Brisbane Lions AFL Football Club
On 4 July 1996, the Brisbane Lions Football Club was born. The club was the result of an historic merger between two existing AFL clubs, the Fitzroy Lions and the Brisbane Bears. The merger of the two clubs represented both a Victorian Football League foundation club in Fitzroy, as well as a non-Victorian side brought into the VFL as the competition moved towards becoming truly national.
Fitzroy is one of the truly historic clubs in Australian Football. It was the early powerhouse club in the VFL winning 4 flags in the first 9 years of the competition. At the time of the merger, Fitzroy had won 8 premierships with the last coming in 1944. It also boasted some of the greatest players of all time, with AFL Hall of Fame Members or Legends Haydn Bunton Snr, Jack Moriarty, John Murphy, Kevin Murray, Paul Roos, Allan Ruthven, Wilfred “Chicken” Smallhorn and Gary Wilson all best known as Fitzroy champions.
The Brisbane Bears came into the VFL in time for the 1987 season. The club initially struggled at the bottom reaches of the ladder, before a move from Carrara to the Gabba saw the club play finals footy for the first time in 1995, a success repeated in the following 2 years. The Bears had several great footballers including Brownlow medallist Brad Hardie and was captained for several years by club great Roger Merrett who now lends his name, along with Kevin Murray, to the Brisbane Lions club champion award.
In the years following the merger, the Brisbane Lions developed into a highly successful club. From 1999, the club was coached by AFL legend Leigh Matthews. The club made a preliminary final in that year before a winning streak of 15 matches in 2001 saw it qualify for its first grand final. In a magnificent game at the MCG, the side was victorious over reigning premiers Essendon to win the Brisbane Lions first AFL premiership flag. Long-serving clubman and former Bear Shaun Hart was awarded the Norm Smith Medal.
The Lions went on to win the following two AFL premierships, both times beating Collingwood. In 2002, a wet day saw a tight tussle with the Magpies, only for the Lions to emerge victorious by 9 points. Collingwood captain Nathan Buckley was controversially awarded the Norm Smith Medal when judging occurred at three quarter time, despite Lions captain Michael Voss producing a remarkable fourth quarter performance to drag his team over the line.
In 2003, it was a comfortable victory over the Pies to complete the AFL premiership hat trick with the Lions winning by 50 points. Midfielder Simon Black was exceptional, his game high 39 possessions enough to earn him the Norm Smith Medal. It was the first time in over 40 years that a club had won 3 VFL or AFL premierships in a row, securing the 2001-2003 Lions’ place in history as one of the great sides.
During the premiership era, the Lions were captained by Brownlow Medallist and AFL Hall of Fame player Michael Voss. The team also included other Brownlow Medallists in Jason Akermanis and Simon Black, as well as numerous All-Australian team nominees including Jonathan Brown, Daniel Bradshaw, Chris Johnson, Nigel Lappin, Justin Leppitsch and Luke Power.
The Lions continued this remarkable period of success to make the 2004 grand final, only to be defeated by Port Adelaide. Since then, the club has experienced several years in the bottom half of the competition, as the success of the 1999-2004 period meant a total rebuild of the playing list. The Lions made the AFL finals again in 2009 under coach Michael Voss and captain Jonathan Brown, winning a famous final against Carlton at the Gabba before bowing out of contention the following week. In the subsequent 2 years, the Lions have failed to make the finals, with an emphasis on youth and development occurring in 2011.
The Lions continue to play out of the Gabba in Brisbane and is currently led by Chairman Angus Johnson, Chief Executive Malcolm Holmes, Coach Michael Voss and Captain Jonathan Brown.