The Roar of the Lion

By Shane Johnson, former football manager and player development manager with Brisbane 1992-2006


The merger of the Bears and the Fitzroy Lions was an emotional and interesting time.

I remember going to a meeting of the players at the Fitzroy pub after the union had been consummated. There were many vacant faces. They looked like ghosts.

The club eventually settled on the eight players we were allowed to recruit. I found it interesting that four years before Chris Johnson had told us emphatically if we drafted him he wouldn’t come to Brisbane. He was our first choice that year for the draft after kicking a heap in the TAC Cup grand final. He bluffed us. We picked Nigel Lappin instead!

Chris was one of the eight selected and eventually settled into Brisbane after some initial hard times, playing a vital role in the premiership years as a mercurial back pocket, getting married and having a family. He was very comfortable in Brisbane and an important member of the club and we became good friends.

The merger gave us some stability in a financial sense. I worked hard along with others on merging the two histories together, developing new honour boards, photo displays and names on lockers, amongst other things.

The lockers had 100 gamers from both clubs. The new honour board dating back to the late 1800s was magnificent, featuring amongst other things coach, captain, club champion, leading goalkicker and position finished.

We had a new life members’ board. The Bears only had two in Graeme Smart and Roger Merrett.

We started the Scott McIvor 200-game board, who had been a great player with not only the Roys but the Bears as well. Later, the Marcus Ashcroft 300-game board was made in honour of the first Queenslander to play that many matches.

Interestingly, the Roys only ever had one 300-game player in Kevin Murray, after whom the club champion medal was named, along with Roger Merrett.

I enjoyed that period and remember Bernie Quinlan and Garry Wilson coming to the club at one stage. They were rapt with what we had done and said it was better than anything Fitzroy had in the past. The old Lions had been a bit gypsy-like in their existence, moving from one ground or facility to the next, and what we had done had preserved that history in a visual way.

Here we go with some stories from my time with the Lions…

In 1997, in a game between the Lions and the Western Bulldogs, the Lions tough-as-teak defender Danny Dickfos had done a job on the star of that year Chris Grant with some very determined, classy and physical footy.

Grant was the victim of some close attention from the man of Islander extraction and was decidedly the worse for wear.

Lions captain Alastair Lynch was heard to remark the next day about the tattered and torn Grant: “He looked like he had mistakenly wandered up a dark alley in Auckland and been bashed by a Maori.”

I was also lucky enough to travel to London and Ireland with the Lions players at the end of 1999, taking in the Wallabies World Cup match against Ireland at Lansdowne Road in Dublin.

Trent Bartlett, another ex-Tasmanian, and myself stayed an extra week. I spent that time as a navigator, hurtling around Ireland with rock-wall fences whizzing past my left shoulder as “Bart” indulged in some driving that Michael Schumacher would have been proud of.

Big “Hobart” as he was affectionately known also had some wonderful quotes:

“Gee, it’s a good spot this Dingy Peninsula.” (It was Dingle)

“Let’s go out to the Port-man-a-hock golf course.” (Portmarnock)

“What a great place this Cobble Garden is!” as we wandered over the cobblestones in Covent Garden.

“Look, there is a great big Bombfire!” (Bonfire)

“Isn’t there a lot of Crooks and Nannies around Ireland.” (Nooks and Crannies)

And when the great American golfer Payne Stewart was tragically killed in a plane crash this pearler:

“Wasn’t it bad luck about that Stewart Payne, wasn’t he the bloke that used to wear those Par Fours?” (Plus Fours)

A young bloke arrived at the Lions in early 2003 about the time the US invaded Iraq. This kid had an enormously long penis which quickly earned him the nickname WMD.

A “weapon of mass destruction!”

Former Brisbane Lions reserves coach Matty (Dogga) Armstrong to a young player: “Son, if you want to run with the big dogs you’ll have to learn how to piss on the big trees.”

After moving into the new dressing rooms at the Gabba, it was finally remembered that we hadn’t put up the old dartboard. Dartboard erected. New darts purchased, I wondered out aloud to our handyman.

“How long do you reckon they’ll last, Ronnie?” I mused.

Two days later he found two of them broken and there they were on my desk with the following note: “”Try two-metre spears next time.”

Dennis Cometti, that great commentator, had a great turn of phrase. A couple spring to mind.

Clark Keating, the giant Brisbane Lions ruckman, was making his debut at Subiaco when he gathered a loose ball just outside the 50-metre arc. Dennis enthused: “The new boy Keating is on. He gathers. Keating lumbers through half-forward. My word he’s a big Palooka.”

