Brisbane Bears

Brisbane Bears

Infobox australian football club
clubname = Brisbane Australian Football Club

fullname = Brisbane Australian Football Club
nicknames = The Bears
position = -
topgoalkicker = -
bestandfairest = -
founded = 1986
colors = Marooncolor box|Maroon, Goldcolor box|Gold and Whitecolor box|White
league = Australian Football League
chairman = -
coach = -
captain = -
ground = Carrara Stadium (18,000)
ground2 = Brisbane Cricket Ground
ground3 =
capacity = 17,000
capacity2 = 42,000
capacity3 =
url = -

Brisbane Bears were an Australian rules football Club and was the first Queensland-based club in the Victorian Football League. It played its first match in 1987, but struggled on and off the field until it made the finals for the first time in 1995. The Bears merged with the Fitzroy Football Club after the completion of the following season to form the Brisbane Lions.


In 1986, the VFL Commission announced plans to set up privately owned clubs based in Perth and Brisbane, motivated by the need to sell multimillion-dollar licences to save a number of Victorian clubs which were struggling financially. A consortium headed by former actor Paul Cronin and bankrolled by entrepreneur Christopher Skase was controversially awarded the Brisbane licence. Not long afterwards, the club was officially announced as the Brisbane Bears, signing recently-retired Hawthorn player Peter Knights as coach, and unveiling an innovative playing strip consisting of a gold with a maroon yoke and a triangular "BB" logo intended to represent a stylised map of the club's home state, Queensland, with the outline of a koala head appearing inside of the larger B.

The choice of the koala as a mascot and moniker was often mocked and tagged tacky as the Australian marsupial animal is "not" a bear and is typically sedate and hardly ferocious. Despite this, the bear appeared roaring on many of the marketing and promotional materials for the side, including the club's official VFL logo [] . However, regardless of such marketing, the team's poor on-field performances in the first 7 years allowed the Bears' mascot to be targeted gratuitously, with nicknames like "The Bad News Bears" and "The Carrara Koalas".

The new club was given very little time in which to set itself up, with few players and no home ground. No venue in Brisbane was suitable (the Gabba was encircled by a greyhound track at the time) and so the Bears based themselves at Carrara Oval, an hour's drive south-east of Brisbane on the Gold Coast. Temporary stands, club rooms and facilities were hastily erected on the slopes surrounding the field.

Carrara was very convenient for Christopher Skase, now acknowledged as the owner of the club. To Skase, the Bears were another outpost in his media and leisure empire which also included the Mirage resorts (one of which was very close to Carrara) and the TV0 television station (later sold to acquire the Seven Network), official broadcasters of the VFL.

Unlike their fellow new boys, the West Coast Eagles, the Bears did not have a large reserve of local players from which to draw on, and so the VFL arranged for every other club to provide at least two players. Understandably, other clubs were averse to providing topline players and few of the players provided were of any use. Indeed, some of them had long-term injuries and one or two had already announced their retirement. Skase opened his chequebook and the Bears pursued a number of stars aggressively. They were rewarded with a few key signings, including Collingwood's captain Mark Williams, and 1985 Brownlow Medallist Brad Hardie. However a significant proportion of the player list was recruited from the SANFL and WAFL and was unused to playing football at this level.

As a result, there was general surprise if not shock when this rag-tag band of cast-offs, widely tipped to finish last, won their first game against North Melbourne at the MCG in the first round of 1987. They also won their second game, against Geelong at Kardinia Park, leading to much optimism. After 5 rounds they had won 3 games. However, as the season progressed the players' inexperience became more and more apparent, sliding to the bottom of the ladder by round 20. In the final round they won a playoff with Richmond to avoid the wooden spoon in their first season, finishing with 6 wins.

The club again recruited aggressively, landing Essendon's enforcer Roger Merrett and Sydney's glamour spearhead Warwick Capper. However, the Bears failed to learn the lessons taught during their first season. In 1988 and 1989, the club suffered some severe beatings and Knights was sacked with eight rounds to play in 1989. Club psychologist Paul Feltham took charge of the team for the remainder of the year.

The club was also under severe financial pressure. Attendance had been very poor due to the diabolical performance of the team and the travel required to get to Carrara. The collapse of Skase's business empire and his sudden departure for Spain in late 1989 almost resulted in the death of the Bears. Over the ensuing preseason the players threatened strike action, but Cronin resigned, the club was taken over by the AFL, re-sold to Gold Coast businessman Reuben Pelerman, and the crisis was averted. With former Fitzroy player Norm Dare appointed coach, the club battled on.

