Brisbane Bears

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Brisbane Bears Football Club
Brisbane Bears.png
Names
Full name Brisbane Football Club
Nickname(s) Bears
Club details
Founded 1986
Competition Australian Football League
Ground(s) Carrara Stadium (1987–1992) (capacity: 22,000)
Gabba (1991–1996) (capacity: 37,000)

The Brisbane Football Club, formerly nicknamed The Bears was an Australian rules football club and the first Queensland-based club in the Victorian Football League (VFL). The club played its first match in 1987, but struggled on and off the field until it made the finals for the first time in 1995. The Bears merged with the Fitzroy Football Club after the completion of the following season to form the Brisbane Lions.

History[edit]

Establishment[edit]

In 1986, the VFL Commission announced plans to set up privately owned clubs based in Perth and Brisbane, motivated by the need to sell multi-million dollar licences to save a number of Victorian clubs which were struggling financially. A consortium headed by former actor Paul Cronin and bankrolled by entrepreneur Christopher Skase was awarded the Brisbane licence. Not long afterwards, the club was officially announced as the Brisbane Bears, signing recently retired Hawthorn player Peter Knights as coach, and unveiling a playing strip consisting of a gold with a maroon yoke and a triangular "BB" logo intended to represent a stylised map of the club's home state, Queensland, with the outline of a koala head appearing inside of the larger B.

The choice of the koala as a mascot and moniker was often mocked and tagged tacky as the Australian marsupial animal is not a bear and is typically sedate and hardly ferocious. Despite this, the bear appeared roaring on many of the marketing and promotional materials for the club, including the club's official VFL logo [1]. However, regardless of such marketing, the team's poor on-field performances in the first seven years allowed the Bears' mascot to be targeted gratuitously, with nicknames like "The Bad News Bears" and "The Carrara Koalas".

The new club was given very little time in which to set itself up, with few players and no suitable home ground. Brisbane's main outdoor venue, The Gabba, was encircled by a greyhound racing track at the time. The only other stadiums that were reasonably large enough to accommodate the Bears were rectangular fields designed for rugby, long the main football code in Brisbane. Without an acceptable facility in Brisbane itself, the Bears based themselves at Carrara Oval, an hour's drive south-east of Brisbane on the Gold Coast. Temporary stands, club rooms and facilities were erected on the slopes surrounding the field.

Upon its admission, the Bears did not have a large reserve of local players from which to compile a VFL-standard playing list; by contrast, the West Coast Eagles, which also joined the league in 1987, could put together a list of players from the West Australian Football League which was competitive at VFL level within a couple of seasons. To assist with its inaugural playing list, the VFL arranged for every other club to provide at least two players; understandably, other clubs were averse to providing top-line players and few of the players provided were of a high quality. The Bears pursued a number of stars aggressively, and did manage a few key signings, including Collingwood's captain Mark Williams, and 1985 Brownlow Medallist Brad Hardie. A significant proportion of the player list was recruited from the South Australian National Football League and West Australian Football League. Mark Mickan, a 6'5" (196 cm) ruckman recruited from West Adelaide, was appointed captain of the Bears in its inaugural season.

Early years[edit]

The Bears won their first game in the VFL against North Melbourne at the Melbourne Cricket Ground 19.23 (137) to 15.14 (104) in front of 14,096 fans, and also won its second game, but ultimately fell towards the bottom of the ladder. The club avoided the wooden spoon by beating Richmond in the final round, and finished with six wins. The club attracted 98,616 fans to the eleven matches at Carrara, an average of 8,965 per game, which was the lowest in the competition behind Fitzroy's 11,498.[1]

The club again recruited aggressively, landing Sydney Swans glamour spearhead Warwick Capper. In 1988 and 1989 the club suffered some severe defeats, finishing 13th and 10th respectively. Knights was sacked with eight rounds to play in the 1989 season. The club psychologist, Paul Feltham, took charge of the team for the remainder of the year.