And this one when the 210cm gangly “Spider” Burton was trying to find the footy at his feet with not much luck: “The spider stumbles, fumbles – he’s like Pavarotti on a skateboard.”

And this…“They are fumbling their way back into form.”

Giant former Geelong captain Damian Bourke finished his career with the Bears and later became the Lions ruck coach. Bourkie is a very funny man.

One night at training I sidled up beside the big fella asking him “how’s things going, Bourkie?”

“Not bad Johnno” came the reply.

“What do you know mate?” I asked.

“Between me and my brother we know everything,” the big fella chortled.

I thought for a second.

“What’s the capital of Egypt, then?” I said.

Bourkie thought for a while, his hand rubbing his chin, then: “My brother knows that!”

We were having a spirited discussion about the value of ruckmen in modern day AFL football in late 2002.

Bourkie was leading the charge defending his boys.

Gary O’Donnell was doing an equally good job of baiting the big fella, saying they were useless, a waste of space, etc, etc.

Bourkie argued that they were wonderful combatants, the “gladiators of the game”.

To which Gary replied: “Right era Bourkie, wrong name. The name you were looking for was dinosaurs!”

Just before the 2001 AFLQ grand final in which the Lions Reserves were playing, I said jokingly to one of our onballers Benny Robbins: “I can get 8/1 about you winning the Joe Grant Medal, should I get on?”

The Grant Medal was awarded to the best on the ground.

“Bloody oath,” came the reply from Benny, who had never played in a grand final up until that stage.

You guessed it. Out he went and had 44 touches to be clearly best on, winning the medal.

Wished I had plonked on!

The Lions were preparing for their first final in 2002 against Adelaide at the Gabba. The Crow’s serial pest tagger was Tyson Stenglein.

Coach Leigh Matthews was talking during the Friday night planning meeting.

His suggestion was that Tyson would take Michael Voss in the match ups, but he kept referring to him as Stein-Glen rather than Sten-Glein, to much concealed mirth amongst the group.

The following Wednesday the squad was playing water polo and had to split into four teams and come up with a name for their team. And there they were, “The Stein-Glens”.

When the Lions played in Perth, we used to take 2-3 trainers from Brisbane and because we had a close relationship with the Subiaco Lions Footy Club, we would use their trainers to make up our numbers. They were very loyal and often it was the same guys doing it year in and year out.

One evening against the Eagles at the WACA, the West Australian crowd turned nasty on us as we were leaving the ground at halftime .One of the Subi trainers was heard to yell at the seething crowd: “Go on get up us. That’s it, get up us .We love it”.

He was a committed local. He probably barracked for the Eagles every other week.

In my role firstly as football manager and then as player development manager of the Brisbane Lions, I encountered many funny, stressful and unusual experiences.

A sample of some of those happenings are:

One young draftee from Victoria was caught pinching a handbag from the cloak room at a Brisbane nightclub.

A different young player from country Victoria had his jaw broken outside a nightclub while sitting down on the steps enjoying a late night hotdog.

Phone calls in the early hours to help get blokes out of trouble or to give advice.

One young fellow from Western Australia had marijuana problems that led him to pinch money out of the changerooms at not only the club, but the QAFL club he was playing for at the time as well. On one visit to Perth to play footy, this bloke was going to be arrested but the police forewarned us and we were able to solve the problem.

Not long after, he was de-listed and after stealing a car, he did spend a bit of time at Her Majesty’s pleasure. We often wondered what the break and enter stats around the Gabba were during his time with us. We were too frightened to ask.

About the same time another young lad also enjoyed the weed and lacked the necessary commitment to succeed. He was drug tested for illicit drugs on a number of occasions and was told after continued breaches that if it happened again he would be sacked from the club.

Sure enough, he again failed a test and when asked for what happened we received this enlightening explanation. “I’d been good but I went to an 18th birthday party a couple of weeks ago and they had a hashish birthday cake and I just had to have some.”

He was given the tiptoe.

We had one player who was a terrific young fellow but had no idea and regularly ran up monthly mobile phone bills of $1200. He didn’t know what a receipt was and had trouble cutting up his skinless chicken fillets with a bread and butter knife.

The same bloke simply disregarded parking and speed camera offences until it all came crashing down on him, losing his license for six months, copping a $550 fine and back payment with interest of the other fines totalling about $1300.

