion helped set the stage for Isaac’s Newton’s laws on gravity. A devout Lutheran who had considered becoming a church minister before his obvious talent for mathematics pushed him into an academic career, he was banished from Graz for refusing to convert to Catholicism, but found refuge in tolerant Linz. His mother was a herbalist who was imprisoned as a witch, but Kepler’s extensive defense got her released, adding “legal mastermind” to his already impressive list of accomplishments. This is a strong, unusual name that celebrates a hardworking polymath of powerful imagination, known for his cheerful and affectionate nature. Kip is the obvious nickname.

Marlon (Motlop) – Port Adelaide Power

Marlon Motlop is from the Northern Territory, and traces his tribal ancestry to the Larrakia people, from the Darwin area. He was drafted in 2007 and is the youngest player drafted to Port Adelaide. He won the Allan McLean Medal for players under 16 in 2006. The name Marlon is another surname, this time coming from place names called Moreland, common in the north of England and southern Scotland, meaning “moor land”. The name is strongly associated with American screen legend Marlon Brando, who starred in movies such as A Streetcar Named Desire and On the Waterfront. Actor Marlon Brando was named after his father; of German-Dutch origins, the family surname was originally Brandeau. It’s also the name of Michael Jackson’s older brother, singer Marlon Jackson, who gave the name Marlon to his youngest son, Marlon Jackson Jnr. This name may seem almost too famous to use, but it’s a name that’s been good enough to be handed down from father to son at least twice, and you can also use Marley as a nickname, thus honouring another famous singer.

Sharrod (Wellingham) – Collingwood Magpies

Sharrod Wellingham is from Western Australia, and was selected for the 2006 rookie draft. Since 2008, he has become a valuable asset for Collingwood. Sharrod looks like a cross between Sharon and Jarrod, but is yet another surname. This could be a variant of either of two different surnames. One is Sherrard, which has been found in Ireland from the 17th century onwards. The meaning is unknown, but has been interpreted as a combination of English and French meaning “bright, fair”. Another possibility is Sherrod, based on the French surname Cherot, meaning “wagoner”. Sherrard, Sherrod and Sharrod have all been used in the past as personal names, but mostly in the United States. In fact, there is an American basketball player called Sharrod Ford only a few years older than Sharrod Wellingham, so the name seems to have floating around in the public consciousness during the 1980s.

Tadhg (Kennelly) – Sydney Swans

Tadhg Kennelly is from County Kerry in Ireland, and already had a background in Gaelic football when he signed with the Sydney Swans in 1999. He made his debut in 2001, and became a high-profile player, writing articles for the Swans’ website entitled Talking with Tadhg. After the death of his father, Tadhg returned to Ireland in 2009 where he won a National Football League medal, but came back to Australia in the 2010 season. Tadhg is an Irish name that means “poet”; Tadhg was a medieval king of Connacht. The name does have pronunciation issues in Australia, where people tend to want to say it to sound like the word tie, or the name Ty. However, it is pronounced TIEG, like the first syllable in the word tiger. Australia has a great fondness for Irish names and Irish culture, and I think this name would be accepted and admired once people understood the pronunciation. It has a romantic meaning, yet sounds masculine, and it’s short without being cute.

Zephaniah (Skinner) – Western Bulldogs

Zephaniah Skinner is a young player from the Kimberley region of Western Australia who moved to Darwin, and was drafted last year. Zephaniah is a Hebrew name that means “Yahweh has hidden, Yahweh has concealed”, or slightly more ominously, “Yahweh lies in wait”. There are several people of this name in the Old Testament, the best known being a minor prophet who features in the very brief Book of Zephaniah. These three chapters give the teachings of Zephaniah, who seemed pretty keen on a universal Judgement Day, and as is usual with prophets, warned that widespread repentence is necessary to avoid this catastrophe. Another famous namesake is British Rastafarian poet, Benjamin Zephaniah. He supports veganism, animal rights, anti-racism, a British Republic, a change to the first-past-the-post voting system, and the UK Green Party. Boys names from the Old Testament are very popular at the moment, and although Zephaniah is quite rare, it isn’t any more unusual-sounding than Zachariah. Zeph or Zeff seems like a pretty cool nickname as well.