Almanac Football History: Fitzroy’s Topsy Turvy 1984


Coming into the 1984 VFL season, Fitzroy were regarded as one of the leading flag contenders.[i] They had finished an unlucky 4th in 1983 after losing two close finals games to the eventual Grand Finalists Hawthorn and Essendon, and had added good talent from interstate (Doug Barwick and Dean Turner), and promising local youngsters in Bernie Harris, Tim Pekin, Graeme Williamson, and Peter Burke. The only major loss was Peter Francis to Richmond. Their pre-season form was also excellent, comprising large wins over Hawthorn, Richmond and an ACT side plus a narrow loss to Collingwood.



Yet it proved to be a highly topsy turvy season. The Lions dropped eight of their first nine to sit bottom of the ladder, won the next four in a row, dropped three in a row, and then amazingly won six in a row to grab 5th spot in the final round of the season. Alas, they lost the Elimination Final to Collingwood. The ups and downs seemed to coincide with the availability of ruckman Matt Rendell who had won their two previous Best and Fairests, and centre half forward Gary Sidebottom. Both missed much of the first half of the season. Rendell would eventually play 12 games for 10 victories, whilst the Lions won only one of the 11 matches he missed. Additionally, coach Robert Walls made some major positional changes late in the season, shifting Paul Roos from attack to defence, Gary Pert from defence to attack, and sending Michael Reeves to full back.[ii]



The season still included some major successes including:


  • Superboot Bernie Quinlan kicking 100 goals for the second season running to again win the Coleman Medal. He was the first player to kick the ton two years in a row since Peter McKenna in 1972;
  • Recruit Doug Barwick was one of the rising stars of the competition, playing 15 games and booting 25 goals.[iii]
  • Garry Wilson captained Victoria in the state match against South Australia.
  • Above all, Fitzroy played finals for the second year in a row for the first time since 1943-44.



1984 signalled the end of an era as the last of Fitzroy’s 15 seasons based at the Junction Oval in St Kilda. The Lions maintained a strong community identity, and attracted mostly decent crowds at the Junction Oval which was easily accessible via public transport.[iv] They also achieved a moderate success rate at the ground, winning 75 of their 135 home matches or a total of 55.6 per cent.[v] Victories were particularly common in the period from 1978 to 1984 when they won a Night Premiership, and participated in four finals series. The move to share Victoria Park with Collingwood for 1985 was unfortunately not a success.



1984 was also the last hurrah for champion veterans Garry Wilson and David McMahon, and combative big man Gary Sidebottom. Wilson played 270 games and kicked 450 goals from 1971-84. He won five Best and Fairests and twice finished top three in the Brownlow Medal. Mike Sheahan named him in the top 50 players of the modern era,[vi] and Jack Dyer named him in his Team of the Decade from 1977-1986.[vii]



McMahon played 219 games and kicked 236 goals from 1973-84. [viii]



Western Australian Sidebottom played 43 games and kicked 53 goals for the Lions from 1982-84 after earlier stints at St Kilda and Geelong.




Round 1: 31 March 1984

Fitzroy          4.1    6.6    10.7    15.9 (99)

Geelong        3.5   10.5   21.9   23.10 (148)

Best players: Quinlan, Coleman, Harris, Barwick, Wilson.

Multiple Goalkickers: Quinlan 6, Barwick 3, Conlan 3.


It was a disappointing start to the season getting smashed by a pumped-up Geelong featuring Mark “Jacko” Jackson and Gary Ablett senior on debut at Kardinia Park. Doug Barwick had a successful first game for the Lions. [ix]




Round 2: 7 April 1984

Fitzroy    4.6     7.6   12.12   16.15 (111)

Carlton  10.2   12.6  16.10   18.13 (121)

Best players: Harris, Conlan, Wilson, Thornton, Nettlefold, Pert, Lawrie, Coates.

Multiple Goalkickers: Quinlan 4, Roos 2, Wilson 2.