At the 2002 AFL grand final, for the first time both teams had their photo taken on the ground just after entering the arena similar to what they do in soccer.

The Lions had resisted at first, as you would expect, as it would upset the normal routine. But after discussions amongst the group and the fact that Collingwood was going to do it they decided to do it for posterity

Leigh Matthews said that he could feel the energy coursing through the side as they assembled for what was to be a 20-second snapshot opportunity as outlined by the AFL. There would be no lining up as such, just assemble and click.

After about 25 seconds had elapsed, one of the female photographer’s assistants asked for a couple of players to swap places. To which a by this stage highly emotional and aggressive Chris Scott countered: “Just take the fu**ing photo”. The snap was promptly taken.

After the 2002 Lions premiership win, the players were celebrating their victory on the Tuesday night after spending the afternoon at the Carlton Brewery, where they launched a commemorative can of mid-strength beer.

At about 11pm, the by-now tired and emotional group were enjoying more frothies on the balcony of the famous Plough Inn at Southbank in Brisbane.

Security were doing their rounds, with one of them using a four-wheeler motorbike, which he parked outside the “Plough”.

Tim Notting, being the country boy that he is, couldn’t resist the opportunity to take the bike for a spin. What ensued was one of the funniest sights you would ever wish to see.

Notting took off. In hot pursuit were four burly security guards. Two on foot and two in a golf buggy, which lacked the pace of the bike. Needless to say, “Possum” led them all a merry dance. In behind buildings, out the other side, the convoy snaked its way around Southbank.

It was real Keystone Cops stuff, much to the delight of the assembled throng on the pub’s balcony who were now howling with laughter.

The guards eventually cornered our man, forcing him to abandon his vehicle and set off on foot.

The gorillas were still on his hammer. They slowly started to gain ground but Possum was only foxing – as one of the pursuers was about to tackle him, he simply shifted into another gear and exploded away, gapping the opposition as he raced past the pub and its cheering crowd.

He even had the audacity and arrogance to wave one finger in the air as he ran past.

Security gave up the chase. They weren’t happy campers.

A peacemaker was at hand. CUB stalwart Dave Argus, who had recently purchased the “Inn” and was on hand with tears rolling down his cheeks, spoke to the Gestapo and consoled them with a carton of Crown Lager each.

Everyone was a winner.

The boys had a great week. Other highlights included:

Mad Monday at the Aussie Nash Hotel. Craig McRae was hilarious. He had the Cup out on Stanley Street at the traffic lights holding it aloft, letting people touch it, hopping on buses with it and cruising down the street to the next set of lights. He also jumped into people’s cars, utes, cars with sunroofs and a police car, proudly brandishing the prize.

Dawn corroborees on the Mooloolaba headland rocks where they gathered arm-in-arm around the campfire at sunrise and told each other how much they loved and respected one another whilst trying to cook some captured crabs to satisfy their by now rampant hunger.

At a corporate luncheon at Brisbane’s exclusive Tattersall’s Club, allegations that one of the players engaged in sexual relations in the toilets with a very willing female corporate guest.

Golf at the Greg Norman-designed course at Caloundra, Pelican Waters.

Lunch on the deck at the Noosa Surf Club on one of those pristine Sunshine Coast days.

The very well attended street parade through the Queen Street Mall in Brissie and the subsequent civic reception in King George Square.

One of the memorable things of grand final week was the win of Simon Black in the Brownlow Medal. I happened to be in the gym the next morning when he came in to do his weights to a rousing reception.

The wit Craig “Fly” McRae announced that “Blacky was going to be given the keys to the city of Carindale (the suburb where Simon lived) and a tickertape parade up Scrubb Road!”

Another asked if he had made love the night before. A disappointed Black replied that “no he hadn’t,” to which big Beau McDonald replied: “Shit Blackie, you should have given me a call and I would have come around and given you one myself!”

“Bozo” thought the medalist should have been far better rewarded.

Funny things happen in grand final week. We had one lady ring up and complain that it was too noisy during the preliminary final at the Gabba and she hadn’t enjoyed herself.

Another who I had got two grand final tickets for the year before also rang. She said she would like to get some more in 2002. She used to be a member but had let it lapse because they were living in Sydney.

I said “are you after a couple again?” hopeful that I might be able to help her again.

“Oh no,” she replied. “I was after some for the whole family.”

“Oh,” I said. “How many are you after?”

“Fifteen,” came the matter-of-fact reply.