The near-loss of the club appeared to galvanise the AFL into action. Having almost killed the club through neglect, the AFL now spent significant amounts of money to help the Bears. The club was provided with priority draft picks and special recruiting zones to give it access to some of the nation's best talent, which over the next few years allowed the club to recruit future stars such as Michael Voss, Jason Akermanis, Clark Keating, Steven Lawrence and Darryl White.

Former premiership coach Robert Walls was installed as coach for the 1991 season and immediately set about getting rid of the dead wood around the club. Having inherited the oldest list in the league, by the end of the season he had the youngest. He insisted that the Bears not bend over to the will of powerful Victorian clubs in recruitment matters, particularly in the case of young Northern Territorian Nathan Buckley. At the time of his recruitment, Buckley was clearly the best player in the country not playing in the AFL, and his signing was a coup for the club. Signed on a one-year contract, his manager stipulated that he would be released to the club of his choice if he so desired at the completion of the contract. At the end of the contract he was cleared to Collingwood as he had requested, but not without suitable compensation in the form of premiership centre-half forward Craig Starcevich, goalsneak Troy Lehmann and an early draft pick which the Bears used to snare future star Chris Scott.

Things were changing off-field too. Pelerman, who was losing millions of dollars annually on the club, agreed to release the Bears from private ownership and revert to a traditional club structure in which the club's members were able to elect the board. In 1992, the club ditched its ridiculed "BB" teddy-bear jumper in favour of a predominantly maroon strip with a gold V and white trim. And more significantly, the Bears moved permanently to the Gabba in Brisbane for the 1993 season and membership and attendances instantly tripled. The greyhound track around the ground was removed, the surface upgraded and the stands gradually replaced over the next few years with a view to converting the tired old ground to a state-of-the-art sporting facility.

However on-field results were still elusive. In 1994, however, the Bears began to show signs of a competitive side and were contenders for a finals berth before falling away in the last five games of the season. Walls announced his resignation halfway through the 1995 season, but committed himself to seeing out the year. By three-quarter time in round 16 the Bears were 45 points behind Hawthorn, third-last on the ladder and another mediocre placing seemed inevitable. Astoundingly, the Bears rallied to win the match by 7 points and won all bar one match for the rest of the home-and-away season to scrape into the finals for the very first time. The team was not disgraced to go down to eventual premiers Carlton by 13 points in their first-ever final. A club that had become a laughing stock was beginning to find its feet.

Inspired by their barnstorming finish to the season, the Bears, now coached by John Northey, had an excellent 1996 season, culminating in two finals wins (both at the Gabba) and a loss in the Preliminary Final to eventual premiers North Melbourne. Michael Voss was awarded the Brownlow Medal, sharing the honour with Essendon's James Hird.

Behind the scenes, however, things were less rosy. The club was still struggling financially and was running out of opportunities to generate revenue. One of the Bears' biggest problems was its lack of support (both on and off the field) in Melbourne, the location of most of its away matches. When Fitzroy collapsed due to financial pressures an opportunity to alleviate that problem presented itself. Fitzroy needed to merge its assets with another club, and when a merger with North Melbourne failed to win the support of the other AFL clubs, the Bears stepped into the breach and the Brisbane Lions were born. 1996 would be the last season for the Bears and Fitzroy as individual entities, however the histories and traditions of both would be carried into the future by the new merged entity.

Club facts


Koala (Koalas are not actually part of the bear family, despite their bear-like appearance - they are marsupials)


* Marooncolor box|Maroon, Goldcolor box|gold and Whitecolor box|White


Reserves 1991

Wooden spoons

* 1990
* 1991

Individual awards

* Darryl White - Goal of the Year (1992)
* Nathan Buckley - AFL Rising Star (1993)
* Chris Scott - AFL Rising Star (1994)
* Michael Voss - Brownlow Medal (1996), All-Australian (1996)
* Craig Lambert - All-Australian (1996)

Honour roll

¹The Brisbane Bears' best and fairest award was known as the Club Championship.


* Total matches played: 222 (65 wins, 1 draws, 141 losses)
* Highest score: 33.21 (219) vs Sydney, Round 8, 1993
* Lowest score: 2.5 (17) vs Hawthorn, Round 12, 1988
* Greatest winning margin: 162 points vs Sydney, Round 8, 1993
* Greatest losing margin: 164 points vs Geelong, Round 7, 1992
* Longest winning streak: 7 (Round 15 to Round 21, 1996)
* Longest losing streak: 12 (Round 20 1990 to Round 10, 1991)
* Highest ladder position at end of season: Third, 1996
* Biggest crowd: 66,719 vs North Melbourne, Preliminary Final 1996
* Biggest home crowd: 21,964 vs Essendon (Brisbane Cricket Ground), Qualifying Final 1996

ee also

* Notable Players


External links

* [ Full Points Footy History of the Brisbane Football Club]
* [ History of Brisbane Bears from Brisbane Lions website]

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