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The Bears' Last Game

Throughout the 1996 season, the Brisbane Bears had established themselves as a serious contender for the AFL Premiership, finishing third on the ladder at the end of the home-and-away season. 

Their Finals campaign began with a nail-biting win over Essendon at the Gabba - their first ever Finals win - and was followed by a 97-point demolition of reigning Premiers Carlton in the Semi Final (which is still largely recognised as the Bears' greatest performance). 

It set up a tantalising Preliminary Final between the emerging Bears and AFL powerhouse North Melbourne in front of 66,719 people at the MCG. 

But with regular stars Michael Voss, Jason Akermanis, Andrew Bews, and Clark Keating all ruled out through injury, the task was always going to be a tough one. 

And it proved to be the case from the outset, as the Kangaroos hopped out to a five-goal lead in the opening quarter. 

The final result was never in question, although the Bears were able to add some respectability to the scoreboard by booting four goals to one in the final term. 

The 38-point margin booked North Melbourne a ticket to the 1996 Grand Final (which they would go onto win), and left the Bears wondering "what if...?" 

The match also served as Bears stalwart Roger Merrett's swansong - with the inspirational skipper announcing his retirement. 

Still, the club was rightfully proud of its achievements, beaten for the second year in a row by the eventual premiers and winning recognition not just throughout the AFL community but all circles of sport.

AFL Preliminary Final
Saturday 21 September 1996

NORTH MELBOURNE 8.3 11.7 16.9 17.12 (114)
BRISBANE BEARS 3.1 3.5 7.8 11.10 (76)

North Melbourne:
Roberts 3, Sholl 3, Carey 3, Crocker 2, McKernan, Allison, Scott, King, Capuano, Freeborn.
Bears: Lynch 2, Champion 2, McAdam, Leppitsch, White, Hart, Lappin, Fletcher, Lambert.


B Danny Dickfos Richard Champion Darryl White
HB Andrew Gowers Matthew Kennedy Chris Scott
C Marcus Ashcroft Shaun Hart Nigel Lappin
HF Michael McLean Roger Merrett Gilbert McAdam
F Craig McRae Alastair Lynch Justin Leppitsch
FOLL Matthew Clarke Craig Lambert Adrian Fletcher
INT Nathan Chapman Dion Scott Tristan Lynch
COACH John Northey