Round 2 – Brisbane v Fremantle: Behind the pub’s velvet rope

Brisbane v Fremantle

1:45pm, Saturday June 13

The Gabba



The week hadn’t started off on the best note and, two days later, not a whole lot had improved.


A loose plan was in motion and much like the players who had taken the field 12 weeks after their last hitout on Thursday night, seemed completely under-cooked.


My diehard Lions mate Shirl – who when first introduced to me in a Melbourne Uni tutorial shouted ‘QUEENSLANDER’ to the heavens and/or King Wally and Big Mal – had sent me a message filled with sorrow.


“They’re fully booked.”


“Just called five different pubs and they’re all booked out – we might have to watch this one at home…”


Earlier in the week we’d discussed a return to the joys of watching our beloved boys from Brisbane town from a fine little pub with a Lions-friendly vibe that sat almost smack-bang in the middle of our two homes; The Birmingham Hotel.


The Birmy had been our pub of choice for three of the past four games we’d watched together; that one outlier resulted in a loss for Brisbane. It had fast become a place of ritual, to cherish the panache of Charlie Cameron and smarts of Hugh “McSuitcase” McCluggage; to witness the rebirth of our team who hadn’t set the world on fire since we were both barely out of high school in the Sunshine State.


There were no tables available at The Birmy.


Resigned to the whims of fate (and of course having failed to book a table at a pub on Smith Street, on the first Saturday featuring live footy in months, which could legally only house 20 people, earlier than the morning of…) my backup plan was to turn on the TV at home and curse a moment lost.


Then, a glimmer of hope…the phone screen flashed and I unlocked the screen.


“The bloke just called me and he can fit us in!!! See you there at 1:45?”


The drama! The joy! A comeback so sweet it could rival the ‘Miracle on Grass’.


I was set to eat, drink and be merry at the pub watching the footy; the stuff Covid-dreams are made of…



Decked out with guernsey underneath my jacket and a tussled iso-mane to rival Simba’s I entered the pub and waited to be seated. Booking name, contact number, and a confident shake of the head to “Have you been overseas or experienced flu-like symptoms recently?” and I was in.


The ball had already been bounced as I sat down; soon the Lions had hit the scoreboard and a first jug of golden ale poured freely into our glasses.


In the midst of a Charlie masterclass in the making, we talked friends and family, prospects for Brisbane in a short season, our shared yet separate halcyon days spent at Ballymore watching the Reds, history of the Bears and Tasmanian footy, tribalism and classism within teams and footy training in your 30s.


More beers followed (with the obligatory food under coronavirus restrictions: chips as crisp as a Lachie Neale handball) and I had the stark realisation that I was watching the footy and bloody loving it. Qualms about the wisdom of restarting the season, crowds or no crowds, player fitness, player skills, player incomes, long term public health outcomes…in the company of a like-minded mate, with months worth of yarns to catch up on and a Brisbane team in transition towards ‘premiership contender’ to guide the way, they all simply took a brief back seat.


The Big O came into his own and Stef spent time on the pine looking sore as we discussed the legacy of Christopher Skase and the works of Ross Fitzgerald. Tom Berry and Callum Ah Chee won plenty of plaudits on debut and we shared tales of Redcliffe Dolphins in the Queensland Cup and the serendipitous comfort of Fitzroy’s legacy for the son of a League player.


And all too soon, Nat Fyfe and Sonny Walters’ spirited comeback was over as Zorko the magician had pulled a sealing goal out of his hat. The siren sounded, La Marseillaise burst forth from the Woolloogabba PA system and we celebrated being back on the winners list by singing along and pouring another beer.


It was at once the most sweet and bitter of the day; our ritual had grown stronger and half an hour later we parted ways to return to the world of cold streets, social distancing, statistics of many shades and a wholly certain amount of uncertainty.



BRISBANE        4.2     8.2    11.5    12.9 (81)
FREMANTLE    3.0     7.3    8.5    10.9 (69)


Brisbane: Cameron 4, Neale 2, McInerney, Zorko, McStay, Hipwood, Ah Chee, Zorko
Fremantle: Fyfe 3, Taberner 2, Walters 2, Matera, Schultz, Banfield


Brisbane: Cameron, Neale, McInerney, Zorko, Andrews, Robinson
Fremantle: Fyfe, Walters, Aish, Taberner, Ryan




Do you enjoy the Almanac concept?
And want to ensure it continues in its current form, and better? To help keep things ticking over please consider making your own contribution.

Become an Almanac (annual) member – CLICK HERE
One-off financial contribution – CLICK HERE
Regular financial contribution (monthly EFT) – CLICK HERE



A classic jack of all trades & master of a couple, Jarrod started his footy career as a gangly ruck after a growth spurt catapulted him to the lofty heights of 177cm as a 12-year-old. Forward pocket off the bench was where he ended up as he topped out at 178cm eight years later. The trajectory of a career in health fortunately didn't peak during the pre-teen years & a keen interest in footy has turned from playing to coaching, volunteering and writing.


  1. John Butler says

    Onya, Jarrod.

    Charlie Cameron is one of my favourite players to watch.

    Don’t underestimate what his loss meant to Adelaide.


  2. Shane Reid says

    Thanks Jarrod, definitely nice to have the Lions back however we find a way to watch them. The game on the weekend really highlighted for me how well Brisbane has recruited. Take the foreign legion of Cameron, Neale as well as Lyons, Martin et al from the Brisbane team and I think we would still be languishing

  3. Jarrod_L says

    Cheers JB,

    Players don’t get much more exciting nor do they capture the mood of the crowd quite like Charlie. A special player.

  4. Jarrod_L says

    Too right Shane, the imports are the backbone of this side. Until we can get a real vein of local talent year in year out, the fact that players from all over want to come to Brisbane now and when in the team really tend to step up is something to be pleased with.

  5. Sam Evans says

    Great read Jarrod. Will be keen to see how Ah Chee goes this year with the Lions. Never really got going at Gold Coast but is a zippy player that I think will slot in well in our back line.

  6. Jarrod_L says

    I totally agree Sam, fingers crossed we’re yet to see the best of Callum rebounding off halfback. He’s still only 22, so time is on his side.

    Glad you enjoyed the piece!

  7. Well played, Jarrod!
    A great yarn, excellently told.

  8. And believe it or not, the Birmingham is one of the few inner Melbourne pubs whose doorway I have not darkened.

  9. Jarrod_L says

    Thanks Smokie! The yarn basically wrote itself after such an arvo; happy some out here seem to have enjoyed it.

    As for the Birmingham, can always add it to the list if you’re in the neighbourhood when the Lions are running around…

Leave a Comment