This home game was one that got away. The Lions had a dreadful start, then got back within one point halfway through the last quarter but couldn’t land the killer blow. [x]




Round 3: 14 April 1984

Fitzroy         5.2   8.5   10.7     16.9 (105)

Richmond   6.2   7.8   17.15   22.19 (151)

Best players: Pert, Thornton, Quinlan, Scott, Clayton, Osborne.

Multiple Goalkickers: Quinlan 5, Scott 5, Wilson 2.


Captain Garry Wilson celebrated his 250th game, but an improved Richmond destroyed the Lions with a devastating third quarter at VFL Park. [xi]




Round 4: 21 April 1984

Fitzroy        2.3  9.5  17.9  21.14 (140)

Footscray   3.1  5.5   7.11   9.16 (70)

Best players: Pert, Conlan, Rendell, Thornton, Wilson, Lawrie, Pekin, Barwick, Lokan.

Multiple Goalkickers: Conlan 10, Thornton 3, Scott 2, Pekin 2.


Matt Rendell returned from injury (only to dislocate his shoulder and miss a further six games) as the Lions won their first match for the season at the Junction Oval. Gary Pert was outstanding at full back holding Simon Beasley goalless, and Tim Pekin made an impressive debut. Mick Conlan enjoyed perhaps his best ever game, scoring 10 goals from 14 kicks. According to The Age, he displayed “again all the surety and confidence that has sent opposition coaches into a blind panic in recent years. While Conlan was far from the busiest player on the ground, those who maintained he was simply lucky to be in the right place at the right time grossly underestimated his effectiveness”. [xii]



Round 5: 29 April 1984

Fitzroy  2.3  6.10  10.11  15.14 (104)

Sydney  5.5   7.9   10.15  17.17 (119)

Best players: Wilson, Pert, Lokan, Osborne, Williamson, Quinlan, Coleman.

Multiple Goalkickers: Wilson 3, Scott 3, Roos 2, Quinlan 2, Conlan 2, Harris 2.


Another narrow loss, this time to the Swans in Sydney. The Lions led by eight points 15 minutes into the last quarter, but were overrun despite 34 possessions from captain Garry Wilson. Back to 10th spot on the ladder. [xiii]




Round 6: 5 May 1984

Fitzroy        4.5   8.6   12.13   13.15 (93)

Essendon   4.3   8.7    14.8    22.12 (144)

Best players: Osborne, Thornton, Wilson, Harris, Conlan.

Multiple Goalkickers: Conlan 5, Scott 3, Quinlan 2.


The Lions grabbed a 10 point lead halfway through the third quarter, but couldn’t sustain the effort against top of the ladder Essendon. The loss left them 11th on the ladder.[xiv] Third quarter highlights included a strong park mark by Quinlan who passed to Scott for a goal, a Reeves handball to Quinlan who put the Lions back in front, and a right foot snap by Conlan for his 4th goal. Additionally, Pert won the ABC’s Mark of the Day for a one handed grab over Paul Salmon, and Conlan won the Goal of the Day for a left foot snap.




Round 7: 12 May 1984

Fitzroy         6.3   8.6   14.8   16.8 (104)

Hawthorn   3.1    9.5   14.7   20.15 (135)

Best players: Harris, Clayton, Wilson, Pekin, Pert, Osborne.

Multiple Goalkickers: Quinlan 6, Conlan 4, Roos 2, Wilson 2.


The Lions stormed to a 26 point lead late in the third quarter, but the reigning premiers steadied at home and pulled away in the final stanza. Leon Harris starred with 26 disposals, and Scott Clayton did a tremendous job tagging Terry Wallace.[xv] Third quarter highlights included a great snap by Quinlan, and a remarkable goal by Conlan where he literally head butted an opponent before snapping a great goal. A great bit of team play by Harris passing to Gotch who then passed to Wilson resulted in another goal.




Round 8: 19 May 1984

Fitzroy           1.1   3.6   9.8   12.9 (81)

Melbourne   2.2   5.7   6.9   13.14 (92)

Best players: Osborne, Harris, Parish, Coleman, Pert, Roos.

Multiple Goalkickers: Quinlan 4, Wilson 2, Gotch 2.


