Almanac Book Review – ‘Merger’ (Part 3): The Supporters





This review is not like the other reviews I have done, such as the ones on premiership triumphs. The themes in Merger by William Westerman are the same, such as camaraderie, friendships and determination. Within the pages of Merger, however, it is for an entirely different purpose. Supporters stood united behind their club, not because of victory, but because of defeat. In the eyes of the many it concerned, it was the worst kind of defeat. Their beloved club was not just defeated on the field, but in every sense of the word. It was bankrupt, out of options and over-ruled in the merger discussions that took place. The Fitzroy faithful were forced to accept a merger agreement with the Brisbane Bears. William Westerman does an outstanding job of covering every facet of this sordid affair, respectfully and thoroughly. This is the story of Fitzroy’s last season.

I really think the heart of this book lies in Westerman’s examination of the supporters. They are the ones who supported the club in the face of ever-increasing hostility. They are the ones who lost their club and, with it, a huge part of their lives. Lastly, they are the ones who ultimately chose whether to turn their backs on football, heart broken, or throw their support behind the sleek new Brisbane Lions AFL Team. Westerman begins this part of the book by introducing a married couple who met at a debutante ball at 16 years of age. At this point, I turned to my wife and asked, “What is a debutante ball?” She replied, “It’s a bit like a school formal, where you bring a partner and do dancing. The girls wear white gowns and the boys wear suits.” Finding their mutual love of the Fitzroy Lions, and shortly thereafter wedded bliss, each successive generation of their family were baptised in maroon and blue. For so many of the fans, their lives and family traditions were vested in the Fitzroy Lions. Westerman really gives a strong sense of this connection.

It didn’t matter that the Lions had nowhere to call home. A succession of grounds, Victoria Park, Princes Park and the Western Oval, all hosted home matches for Fitzroy at various points. The AFL, the media and other clubs seemingly rallied against them. The fans witnessed it all, such as the powerhouse of North Melbourne rejecting their merger agreement. Or the efforts of Dyson Hore-Lacy, who ultimately was forced to admit to fans that a Brisbane merger was the only option. I suppose that, in a similar way, football fans rally together after a premiership. Or in the way it is talked about, players from a premiership team bonding, The Fitzroy faithful gathered together, probably knowing the result wouldn’t be good, and that Fitzroy would never find stability.

The collapse of the Fitzroy Lions Football club in 1996 was met with a lot of anger by supporters. While the Brisbane Lions were created and did have premiership success. This was far from the reality for Fitzroy fans. Wiliam Westerman does a fantastic job of bringing Fitzroy to life. Not just as a tribute, but also as a reflection. And as a lesson not to forget about the Fitzroy Lions and 1996.


Read Part 1 of this review HERE. Read Part 2 of this review HERE.


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  1. Colin Ritchie says

    I remember this time clearly, and was very pleased I was an Essendon supporter at the time (and still supporting the Dons), and not to go through the suffering the Fitzroy supporters must have experienced. It must have been hard to let go of a club you supported. William Westerman certainly has written a detailed account in his book of the comings and goings that took place. Most enlightening. Thank you for your thoughts.

  2. RagingBull says

    I Barrack for Essendon too. While I’m too young to actually remember Fitzroy. I can remember the 2001 grand final quite well.
    When I was writing drafts for this piece, I mentioned it. Though I’m not following current and haven’t for some time.

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