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"Kings of the jungle" was long the slogan of the Brisbane Lions. Obviously the club wasn't aware that, unlike Tigers, Lions don't live in the jungle. Therefore, kings of the savannah might be more accurate. Getting the ecosystem wrong is hardly a surprise from a Queenslander. After all, they have a beer called XXXX because most Queenslanders don't know how to spell.
As intelligence has never been a Queenslander's strong point, the Brisbane Lions have instead focussed on brute strength. It is this strength that took the club to three consecutive premierships from 2001-03 and made it worthy of the title of king of the beasts for a short period of time.
Brisbane's strength, both on and off the field, was a relatively short-lived phenomenon. The club was established in 1987 and based on the Gold Coast. Why it choose to base itself on the Gold Coast but have Brisbane in its name can only be attributed to another case of Queensland intellect at its finest.
The club's moniker was the Bears, which was the faunal emblem of Queensland. Accordingly, it played like its cute marsupial mascot. They were slow and uncoordinated, almost as if they are drunk on eucalyptus leaves. They looked lazy, almost as if they would prefer to be sitting up high in the grandstand watching the game, rather than be involved in it.
Financially, a diet of gum leaves would have been an apt description of the club's budget. Club owner Christopher Skase lost $27 million before his empire fell apart and the club sold.
In 1993, the Brisbane Bears relocated to Brisbane and began to make some progress. On the field, the club made the eight in 1995 and finished third in 1996. Also in 1996, future captain Michael Voss won the Brownlow Medal. It was also a monumental time off the field. Four years after the club's membership at the Gold Coast was a paltry 800, the Bears membership jumped to 10,500 and the average attendance reached 18,672.
With the future looking rosey, in 1997 the club "merged" with the Fitzroy Lions. With Fitzroy bankrupt, Brisbane presented a plan to cover its debts and the administrator agreed to let Brisbane have Fitzroy's moniker, players, colours and song.
On the field, performances hit a brick wall. After the Bears finished third in 1996, the injection of Fitzroy players gave it arguable the best playing list in the AFL, yet the club could only finish its first season in 8th place and its second season in last place. In desperation, the Lions turned to Leigh Mathews, one of the toughest and dirtiest players in VFL history. Leigh cultivated a team in the mould of a Lion. Players were expected to be big, strong and hard at it. The playing style was simple and unintelligent - push the ball forward, tackle hard, run hard, be hard and hurt the other team.
In keeping with the Frankenstein theme of the club, Mathews also decided that being on the cutting edge of medicine would help achieve the ultimate prize. It started with caffeine tablets for extra stimulation. Later the players had small plastic stents inserted in their elbows so that they could be given oxygenated blood transfusions or saline drips at half time.
The medical practices took them to the 2001 Grand Final, where they faced Essendon, the most dominant club of the era. The Lion’s drip program was well known, and the Bombers took to the field with black armbands over their forearms in silent protest of the Lion’s actions. The Bombers led at half time but couldn’t compete with the half time transfusions and ended up losing by 5 goals.
Ironically, Essendon’s loss set off a medical arms race in AFL clubs that culminated with Essendon’s own 2013 supplement program that resulted in 13 players being banned. Lion’s player Jason Akemanis later defended the program by saying,
In the 2002 and 2003 grand finals, they overpowered the Collingwood Magpies with physical intimidation.
Aside from the Lion moniker giving Brisbane a more intimidating onfield presence, the injection of Fitzroy culture also seemed to increase the club's popular appeal. Fitzroy's colours were more aesthetic than the hideous brown and yellow of the Bears. Only Hawthorn's colours had been worse. Furthermore, Fitzroy's song, to the tune of the French national anthem, infused some French style arrogance. With three consecutive premierships, Brisbane briefly had some of that.
As for Fitzroy, it had been a strong club in the early part of the 20th Century. They had built a strong rivalry up with neighbouring Collingwood that was based on topographical issues rather than onfield battles. When it rained, Fitzroy's sewage flooded into lowly Collingwood. Obviously, taking Fitzroy's sewage did little to endear Collingwood to its neighbour, but it did a great deal to endear Fitzroy to the rest of Melbourne and so the Roys became everyone's second team.
In the 70s, the club pulled out the cheque book to buy a premiership. The gamble didn't work and the club found itself struggling under the weight of debt. Ironically, it was the actions of clubs like Fitzroy that led to the creation of an independent VFL administration that aimed to stop clubs acting recklessly in the future, yet then evolved to cull Fitzroy from the league.
Aside from lacking money to spend on marketing, Fitzroy was forced to "sell" off some of its star players to pay debt. Continuing financial difficulties led to it having four different home grounds from 1984 to 1996. Each move was a blow to its identity and the ability of its fans to continue to support the club.
Disenchanted players jumped ship as they saw the club was trying to survive, not try to win a premiership. Finally, the AFL as good as stated that the club had no future resulting in all potential financial saviours keeping their distance.
Although 'Brisbane' and 'intelligence' are often defined as contradictory words, in the merger, it seems Brisbane intelligence has combined with Melbourne culture to make a useful partnership.
And for all those old time residents of Fitzroy who fondly remembered the days when rain carried their sewage off into Collingwood, they can now continue to take pleasure at seeing the Lions of today continue to shit over the Pies. When that occurs, the Lions again become everyone's second team
2013 slogan - Because pride is within
Intellectual slogans will always look phoney on a club that once based itself on the Gold Coast despite having Brisbane in its name. For three years, the club pressed ahead with believe belong, probably because one-year was too short for a new slogan the marketing department to think of a new one. After three years of failure, it was pretty obvious most potential members neither believed not belonged. Still short of ideas, it found inspiration with the three musketeers and changed to 'all for one' but so as not to place unrealistic pressure on players thinking of going home, it dropped the one for all.
Don't go home...please.
Club theme song
The Lion’s song is sung to the tune of the French national anthem and sings about what the club will do rather than what it has done. Perhaps this is indicative of two clubs that have a history of failure and just hope things will get better one day.
Roy Morgan research
Brisbane Lions supporters are:
2001 when compared to other Australians
*2004 when compared to other AFL supporters
*From 2001 to 2004 Brisbane Lions supporters have increased by 66.8%
2006- when compared to other AFL supporters
1) Collingwood - Collingwood has lost two Grand Finals to Brisbane but rather than be humble and accept that they have psychological deficiencies, the Pie's president Eddie McGuire has attributed their failure to Brisbane's salary cap concessions. Of course, such excuses make all subsequent humiliations of the Magpies that much more enjoyable.
2) Gold Coast - Not really a rivalry but there is hope it will become one.
Brisbane Lions jokes
1) There is a Gold Coast psychiatrist that has a thriving practice, particularly during the football season. He tried an idea-association test on a patient and asked her what came to mind when she thought of something brown, firm and had smooth curves. " A football" said the patient immediately. "Good. And what comes to mind when two arms slide around your waste?" "An illegal tackle" was the instant reply. "Now picture a firm set of thighs" "a full back!" "Top marks" said the psychiatrist. "Your answers are perfectly normal. You would be surprised by some of the silly answers I get."
2) Why do Lions fans drink a beer called XXXX? Because they can't spell beer.
3) A Brisbane Lions fan is someone who reads comic books without moving their lips.
4) Why wasn't Jesus born into the Brisbane culture? Because there are no wise men or virgins.
Why kind of country has four codes of "football"?