Another disappointing loss at home after leading at three quarter time, this time to lowly Melbourne, sent the Lions to the bottom of the ladder. Richard Osborne and Leon Harris both had 23 disposals. [xvi]




Round 9: 26 May 1984

Fitzroy              2.1   6.6    8.9    11.16 (82)

Collingwood    4.3   8.9   11.16  15.19 (109)

Best players: Harris, Parish, Quinlan, Roos, Thornton, Lokan.

Multiple Goalkickers: Quinlan 4, Wilson 2.


The Lions never looked likely against 3rd placed Collingwood at Victoria Park. Both Les Parish and Leon Harris had 30 disposals. [xvii]




Round 10: 2 June 1984

Fitzroy    6.4   14.7   18.11  22.15 (147)

St Kilda   3.2    5.5    9.12   11.17 (83)

Best Players: Sidebottom, Pekin, Roos, Grimley, Lokan, Quinlan, Parish, Lawrie.

Multiple goalkickers:  Quinlan 6, Conlan 5, Lawrie 3, Pekin 2, Wilson 2, Harris 2.


The Lions had this game won by half time against lowly St Kilda at VFL Park, and jumped to 10th on the ladder. Sidebottom was best on ground with 24 disposals and five marks, whilst Quinlan took eight marks and kicked six goals five. [xviii] First quarter highlights included a left foot snap by Quinlan, a long goal on the run by Conlan, and a big contested mark by Quinlan. Conlan nailed the ABC Goal of the Day. He knocked the ball in from near the right boundary line, accepted a remarkable over the head handball from Wilson, shrugged off a tackle by Trevor Barker, and completed an amazing left foot snap. Second quarter highlights included Conlan snapping his 5th goal under pressure, a nice goal by Leon Harris from a mark, and Grant Lawrie taking two bounces and goaling on the run.



Round 11: 11 June 1984

Fitzroy                      8.2   14.7   19.10   25.16 (166)

North Melbourne   4.5   10.7   21.11    23.14 (152)

Best players: Osborne, Roos, Thornton, Rendell, Sidebottom, Wilson, Quinlan.

Multiple Goalkickers: Quinlan 7, Conlan 5, Rendell 4, Sidebottom 3, Lawrie 3.


The Lions ended strongly at home to win a shoot-out against struggling North Melbourne after trailing by 19 points early in the last quarter. Rendell and Sidebottom were both instrumental in the victory. Wilson had 30 disposals plus a superb high mark, and Roos had 23 disposals and eight marks. [xix] Third quarter highlights included a long handball by Osborne to Rendell who goaled on the run, a Quinlan pass to Conlan resulting in a goal, a screamer by Osborne, and a goal on the run by Leon Harris. Final quarter highlights included a Wilson pass to Conlan for his 4th goal, a great snap by Thornton under pressure, a goal to Rendell following a ruck duel free kick, Sidebottom dashing into an open goal to put the Lions back in front, Lawrie running into an open goal, and a left foot snap by Quinlan to seal the game. Coach Robert Walls later praised the great effort by Rendell who had eight kicks in the final quarter.




Round 12: 16 June 1984

Fitzroy   5.3   8.7  9.10   10.12 (72)

Carlton  3.1   8.2   9.7      9.13 (67)

Best players: Coleman, Thornton, Lokan, Conlan, Parish, Turner.

Multiple Goalkickers: Quinlan 3, Conlan 3.


The Lions caused a big upset against 3rd placed Carlton at VFL Park. Reserve ruckman Glenn Coleman was universally judged to be best on ground. He had 29 disposals, took 10 marks, and had 18 hitouts. [xx] First quarter highlights included a left foot snap by Conlan, a right foot snap by Conlan, a Rendell goal from a free kick, a goal by Turner on the run, and a great contested mark by Quinlan over two defenders resulting in a goal. Second quarter highlights included a Lawrie handball to Conlan for his 3rd goal, and a Pekin handball to Lawrie for a goal. A third quarter highlight was great persistence by Conlan who ran the ball down the boundary line before handballing to Lokan for an easy goal. Quinlan iced the game with his 50th goal of the season halfway through the last quarter with a 50 metre goal following a fine pass by Lokan.