Others ring up that you hardly know seeking out grand final tickets. The conversation generally goes like this:

“I was after a couple of tickets to the grand final. I’m prepared to pay for them (as if they should be getting them for nothing!).”

You feel like saying that you will also organise a corporate box for them and a limo to the ground if that would be alright!

Darryl White was a wonderful player with the Brisbane Bears/Lions. He had freakish ability, got better with age and was a great competitor.

One day Darryl was momentarily knocked out and taken off the ground.

When he gathered his wits, the club doctor was asking him a series of questions, one of which was “what is the date?” To which Darryl replied: “The Eighth.” Which was right, but the wise doctor said: “No, it’s the Seventh.”

Darryl thought for a split-second and in his own colorful style said: “You f**kin idiot. It is the Eighth.”

“No, it’s not.”

“Yes, it is!”

“No, it’s not.”

“Yes, it is.” And on and on they went.

World War Three had broken out or so it seemed until peace was restored when the doctor realised he had erred and maybe he should be the one doing the concussion test.

The doctor in question was a ripper fella. A portly gentleman with an infectious and sinister laugh!

In one game he was required, at pace, to run to a stricken player on the far side of the ground.

As he was about to arrive at the scene the player had got back up and was resuming his position.

A wasted trip. The doc then had to hightail it back to the bench around behind the goals as the full-back was about to kick in and the doctor wasn’t allowed inside the forward 50-metre arc at the kick-ins.

He arrived back at the bench after covering about 450 metres at a fair clip, absolutely rooted.

Our runner, the late, great Robert Dickson, who was also a real character, sensed the occasion and yelled: “Quick, Vossy is down on the far wing.”

The doc pivoted on a five cent piece and took off again in the direction of the outer side without even thinking or more importantly looking. He travelled a good 70 metres before realizing he had been “had”.

“You prick, Dicko!” was all the exhausted Doc could expire after the 70m return leg, to much mirth and merriment on the bench.

On one occasion the team was having a July Saturday morning kick of the footy in front of the team hotel before a game in Melbourne when one of the footies was accidently on purpose kicked into the Yarra passing by.

Dicko didn’t hesitate. Around behind the bridge he ventured, only to reappear completely nude. Again without hesitation he strode up onto the bridge near the casino, much to the delight of the passing traffic, and swallow-dived into the murky depths of the river below.

He swam majestically out to the aggott and returned it to shore while I rushed to get him his clothes (which a couple of the idiots were going to hide).

Up he popped out of the Yarra. He was almost blue and his bottom lip was quivering. Fair bit of shrinkage as well!!

He was a great scammer, Dicko, especially involving airlines. He would often wait until the death before getting on a plane, often being called repeatedly over the PA system.

At that late stage the cabin staff would be off getting things done when Dicko would arrive and often there would be no-one to check his boarding pass. He would then sit in the first seat he would see, which was often in business class.

On one such occasion he had been visiting his girlfriend, later to become his wife, in Zimbabwe when, after pulling his usual stunt, he ended up either in first or business class on the jumbo flight back to Oz.

After plonking himself down, he realised he was sitting next to a female 60 Minutes television show reporter.

They chatted away merrily for 10 hours until they were about an hour from their destination, when Dicko mentioned what he had done.

Well, the next thing you know the said reporter has blown right up, calling him every name under the sun.

Didn’t see the funny side at all! Bet she hadn’t paid either!

Dicko calmly moved to another vacant seat to escape the awkwardness.

Dicko was a fantastic bloke who also won the first Australian Survivor television show. I wasn’t surprised.

He was tragically killed in a motor vehicle accident in South Africa in 2009 along with his two sons. He is sadly missed by all in the footy community

A similar story to the doctor’s above involves our physio of the day. He took off to attend an injured player in one of his first games with us and had forgotten to do up his bum bag.

As he sprinted across the turf, one by one the contents of the bag began to fall on the ground at regular intervals. About seven different articles later the physio realised what was going on and had to stop and retrace his journey to pick up the recalcitrant articles.

It made for great viewing. It was like a scene from Hansel and Gretel. A trail of breadcrumbs!

At the Lions we had a colourful masseur who was on a disability pension.

Marty Stammers was a great fella with poor eyesight and loved nothing better than a yarn or to tell you what he was up to.

He had very thick glasses and was affectionately known as “Milkbottles” because his specks looked like the bottoms of two milk bottles.

Anyway, one night at training Richard Champion, who was always quick with a word, said to Marty: “My f**kin oath Marty, you must have good eyes to see through those bloody glasses.”