By this stage, the club was also under severe financial pressure. Attendances had been very poor due to poor performances and the long distance between Carrara and Brisbane. The collapse of Skase's business empire and his sudden departure for Spain in late 1989 almost resulted in the death of the Bears. Over the ensuing preseason the players threatened strike action, but Cronin resigned, the club was taken over by the AFL, re-sold to Gold Coast businessman Reuben Pelerman, and the crisis was averted. The AFL spent significant amounts of money to help the Bears survive over the coming years, and the club was provided with priority draft picks and special recruiting zones to give it access to some of the nation's best talent, which over the next few years allowed the club to recruit future stars such as Michael Voss, Jason Akermanis, Clark Keating, Steven Lawrence and Darryl White.

Four-time QAFL premiership coach Norm Dare took over as coach in 1990, but the club won the wooden spoon. He was replaced in 1991 by former Carlton premiership coach Robert Walls, who immediately set about rebuilding the playing list; having inherited the oldest list in the league, by the end of the season he had the youngest. He insisted that the Bears not bend to the will of powerful Victorian clubs in recruitment matters, which was seen most notably in the case of the young Nathan Buckley – Buckley was a zone recruit signed to the club on a one-year contract in 1993, which stipulated that he would be released to the club of his choice if he so desired at the completion of the contract; he was cleared to Collingwood as he had requested, in exchange for premiership centre-half forward Craig Starcevich, goalsneak Troy Lehmann and an early draft pick which the Bears used to recruit future star Chris Scott.

Later years[edit]

Off-field, Pelerman was losing millions of dollars annually on the club, and he agreed to release the Bears from private ownership and revert to a traditional club structure in which the club's members were able to elect the board. In 1992, the club abandoned its oft-ridiculed "BB" guernsey, and adopted a predominantly maroon strip with a gold V and white trim. More significantly, in 1993 the club moved permanently to the Gabba; with the club now playing in its home city, membership and attendances instantly tripled. The greyhound track around the ground was removed, the surface was upgraded and the stands gradually replaced over the next few years with a view to converting the tired old ground to a state-of-the-art sporting facility.

In 1994, the Bears began to show signs of a competitive side and were contenders for a finals berth before falling away in the last five games of the season. Then, in 1995, the club reached the finals after an extraordinary late-season recovery. After Round 15, the Bears were third-last on the ladder with four wins, and Robert Walls had announced his resignation as coach halfway through the season, but committed himself to seeing out the year. In Round 16, the Bears trailed Hawthorn by 45 points at three-quarter time, but mounted an astounding final-quarter comeback to win the match by 7 points; it was the largest final quarter comeback in league history. Brisbane then won five of its six remaining matches in the home-and-away season, including against Richmond and Essendon who were both in the top four, to just reach the finals for the first time, albeit with a win-loss record of only 10–12. The team was eliminated, but not disgraced, after losing its first ever final to eventual premiers Carlton by 13 points.

Under the coaching of former Richmond premiership player John Northey, Brisbane had an excellent 1996 season, finishing third behind Sydney and North Melbourne. They made a good accounting of themselves in the finals, with two wins at the Gabba and a loss in the Preliminary Final to eventual premiers North Melbourne. Michael Voss also became the only Brisbane Bears player to win the Brownlow Medal, sharing the honour with Essendon's James Hird.

However, the club was still struggling off-field. One of the Bears' biggest problems was its lack of support (both on and off the field) in Melbourne, the location of most of its away matches. In mid-1996, the struggling Fitzroy Football Club collapsed due to financial pressures, and was seeking to merge its assets with another club. When a merger with North Melbourne failed to win the support of the other AFL clubs, a deal for a merger was done between Fitzroy and the Bears. The new team was known as the Brisbane Lions, based at the Gabba, with Northey as the coach of the merged club. As such, the history of the Brisbane Bears as an individual entity ended after the 1996 season, with ten seasons of competition and the third place finish in 1996 as its best performance.

Club facts[edit]

Mascot[edit]

The Bears' mascot was the koala, which is not a Bear. Their uniform originally featured a koala.

Colours[edit]

  • Maroon      and Gold      (1987–1988)
  • Cerise      and Gold      (1989–1991)
  • Maroon     , Gold      and White      (1992–1996)

Club Songs[edit]

The Brisbane Football Club had 2 Club Songs in its existence.

We're the Brisbane Bears[edit]

Their first song was sung to an original tune.