Round 13: 23 June 1984

Fitzroy         3.1   6.3   8.8     14.14 (98)

Richmond   5.3   7.7  10.10   11.15 (81)

Best players: Roos, Osborne, Pert, Clayton, Coleman, Turner.

Multiple Goalkickers: Quinlan 4, Lawrie 3, Conlan 2, Sidebottom 2, Wilson 2.


The Lions continued their revival with a come from behind victory against 5th placed Richmond at the MCG. Roos starred with 28 disposals and seven marks, but Rendell suffered another injury. [xxi] The Lions were now only two games outside the five, and coach Robert Walls expressed confidence that his team could still play finals.[xxii]




Round 14: 30 June 1984

Fitzroy        0.2   4.8    8.10   11.11 (77)

Footscray   8.4   10.6   12.9   13.13 (91)

Best players: Roos, Quinlan, Lokan, Pert, Wilson, Osborne.

Multiple goalkickers: Quinlan 7, Conlan 2.


The Lions never looked likely against Footscray at the Western Oval. Paul Roos was solid with 26 disposals and six marks. [xxiii]




Round 15: 7 July 1984

Fitzroy    2.6   4.7   6.12   9.14 (68)

Sydney    1.2   5.5    7.6   14.12 (96)

Best players: Lokan, Turner, Carlson, Wilson, Coleman, Hinchen.

Multiple goalkickers: Conlan 3, Quinlan 2.


Another disappointing loss, this time to 9th placed Sydney, left Fitzroy three games outside the Five. Age commentator Mike Coward quipped that “Fitzroy, arguably one kick away from last year’s pennant, is now out of contention”.[xxiv] One highlight was a great snap under pressure by Quinlan in the third quarter.




Round 16: 14 July 1984.

Fitzroy       2.2    4.7    7.10    9.12 (66)

Essendon  5.1    11.3   17.6    20.7 (127)

Best players: Wilson, Reeves, Carlson, Clayton, Pert, Turner.

Multiple goalkickers: Quinlan 4.


The Lions were never in the game against the 2nd placed Bombers at Windy Hill. [xxv] They now sat 10th on the ladder. Game highlights included a strong mark by Quinlan over Duckworth for a first quarter goal, and a team goal featuring Lokan to Gotch to Wilson for a lovely right foot snap in the second quarter. The third quarter included a nice goal on the run by Parish, a fine high mark by Reeves, and a strong mark and goal by Quinlan.


Following this loss, Mick Conlan, who had been outstanding with 51 goals in 16 games, was booked in for surgery to mend a badly injured toe. [xxvi] Conlan was never quite the same player again, although his last minute goal to win the 1986 Elimination Final against Essendon will long be remembered by Lions fans.




Round 17: 28 July 1984

Fitzroy        4.5   4.6   8.8   11.11 (77)

Hawthorn  4.1    5.5   6.7   10.7 (67)

Best players: Lokan, Turner, Barwick, Roos, Quinlan, Thornton, Osborne.

Multiple goalkickers: Quinlan 3, Pert 2, Turner, Barwick 2.


The Lions upset ladder leader Hawthorn at the Junction Oval as Bernie Harris (younger brother of Leon) made his debut. Bill Lokan had 29 disposals.[xxvii]




Round 18: 4 August 1984

Fitzroy         5.6   11.11   17.17   22.20 (152)

Melbourne  3.3   8.6     13.11   17.18 (120)

Best players: Quinlan, Rendell, Lokan, Roos, Harris, Reeves, Gotch, Pert.

Multiple goalkickers: Quinlan 9, Bernie Harris 4, Barwick 3, Sidebottom 2, Wilson 2.


The Lions lead easily from start to finish at the MCG. Quinlan took nine marks, and kicked nine goals five to lead the goalkicking ladder with 79 goals. Rendell was dominant in the ruck with 20 disposals, 12 marks and 28 hitouts. [xxviii] Third quarter highlights included a contested mark and goal by Quinlan, three bounces by Gotch topped off by a pass to Harris that resulted in a lovely goal on the run, great team play to get the ball to Quinlan for a mark and his 6th goal, a goal on the run by Barwick, a brilliant handball by Wilson to Gotch who hit the post, and a clever tap by Quinlan to Harris for an open goal.