It brought the house down.

We were off to play our first game at the Docklands in Melbourne under the roof when it began to piss down.

I inquired of my mate Brooksy, our property officer, if he had remembered to bring his rain jacket.

Several expletives later it became obvious that David had indeed forgotten to bring the said garment with him.

“Don’t worry old china!” I comforted. “We’re under the roof today.” He had forgotten about the amenities at the brand new stadium.

Craig Starcevich, the former Collingwood premiership player who went on to become pivotal to the Brisbane Lions premiership campaigns as conditioning coach, was a stickler for detail to the point of being pedantic.

It became compulsory during the early part of the 2000s to use a penetrometer to gauge the softness of the footy grounds. Starce didn’t want to take his penetrometer to Cairns to check the ground for a practice match there as it was very bulky.

He rang the local league to see if they could access one but they had never heard of a penetrometer, so they put him onto the local horse racing track to see if they had one. The conversation went something like this after Starce had introduced himself.

“I was wondering if you had a penetrometer?”

“What the f**k is that?” come the reply from the course curator.

Starce explained.

“Oh,” come the reply from the curator.

“Well, what do you do if you have to rate the course?” asked Craig.

The curator replied: “Well, if I look out the window and if it is sunny, then the track will be good and if it is raining, then it will be slow.”

Enough said. Starce gave the game up.

I was watching a Lions Reserves final with Beau McDonald, the giant Lions premiership ruckman, against the Morningside Panthers in 2002. Beau was friendly with some of the Panther players. He had seen them out on the town. He knew they enjoyed a drink.

At about the 12-minute mark of the third quarter, the Lions Reserves started to get on top and take control of the game to which the big fella remarked: “This is about the time the piss-heads start to drop off.”

And they did.

Collingwood have a famous supporter, always seen in the cheersquad on TV, by the name of “Joffa”.

He is a bit of a character who when he thinks the “Pies” are far enough up and can’t get beaten, produces a gold lurex sparkling jacket that he dons and holds up a banner proclaiming: “GAME OVER”.

Well, the Lions were playing the Pies at the “Temple” in the Heritage Round of 2003 and indeed the mighty Lions from the Sunshine State looked magnificent in their Sixties-style Fitzroy guernseys.

Early in the game the Lions established an unassailable lead, kicking eight goals to bugger-all in the first stanza and pretty much held this advantage for the rest of an anti-climactic contest.

During the third quarter the footy trickled into the hoardings near the by now pretty quiet Collingwood cheersquad.

They had lost their zip.

Defender Darryl White, who had copped plenty from them in the past, casually lent over the fence and said to Joffa: “You won’t be wearing that f**king gold jacket today, Joffa.”

That certainly stirred the natives.

The Brisbane Lions match committee was having a casual conversation after picking the side one day and Leigh Matthews asked each of them what statistically had been their best AFL game ever.

Gary O’Donnell indicated that he had got 36 touches one day at Windy Hill whilst Matthew “Dogga” Armstrong had 41 one day at the MCG.

Michael McLean wasn’t quite as good but he thought it was about 33.

There was a period of quiet until Armstrong mustered up the nerve to ask the great man what had been his best effort.

“What was your best Leigh?” enquired Doggsy.

“Only got 31,” came the subdued response from the greatest of them all.

There was a little stunned silence before the champ added:  “Kicked 14 though!”

After winning the 2003 flag about 20 of us were in a massive goods lift at the back of Crown Casino heading upstairs to the function when resident comedian and urger…Justin Leppitsch started on Leigh along the lines of

 “You would be no good without us Leigh… very average….we have made you look a good coach etc etc etc. It was hilarious. Everyone was smirking and trying not to laugh out loud

 Leigh just took it all in his pragmatic way in the back of the lift with a mischievous grin on his face and then offered this pearler “Oh well Lep, I will just have to settle for being player of the Century then wont I !!!!!”

In late 2003, a 13-year-old Hawaiian girl by the name of Bethany Hamilton had her left arm taken by a shark while surfing. She became quite a celebrity and was admired by all for her courage, tenacity and grace. She was back on the board in no time and going her hardest.

What is not commonly known is that Brisbane Lions triple premiership midfielder and Brownlow Medalist, Simon Black, who was on his end of season holiday, surfed the very same break in the late afternoon the day before!

A young recruit to the Brisbane Lions had an interesting introduction to AFL footy. Firstly he was driving his mum’s car with his mum sitting passenger when he was pulled over for speeding. He produced his West Australian driver’s license. The usual police questions came. They asked where he lived in Queensland.