1st Verse

What do we sing when we run out to play?
Dare to beat the Bear.
What do we sing when we're on our way?
Dare to beat the Bear.
We're Hot! (We're Hot!)
We're Mean! (We're Mean!)
We're Strong! (We're Strong!)
We're a Team! (We're a Team!)
We're the very best team you've ever seen,
We're the Brisbane Bears.

2nd Verse

What do we know before every game?
We're going out to win!
How do we know that we'll read the play?
We won't let 'em in!
We're Hot! (We're Hot!)
We're Mean! (We're Mean!)
We're Strong! (We're Strong!)
We're a Team! (We're a Team!)
We're the very best team you've ever seen,
We're the Brisbane Bears.

1st Bridge

Our home is mighty Brisbane and we're playing for our State.
The Bear will growl across the land,
Our victories will be great (great)

3rd Verse

What do we shout when we sense their fear?
Beware the mighty Bear!
What are the words that we love to hear?
Beware the mighty Bear!
We're Tough! (We're Tough!)
We're Keen! (We're Keen!)
We're Good! (We're Good!)
We're a Team! (We're a Team!)
We're the very best team you've ever seen,
We're the Brisbane Bears.

2nd Bridge

Our home is here in Queensland and there is not a shade of doubt,
Right around Australia, we're gonna knock 'em out!

3rd Verse - Repeated

What do we shout when we sense their fear?
Dare to beat the Bear!
What are the words that we love to hear?
Dare to beat the Bear!
We're Tough! (We're Tough!)
We're Keen! (We're Keen!)
We're Good! (We're Good!)
We're a Team! (We're a Team)
We're the very best team you've ever seen,
We're the Brisbane Bears.

Home Run

We're Tough! (We're Tough!)
We're Keen! (We're Keen!)
We're Good! (We're Good!)
We're a Team! (We're a Team!)
We're the very best team you've ever seen,
We're the Brisbane Bears.
We're the very best team you've ever seen,
We're the Brisbane Bears.

Beware the mighty Bears!

Brisbane Bears will live forever[edit]

Their second song was sung to the tune of "The Battle Hymn of The Republic".

1st Verse

If you are a Queenslander then sing along with me
We are the Bears on the Road to victory
All for one and one for all
We'll answer to the call
We're the greatest team of all

2nd Verse

We're the fearless Brisbane Bears
From the mighty Northern State
Our Pride and Guts and Character are gonna make us great
Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth will know their fate
When the Bears run out and roar

Chorus

Brisbane Bears will live forever
We will always stick together
The 'Gabba is the place where people always come to see
The greatest team of all

3rd Verse

The Whistle blows, the Ball is bounced
The Crowd all give a yell
And we will do our very best until the final Bell
And when the Game is over we'll be closer to the Flag
We're the greatest team of all

Repeat Chorus

Home Run

The 'Gabba is the place where people always come to see
The greatest team of all

Premierships[edit]

Reserves 1991

Wooden spoons[edit]

Individual awards[edit]

Honour roll[edit]

Season Position Coach Captain Best & Fairest¹ Leading goalkicker Goals
1987 13 Peter Knights Mark Mickan Phillip Walsh Jim Edmond 34
1988 13 Peter Knights Mark Mickan Mark Withers Warwick Capper 45
1989 10 Peter Knights, Paul Feltham Mark Mickan John Gastev Brad Hardie 54
1990 14 Norm Dare Roger Merrett David Bain and Martin Leslie Brad Hardie 37
1991 15 Robert Walls Roger Merrett Michael McLean Laurence Schache 47
1992 14 Robert Walls Roger Merrett John Gastev John Hutton 43
1993 13 Robert Walls Roger Merrett Martin Leslie Roger Merrett 60
1994 12 Robert Walls Roger Merrett Craig Lambert Roger Merrett 41
1995 8 Robert Walls Roger Merrett Michael Voss Roger Merrett 44
1996 3 John Northey Roger Merrett Michael Voss Alastair Lynch 52
¹The Brisbane Bears' best and fairest award was known as the Club Championship.

Club Records[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Fitzgerald, R. (1996). The Footy Club: Inside the Brisbane Bears. Brisbane, Australia: UQP. ISBN 0-7022-2904-0. 

External links[edit]