Journalist Malcolm Conn now declared that Fitzroy were a genuine chance to make the five even though they remained two games outside with only four matches to go.[xxix]

Round 19: 11 August 1984

Fitzroy             5.3   7.4   13.12  14.19 (103)

Collingwood   0.1   2.5    5.6     9.7 (61)

Best players: Osborne, Pert, Barwick, Roos, Thornton, Gotch, Pekin, Rendell, Sidebottom.

Multiple goalkickers: Osborne 3, Wilson 2, Pert 2, Quinlan 2, Gotch 2.


The Lions demolished 4th placed Collingwood at VFL Park, leading at one stage by 11 goals. Osborne dominated with 20 disposals and three goals four. Pert was equally impressive with 17 disposals and two goals. [xxx] Game  highlights included a long left foot snap by Barwick in the first quarter, and a nice goal by Sidebottom in the second quarter. The Lions controlled the 3rd quarter including a great shark by Wilson off the pack and left foot snap, a long hook by Pert over his shoulder which commentator Sandy Roberts labelled Goal of the Day, a long goal by Osborne on the run, Gotch running into an open goal, a long kick by Turner gifting another goal to Gotch, and another goal on the run by Osborne. Osborne nailed another long snap in the last quarter.




Round 20: 18 August 1984

Fitzroy    6.1   12.2   13.9   20.11 (131)

Geelong  4.2   7.5    10.7    14.9 (93)

Best players: Osborne, Rendell, Gotch, Lokan, Burke, Pekin, Pert, Quinlan, Lawrie, Reeves.

Multiple goalkickers: Quinlan 5, Pert 4, Barwick 3, Gotch 3, Wilson 2.


The Lions won their fourth game in a row against 5th placed Geelong at the Junction Oval, and were now only one game outside the Five.[xxxi] First quarter highlights included a Lokan pass to Gotch who goaled, and a big mark and goal by Pert. Second quarter highlights included a Wilson goal from a mark, a Pert snap on the run, an elusive goal by Quinlan, and a classic left foot snap by Quinlan over his shoulder. Final quarter highlights included a Quinlan mark and goal, Osborne taking two bounces to kick a long point, a long goal by Carlson on the run, and a clever goal by Gotch.




Round 21: 25 August 1984

Fitzroy                      8.3   15.5   21.7   26.9 (165)

North Melbourne   4.6   5.10   9.16   15.21 (111)

Best players: Quinlan, Barwick, Lokan, Rendell, Sidebottom, Wilson, Bernie Harris, Roos, Gotch, Burke.

Multiple goalkickers: Quinlan 11, Barwick 5, Bernie Harris 3, Gotch 2, Wilson 2, Lokan 2.


Bernie Quinlan dominated this game with 11 goals from 12 kicks at the MCG. This was the highest number of goals by a Fitzroy player in a game since 1928, and took him to 97 goals for the season. Journalist Ken Piesse called him “a legend of Australian football”, whilst North Melbourne coach Barry Cable judged Fitzroy to be the third best side in the competition after ladder leaders Essendon and Hawthorn. [xxxii]


There were many game highlights including Quinlan goaling off the ground and from a right foot snap, another right foot snap by Quinlan, and a left foot snap by Quinlan for his 10th goal. Third quarter highlights included a lovely high mark by Osborne, and a pass by Turner to Quinlan for his 6th goal.[xxxiii] The Lions remained 7th on the ladder with one game remaining.[xxxiv]




Round 22: 1 September 1984

Fitzroy   5.9   11.12   19.17   24.20 (164)

St Kilda  3.1   7.10     9.11    15.17 (107)

Best players: Osborne, Barwick, Roos, Turner, Quinlan, Lokan, Reeves.

Multiple goalkickers: Quinlan 5, Osborne 5, Barwick 4, Pert 2, Bernie Harris 2, Wilson 2, Gotch 2.