He didn’t know the actual address, just where it was, but all he could manage under pressure was “I live with Simon Black”, which he did.

“Oh, is that right. Just a minute.”

After a delay of five minutes while the officer went back to the police car to check details, she came back with the following advice.

“You had better start slowing down if you don’t want to lose your license and by the way, tell Simon, Clare says to say hello. Now get out of here.” She was friends with Blackie

The problem is the kid gets the wrong idea of the law and thinks it is going to happen every time, which of course it won’t.

He then went to the Magic Millions race day on the Gold Coast in January with his teammates on a bus trip. Problem was he had a bit too much to drink and missed the bus home when he was in the toilet and the team leader missed him in the head count.

About $150 later, the cab pulled into his driveway. Made up for the non-traffic fine. A learning start to your career!  The lessons ultimately weren’t well-heeded as the young bloke was delisted.

Another year Jonathan Brown organised another bus to go to the Magic Millions.

The boys were late leaving the course and the bus driver had cracked the shits.

The earlier arrivals at the bus had been declined the privilege of having their esky on board.

Big burly Brownie arrived, picked up the esky, boarded the bus and said to the bus driver: “I’ll just put this in the aisle.”

“No worries mate!” came the intimidated reply.

Further up the road Brownie asked the bussy if there was any chance he could stop to get some extra supplies.

“No way, we are running too late, you’ll just have to wait.”

The big rooster reached into his pocket, grabbed out $50 and popped it into the driver’s top pocket.

“Any chance now mate?”

“Sure,” come the positive reply. “Where do you want to stop.”

There was an interesting article in the Brisbane newspaper, The Sunday Mail, in early 2004 about the eccentric Jason Akermanis, a terrific Brisbane Lions Brownlow Medallist.

Aker was pontificating as to how he could communicate with the dead and had visions.

A day or so later I was engaging with the straight-talking Martin Pike when he said: “Did you see Aker’s story in the paper?”

“Yes,” I said. “Interesting, wasn’t it?” Pikey looked at me, not sure where I was coming from, until a small smile broke out on my face.

To which Pikey chortled. “They’re the only bastards that will listen to him.”

The Brisbane Lions Reserves play in the local QAFL competition and use many young local hopefuls to top up the numbers in the team, as on most occasions they don’t have enough to field a side.

A local Sunshine Coaster by the name of Max Schlink was very popular with our players because of his infectious enthusiasm and personality.

Sandwiches were served after the game as part of the post-match recovery, which was a new innovation for Max.

At the team meeting the next week before the game, coach Craig Brittain concluded the meeting as he did every week by asking if there were any questions.

“Yes,” Max put up his hand. “Are there any sandwiches after the game this week?”

“Sure is, Max,” came the reply from the intense Brittain. “And if you play well you can have some lollies as well!

On another occasion Max was a bit crook and when asked by Brittain how he was feeling before the game, he indicated he wasn’t feeling the best but said: “I’ll give ya me all.”

One of the players at the Brisbane Lions in 2004 was a terrific fellow and street smart, but unfortunately suffered from a bit of a literacy problem.

In his late 20s, he rang me to find out if it was alright to bank a Bank of Queensland cheque into another bank’s account that he had. He thought that you could only bank it into a Bank of Queensland account.

Jonathan Brown, that hulking Lions centre-half-forward who should have been playing footy in the Sixties because of his size, demeanor, gruff voice and intimidating presence, was a great source of footy stories by the time he had reached 21 and played in three premierships.

He would have caused some damage in the Sixties with his aggression. A Jack Dyer-type figure.

He is also very smart and adapted his game to suit the modern game with his powerful running, deadly kicking and courage. Still scares the shit out a few though.

In 2002 we were playing West Coast at Subiaco. Jonathan was having a frustrating time of it when Eagles midfielder Richard Taylor bounced one off his chin. Did the big fella blow up?

You betcha!

His response was: “Right! That’s it, I’ve had enough. I’m going to pick off all your midfielders one at a time and by the end of the game there will none left!”

All in a big, gruff, grumpy roar.

The same year he had a tangle with Essendon’s Dean Solomon in a blockbuster at the Gabba, prompting Solomon to say to Brownie: “What, are ya gunna whack me and get six weeks?”

To which Brownie’s reply was: “I’m considering it!”

Earlier in the same game, the cheeky Bomber wingman Adam Ramanauskas was gobbing off at Jonathan, frustrating him to come out with this pearl of wisdom as they headed back to the centre square for the next recommencement of play.

