AFL Finals–Week 1: Lions overrun Blues on a memorable, multi-code night in Brisbane

By Hamish Townsend

It’s possible that Brisbane is the football capital of the world this week, it’s going to be a difficult job turning committed league men on such a weekend. The Lions are playing Carlton in an elimination final at the Gabba, the Wallabies are playing the Saffies in Tri-Nations at Lang Park, the Broncos are playing on Sunday. None of the locals are expected to win.

Before the AFL game I meet with the lawyer, the accountant and the director at the Norman Hotel near the Gabba. It’s one of those gargantuan hotels they specialise in up here with steaks bigger than my head and almost as rare. The lawyer is a mad Lions supporter, I’ve got my shit-eating grin from the Cats game, the director is a league supporter and we’re trying to convert him. The accountant has been drinking since lunch. It’s 6pm.

On my way to the pub I end up standing next to Jason Roe at the lights. He’s been called up at the last minute to replace an injured Josh Drumond and he looks like he’s just been woken up. An older couple dressed from their sandals to their caps in Lions gear look up at him. After he jogs off they look at me and say, “He’s huge, I wonder what he does for a crust”. I’m not sure if they’re joking or not.

The accountant is getting mouthy by the time his steak arrives and the lawyer is babbling obscure Brisbane Bears statistics. The director is watching the Rugby replay from the previous week. He hates Union more than AFL. The pub is full of people in Wallabies gear. “The thing with Union fans is they never even go to the games, they just sit around in the gear at the pub,” he bellows.

We go another round on what’s the better code, everyone knows this argument, this one was no different.

Suddenly they go live from the Gabba on the 4000 enormous flat screen TVs that are compulsory in every Brisbane pub. The players are on the ground and warming up, we gotta run and we do – like four middle-age drunk blokes with backpacks.

It is a last quarter so many will remember. Non-Victorian games have to be very special to reach the intensity of a Victorian game because of the one-team town, one group of supporters factor. Sydney’s recent near defeat of St Kilda comes to mind as a good example. It’s hard to make it really shake your world when the passions of opposing supporters are missing.

Five goals down and the big boys of the Brisbane forward line step forward like Roma farmers with a point of order. When Bradshaw hooked it over his shoulder from 45 out on the boundry the 40 000-strong crowd went bananas including the Prime Minister while Mike Fitzpatrick cringed.

When the siren went nobody moved, just clapped and clapped and clapped.

Then another roar erupted as the score from Lang Park flashed up and showed the Wallabies had got over the rampant South Africa.

It was a great evening in Brisbane, winners all, and the director went home with a lions scarf singing Le Marseillaise.

About Hamish Townsend

Hamish Townsend was born and raised in Geelong, supports the Cats and lives in Brisbane.

Leave a Comment