Fitzroy secured fifth spot by percentage over Geelong and Footscray with an easy victory over bottom side St Kilda in the last ever VFL game at the Junction Oval. Superboot Bernie Quinlan nailed five goals to become only the 7th VFL player to complete the ton in two consecutive years. Richard Osborne dominated with 26 disposals, eight marks and five goals four. [xxxv]


Game highlights included Quinlan marking to score his 99th, and then taking a spectacular mark over Saints Danny Frawley and Michael Roberts to drill his 100th, following which hundreds of kids swarmed on the ground to congratulate the champ. Superboot was cheered off after the game, and admitted he felt “plenty of relief” on scoring his 100th goal. The ABC Play of the Day came from Doug Barwick who took two bounces down the right wing before scoring a brilliant goal on the run.




Finals Footy; Elimination Final 9 September 1984

Fitzroy             5.3   8.9   11.16   15.17 (107)

Collingwood   5.2   8.4   13.8    23.15 (153)

Best players: Rendell, Pert, Turner, Roos, Bernie Harris, Osborne.

Multiple goalkickers: Quinlan 3, Lokan 2, Sidebottom 2, Scott 2, Osborne 2, Pert 2.


The Lions were confident of toppling Collingwood after six wins in a row, but for the third time in six seasons the Pies proved too strong in a finals game. In front of 74,000 fans at the MCG, the Lions started slowly, but nudged in front by quarter time. They were only four points down at three quarter time after having six more scoring shots. But perhaps the effort of winning so many games in the second half of the season took its toll, and the Pies destroyed them in the final quarter. [xxxvi]


Matt Rendell was best with 19 disposals, 10 marks, and 26 hit outs. Game highlights included a beautiful mark by Gary Pert who played on and drilled a long goal. In the final quarter, there was a strong mark by Paul Roos, and magnificent leap by Pert at centre half forward.






1984 was a strange season. On paper, the Lions seemed to be a genuine premiership threat. This was the last season that key veterans Quinlan, Wilson and Sidebottom joined rising stars Pert, Roos and Osborne in the same squad. Add other talented players in Rendell, Conlan, Thornton, Leon Harris and Lokan plus promising first year players in Barwick, Turner and Bernie Harris, and the potential for success looked high. But injury – particularly to key players such as Rendell, Sidebottom, Conlan and also veteran Laurie Serafini – reduced team cohesion and performances.


It was also the end of an era for the writer. I watched most Lions home games from 1970-84 at the Junction Oval jointly with my father, and sometimes my elderly grandmother, in the St Kilda Cricket Club grandstand. But dad expressed nil interest in attending games at Victoria Park. I saw the Lions live only four times in 85, and little more in their outstanding season of 1986.



Top Ten Fitzroy Best and Fairest


Ross Thornton 105

Richard Osborne 99 (and 10 Brownlow votes)

Bill Lokan 98

Bernie Quinlan 93

Paul Roos 86

Gary Pert 74

Leon Harris 65

Glenn Coleman 60

Matthew Rendell 57

Scott Clayton 41




Top Ten Fitzroy Goalkickers


Bernie Quinlan 105

Michael Conlan 51

Garry Wilson 30

Doug Barwick 25

Mark Scott 17

Gary Pert 15

Bradley Gotch 13

Leon Harris 12

Garry Sidebottom 12

Richard Osborne 11

Bernie Harris 11

Grant Lawrie 11




[i] Peter Stone (1984) “Lions’ Share”, Herald, 24 February.

[ii] Paul Roos (1997) Beyond 300: An autobiography. Milsons Point: Mandarin, pp. 152-53.

[iii] Russell Holmesby (2020) The Death of Fitzroy Football Club. Melbourne: Hardie Grant Books, pp.67-68.

[iv] For fond supporter memories of the Junction Oval, see Adam Muyt (2006) Maroon & Blue: Recollections and Tales of the Fitzroy Football Club. Melbourne: Vulgar Press, pp.84-92. See also the positive recollection by Paul Roos, Beyond 300, pp.154-55.