“Right! You get over on that side of the square and run in and I’ll come in from here and we’ll meet in the middle and see what happens!”

The boisterous boy from the bush wanted physical contact with the chirpy Bomber.

David Mapleston, a tall, talented forward from local club Morningside was on our rookie list in the early 2000s but didn’t quite go on with his footy at AFL level. He became a very good player with Subiaco and played for WA.

“Mapo” attended a fancy dress night with his stunning new girlfriend. He was everyone’s mate that night.

Even the great man Vossy wanted to talk to Mapo and find out a little more about how things were going.

Big Beau McDonald reckoned that he had never seen Vossy so interested in Mapo’s progress and likened Mapo’s girl to a shiny new car – when he seen classy girls like that, it made him want to trade his older model in.

But that wise old sage, Alastair Lynch, suggested that it might be better to take your mate’s new car for a test drive instead. He was only joking!!!!!!

On a footy trip to the States in 1996, we visited San Diego to watch some Monday night footy live between the Chargers and the Oakland Raiders as guests of Darren Bennett, who was the punter for the Chargers at the time.

Darren treated us like kings. We had to meet his wife after the game at the car park while we waited for Darren to get changed. She was terrific, taking us back to the car where Darren had organized a carton of beer in an esky for us to enjoy while we waited.

They had also organised for some of their friends to take us back to a brand new downtown bar owned by one of the players named Junior Seau. Junior had his own merchandise clothing range available at the merchandise store at the front of the venue titled “Say Oh’s”.

We were escorted into the upstairs VIP lounge where we rubbed shoulders with some of the players and none other than the famous American Basketball Dream Team member Charles Barkley, who was in town with his team the Phoenix Suns for an early season NBA practice match series.

Clark Keating and Chris Scott made themselves known to the big rooster and he was very accommodating with the boys, offering them cigars, which they accepted. He was taken by their accents etc but didn’t have a clue what game we played.

After about half an hour of small talk, it was time for Charles to depart. The boys continued to enjoy their cigars. Seconds after Charles had gone the bouncers arrived to tell the boys to put out their smokes as it was a non-smoking area.

Surprised, the lads reasoned with them that they had been smoking with Charles for half an hour or more and why should they put them out.

“Well, Charles is a very important person and he’s allowed to smoke up here but you’re not so put them out or we’ll throw you out.”

Enough said. The cigars bit the dust.

Also on that trip we visited the House of Blues in Hollywood, which was a terrific night. The boys indulged in a bit of crowd surfing, which was relatively new at the time but they really started to come into their own when this American started slam-dancing.

You should have seen this rooster. Tall, well built, long blond hair, tanned, jeans and a white singlet on which might as well have had ‘W’ emblazoned on the front for Wanker, because that was what he was.

He was causing havoc on the dance floor, crashing into all and sundry as part of this new dance craze. Women were getting bowled over. He didn’t spare anyone. He was clearly king of the floor.

That was until Chris Scott decided to join the fray and enjoy some “dancing”. Now Chris wasn’t really into dancing but he did enjoy physical contact and he patiently waited his opportunity to join in the festivities.

He did so with clever timing and some brutal force! As this joker bowled over his latest prey he stepped back to enjoy his work when the cannonball express Scott came whistling through.

“Nuggett” split him up the middle with one of the best shirtfronts you have ever seen. Down the big blonde went. Nugget stood over him. I thought “shit, it’s going to be on here”. Not to be.

The big fella bounced up, dusted himself off and walked over to Chris, giving him a high-five and pronouncing: “Man what a hit!” He was rapt and the two of them continued on their merry way.

The Brisbane Lions players went to the States at the end of the 2003 premiership year and spent the first five days in New Orleans following on from the previous year’s successful visit to the Big Easy by the North Melbourne Football Club.

Both teams stayed at the same place and nearing the end of the five-day stay by the Lions, one of the bar staff made the following comment to big Jonathan Brown.

“You guys are unbelievable. You’re better tippers than that team that was here last year and you are certainly better drinkers. They were here for a week, you were here for five days and you drank eight more cartons than them and there was 38 of them and only 19 of you.”

“Told you they weren’t hard enough,” the great Martin “Mudguts” Pike was heard to remark.

Mal Michael was a real character at the Lions

On one occasion against Melbourne, he thought he would have some fun with the six-foot Irishman Colm Begley, who was a little footy naïve.