[v] Pete Carter (2020) Fitzroy’s Fabulous Century: The 100 Greatest Victories 1897-1996. Perth: Mr Smudge Books, p.283.

[vi] Mike Sheahan, “Cream of the Crop” in Geoff Slattery (ed.) The Australian Game of Football since 1858. Geoff Slattery Publishing. Melbourne, 2008, pp.158-159.

[vii] Brian Hansen and Jack Dyer (1996) Jack Dyer’s The Greatest: The most sensational players of the century. Melbourne; Brian Hansen Nominees, p.390.

[viii] Holmesby, The Death of Fitzroy Football Club, pp.65-66; Jim Main (2007) Fitzroy. Melbourne: Bas Publishing, p.212.

[ix] Michael Carrick (1984) “Jacko and co. put new life in Cats”, The Age, 2 April; Anonymous (1984) “Wildcats live up to their name”, Sunday Observer, 1 April.

[x] Garrie Hutchinson (1984) “Fast start wins day for Blues”, The Age, 9 April.

[xi] Frank Brown (1984) “Tigers roar back to life”, Sunday Press, 15 April.

[xii] Trevor Grant (1984) “Conlan stirs the sleeping Lions”, The Age, 23 April. On Conlan’s heroics, see also David Rhys-Jones (2012) “Danger: Explosive”, Inside Football, 4 April, p.25, and Pete Carter (2020) Fitzroy’s Fabulous Century, pp.128-130.

[xiii] Greg Growden (1984) “Swans in great fightback”, The Age, 30 April.

[xiv] Ken Piesse (1984) “Dons are top four certainty”, Sunday Press, 6 May.

[xv] Howard Leigh (1984) “Hawks in old style blitzkrieg”, Sunday Press, 13 May; Mike Coward (1984) “Lions finding it tough at the top”, The Age, 14 May.

[xvi] Howard Leigh (1984) “Flower a crock, but what power”, Sunday Press, 20 May.

[xvii] Frank Brown (1984) “Pies need ruck”, Sunday Press, 27 May.

[xviii] Frank Brown (1984) “How the Lions fed on Saints”, Sunday Press, 3 June.

[xix] Malcolm Conn (1984) “Lions pip North in record goal spree”, The Age, 12 June.

[xx] Ken Davis (1984) “Lions scrape home in an upset win”, Sunday Press, 17 June; David Humphries (1984) ‘Carlton’s run all but over”, The Age, 18 June.

[xxi] Ken Davis (1984) “Tigers just fade away”, Sunday Press, 24 June; Trevor Grant (1984) “Defence keeps Lions on rise”, The Age, 25 June.

[xxii] Mike Coward (1984) “Walls has that winning feeling”, The Age, 25 June.

[xxiii] Frank Brown (1984) “Bulldog blitz sets seal on Lions’ hopes”, Sunday Press, 1 July.

[xxiv] Mike Coward (1984) “Stout-hearted Swans are football’s great survivors”, The Age, 9 July; see also Frank Brown (1984) “Hammond hammers home Sydney Swans”, Sunday Press, 8 July.

[xxv] Howard Leigh (1984) “Bombers keep shifting sights for their salvos”, Sunday Press, 15 July.

[xxvi] Michael Lovett (1984) “Lions lose Conlan”, Herald, July.

[xxvii] Anonymous (1984) “No Hawks perch on higher Walls”, Sunday Press, 29 July; Garrie Hutchinson (1984) “For Fitzroy, what might have been”, The Age, 30 July.

[xxviii] Anonymous (1984) “Bernie boots it to Demons”, Sunday Press, 5 August; Malcolm Conn (1984) “Melbourne boom goes bust”, The Age, 6 August.

[xxix] Malcolm Conn (1984) “Lions right in the hunt”, The Age, 6 August.

[xxx] Ken Piesse (1984) Magpies flutter, flop in Lion leap”, Sunday Press, 12 August; David Humphries (1984) “As the coach said – pathetic”, The Age, 13 August.

[xxxi] Ken Piesse (1984) “Amazing Fitzroy climb continues”, Sunday Press, 19 August; Ken Piesse (1984) “Walls whips languishing Lions into winning shape”, Sunday Press, 19 August.

[xxxii] Ken Piesse (1984) “Hail, Quinlan, living legend”, Sunday Press, 26 August.

[xxxiii] Pete Carter. Fitzroy’s Fabulous Century, pp.139-141.

[xxxiv] Malcolm Conn (1984) “Speaking of nerves”, The Age, 31 August.

[xxxv] Ken Davis (1984) “Lions canonised Saints martyred”, Sunday Press, 2 September; Pete Carter. Fitzroy’s Fabulous Century, pp.280-283.

[xxxvi] Trevor Grant (1984) “Young pies come alive”, The Age, 10 September.





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About Philip Mendes

Philip Mendes is an academic who follows AFL, soccer, tennis and cricket. He supported Fitzroy Football Club from 1970-1996, and on their death he adopted the North Melbourne Kangaroos as his new team. In his spare time, he occasionally writes about his current and past football teams.


  1. Thank you for this season summary Philip. I was only young but my first memories as a Fitzroy fan were of the 83/84 seasons. Some big “what ifs.” What a talismanic player Rendell must have been. I’ve got a memory of Bernie’s 300th being against Geelong, was that the round 1 game? I may be thinking of his 350th a bit later on. Incredible to think of a team losing 8 of the first 9 and coming back to make the finals. Thanks for your piece, a great way to start the morning.

  2. Danny Shavitsky says

    A comprehensive and passionate article by Phillip on his beloved Fitzroy. Perhaps it’s fair to say that during this era, if you weren’t a Fitzroy, they possibly were your “second team. Indeed they included several talented individuals like Quinlan, Wilson and Sidebottom, but perhaps many of their “second tier players” Just aren’t up to scat h. It was a shame to see many of their top players pillaged by other teams in following years. It would have been nice to still have a “stand alone” Fitzroy in The AFL.

  3. Wonderful in depth summary of a weird season, Philip. Several years before my time watching the Roys started, but familiar names throughout. Conlan’s form sounded out of this world; I love seeing highlights of his goals when he was on song.

  4. Another great read, Phil.
    Fitzroy literally played catch-up football in a remarkable last six rounds of the year.
    However, the damage was done between Rounds 5 and 8 when, as you pointed out, the Lions were in front in all four games well into the second half before fading.
    Ha ha, it would’ve been nice if we had of been suffering a premiership hangover in April-May.
    Instead, I think some of the players may have subconsciously believed the team looked good on paper.
    Did your father return to watching the Roys when they moved to Princes Park in 1987?

  5. That round 1 clash at Kardinia Park saw 3 famous players debut for the ‘hoops’. ‘Jacko’ playing for his third VFL club, ‘God’s’ first appearance after a year out of VFL ranks, but there was also Greg Williams playing his first VFL game. If my old memory is working David Bolton also made his Geelong debut that afternoon.

    Glenn ‘Galaxy’ Coleman was a very under rated player. For a big bloke he was very versatile, contributing well for all his VFL clubs.

    Phil, please jog my memory. Who was Williamson on the Fitzroy 1984 team list?


  6. Philip Mendes says

    Hi Glen – Graeme Williamson was a tall defender who played four games in 1984, and then another five in 1986. From memory he showed some promise, but his career was dented by injury. I agree with you about Coleman. I think he was a massive loss when he did his knee at the end of 84 and then defected to Sydney as he was able to fill key defensive posts and play in the ruck. Pete – my dad was a strange guy. He prioritized St Kilda Cricket Club ahead of football so when Fitzroy left the Junction Oval that mostly ended his interest. He used to visit Adelaide regularly for holidays so when they entered the competition he chose to support them and enjoyed their 97 and 98 premierships.

  7. I can certainly understand your dad’s decision to support Adelaide post Fitzroy, Phil.
    I think many Royboys would’ve had trouble supporting Melbourne teams given some rivalries extended back to 1897 (or beyond if we factor in the VFA).
    And the Crows’ colours had elements of Fitzroy’s old (navy blue) and new (gold and red a.k.a. light maroon) guernseys.

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