When resuming their positions in the backline after the halftime break, Mal went to Aaron Davey to man him up, leaving Colm no option but to pick up Jeff White – about a two-foot difference.

Colm was in a cold sweat and quite agitated because as they were about to bounce the cherry Mal had just ignored his calls for help and there he was isolated in the goalsquare with the man mountain.

Cheeky Mal finally moved quickly onto White as the umpy put leather to turf.

On another occasion he noticed at halftime that ruckman Jamie Charman wasn’t paying attention to Leigh Matthews talk.

When they went back out onto the ground, Mal went to the centre bounce to ruck against Matt Primus. There he was pawing the ground with his boot like Crackers Keenan used to do as the umpires went to their positions.

You should have seen the look on Charmo’s face.

He didn’t know where he was playing and when asked, Mal just shrugged his shoulders, saying that Leigh had put him in for this bounce.

Mad panic for Charman until Mal broke into a grin and said: “Nah mate, only kidding” and trotted off down to full-back.

Mal would invariably need a piss at quarter-time and I lost count of the number of times he pissed in a cup and we had to take it away over the boundary line.

That wonderful and electrifying player Christopher “Lloyd” Johnson also was a great clubman and personality at the Lions.

An All-Australian, he couldn’t run out of sight on a dark night, but put a footy in front of him or into the equation and he was a genuine star.

We are good friends and referred to each other as the “other Johnno”.

He is very proud of his Indigenous heritage.

He married his long-time sweetheart Vanessa Sfrucchi, who is also very proud of her strong Italian heritage. When inevitably the family started to grow, I cheekily asked Johnno what heritage the kids would be. Without batting an eyelid the poker-faced larrikin proudly announced: “Wogoriginals!”

Big Jamie Charman was developed through the QAFL system after being an elite swimmer. You wouldn’t meet a better bloke.

Noted for his white line fever, he was the total opposite off the ground with his warm caring attitude. He loved the physical contest and had the art of physical intimidation down pat when he ran out into battle.

In his first game he roared onto the ground off the bench and immediately made his presence felt to the point where at the end of the game then coach Leigh Matthews was heard to remark in his distinctive voice to Charmo at the post match review.

“Charmo, that was quite possibly the worst debut I’ve ever seen. Three possessions and five free kicks against!”

When Troy Selwood arrived at the club he was promptly christened “Bunnings” by club wit Craig McRae (they sell wood, don’t they). He was later to become “Bunno”.

Not long after arriving at the club, “Bunno” asked the gnarly, gruff veteran Martin “Mudguts” Pike: “How’s things, Pikey!”

To which the great Pikey replied: “You can call me Mr Pike!”

On one occasion a young rookie list player who was fairly happy with himself and hadn’t played a senior game, was at a night spot when after chatting to a young lady he was heard to say: “She doesn’t even know I’m a Lions player yet!”

To which the inimitable Pikey said: “You’re not.”


  1. Shane, still laughing at the Leigh Matthews responses. Hilarious. Well played publishing this yourself.

  2. Adam Muyt says


    Plenty of gems from that golden era…and I’m still chuckling at Johnno’s ‘Wogariginals!’ and Pikey’s gems.

    Go Lions!

  3. Love it. How about some of the Voss comments on the field? Devastating by the accounts I’ve heard.

  4. Tony Roberts says

    Is your book currently available in any bookshops in Melbourne that you know of? Otherwise, how do you get hold of a copy?

  5. Stephen Cooke says

    Tony, click the link on Shane’s name. Details there

  6. Shane Johnson says

    Tony…I self produced the book and I have a few left over from the second print run
    It is $30 including express post
    If you are keen just email your postal address etc and I will give you the payment details
    My email is [email protected]
    Same applies to anyone else who might like a copy but only got a few left though

  7. John Harms says


    Thanks for those couple of copies of your book. Rick Kane is currently preparing a review.

  8. Shane Johnson says

    Thanks Harmsy for putting it all up….I didnt realise it was up until Andrew Weiss sent me an email requesting a copy which I will send him in the next day or so….thanks again mate
    Much appreciated

  9. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Fantastic read Shane ! Fantastic that Brisbane appreciates Fitzroys history and then just loved the humour and stories and as a , Norwood man I was picturing Pikey with his 1 liners brilliant ! Are there any copies of the book left , Shane ?

  10. Tony paynter says

    Great read Johnno! Feel like pulling on the boots again. … For the mad Mondays of course. (BOG every time). Hope you are well.

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