If we are really honest it was some time before the Brisbane Bears had a profound on-field impact on the AFL. There were significant moments but most were specific to the club rather than the League. Until Round 10 1989, when the ‘victim’ was a man who later became a wonderful ally.

In what was a 14-team competition it was 13th-placed Brisbane against 12th-placed Carlton at the old Princes Park. Both teams had two wins in the first nine games, with the Bears coming off a 129-point loss to Geelong and a 94-point loss to North.

But the Bears were expected to struggle in their third season under coach Peter Knights. Not Carlton. Coached by Robert Walls, they had been preliminary finalists in 1988 after the winning the ’87 flag.

So when the Bears pulled off a shock three-point win over the Blues the ramifications were swift and strong. Walls, also a four-time Carlton premiership player, ex-captain and Team of Century selection, was sacked.

The killer blow was a last-minute 55m goal from a player who admits he could only kick 45m. Warwick Capper.

“Luckily there was a howling wind blowing,” the ever-colorful Capper admitted later. “In one kick I went from villain to hero. The Carlton fans hated me and always gave me plenty but I got them … I jumped on (Warren) McKenzie’s back to take a hanger and I got Wallsy.”

Thirty-three years on true Brisbane fans will regret the price a now 71-year-old Walls paid after his subsequent massive contribution to the club, especially his start-up role in the premiership hat-trick of 2001-02-03.

But such was the enormity of the unforgettable moment of 1989 that it is the headline story of this week’s “Remember When” flashback focus on Round 10 matches.

It was barely 48 hours after Capper’s unlikely goal signalled the end of Walls’ four-year stint as Carlton coach that he was sacked, and replaced by another Carlton legend, Alex Jesaulenko. Favorite son or not, there was no room for sentiment at the Blues.

It turned out to be a fortuitous moment for Brisbane. Because 15 months later Walls, one of the premier coaches in the League, was appointed Bears coach. He was the club’s fourth coach in five years, following Knights, caretaker coach Paul Feltham and Norm Dare, and fundamental to the good times that would follow.

Walls accepted a five-year contract with the expansion club, and was in charge as the club shed its poor-relation image, moved from Carrara to Brisbane, and played in the finals for the first time in what was Walls’ last season in 1995.

Not insignificantly, no less than 10 members of the 2001 premiership side began their AFL career under Walls – captain Michael Voss, Jason Akermanis, Marcus Ashcroft, Shaun Hart, Clark Keating, Nigel Lappin, Justin Leppitsch, Craig McRae, Chris Scott and Darryl White.

In latter years all recognised the crucial role he had playing in shaping them as AFL players despite not always having been huge fans of his strict discipline and methods. When Walls, now a Brisbane Lions Hall of Famer, returned to the club years later to address the playing group it was like a reunion. They flocked to their former coach.

Only Ashcroft played in the Round 10 game of 1989. It was his second game. He had six possessions and kicked his first goal as the Bears, nine points down at three-quarter time, posted their 16th win in their 54th game.

While Capper’s fourth goal was the match-winner, the chief “executioner” for the Bears was Brad Hardie. The 1985 Brownlow Medallist kicked a career-best nine goals in the 18-10 (118) to 17-13 (115) win.

But, coincidentally, even Hardie had to be content with two Brownlow Medal votes as three votes went to Queenslander Scott McIvor, who had debuted under Walls at Fitzroy in 1985 and was another big fan of the bearded coach. The ever-prolific midfielder had 32 possessions and kicked two goals. Mike Richardson had 21 possessions and two goals, and Mark Roberts 26 possessions at fullback.

Overall, in 33 Round 10 matches Brisbane have put together a 10-21 win/loss record, with two draws. They’ve gone 9-8 at home and are 3-2-12 away, making the 1989 win over Carlton all the more special.

In other Round 10 highlights:-


1994: A Barnstorming Win

The Bears 2-1-6 nine rounds into season 1994 but they were starting to turn the corner. And in Round 10 against North Melbourne at the Gabba they posted a win that set up the good things that were to follow later that season and in the following season.

When they trailed 1-3 to 5-9 at the first change against the joint ladder leaders on a hot Sunday afternoon it looked like ‘here we go again’. But by halftime the deficit was back to 17, and after they added 5-6 to 2-5 in the third quarter they led by two points.

It was game on, but with veteran skipper Roger Merrett providing a dominant target at full forward, the over-ran the Roos 6-5 to 2-4 in the final quarter to win 17-18 (120) to 12-21 (93). A 57-point turnaround from quarter-time, with Merrett’s five goals enough to take him past Brad Hardie as the club’s leading all-time goal-kicker.

Fullback Richard Champion held boom North spearhead John Longmire goalless to head the club B&F voting and pick up two Brownlow Medal votes. Matthew Clarke, operating solo against North ruckmen Alex Ischenko and Corey McKernan received three votes, and Chris Scott, 26 days beyond his 18th birthday, had 14 possessions and kicked two goals as a pinch-hitting forward in his ninth game for his first vote.

Marcus Ashcroft (35 possessions) was another standout with Matthew Kennedy, who found a new role with 28 possessions on the wing, while Mayne defender Rudi Frigo became the 22nd Queenslander to play for the club and the ninth debutant of the season.

Like a debutant, too, was Shane Hamilton, an ex-Geelong utility who returned to the game after having missed 21 months football with recurring foot stress fractures.

It was a win that had a positive flow-on effect. The Bears won four of five games from Round 10 and seven of 10 to finish 12th overall with a 9-13 record.


1996 – Improvers or Contenders?

The Bears started the AFL Centenary Season in brilliant fashion. They were 7-2 after nine rounds but had not played in Victoria. This was the question as they headed to Kardinia Park to play Geelong in Round 10.

The collective view was that they struggled away from the Gabba. And in pre-match commentary Brownlow Medallist Gerard Healy declared ‘today we’ll find out whether the Bears are big improvers or serious contenders”.

Facing the fifth-placed Cats, the Bears led by 24 points at three-quarter time. But the Cats kicked the next seven goals, and with six minutes to play they led by 18 points. Things were falling apart for the visitors under new coach John Northey.

Darryl White soccered a goal off the ground in the square to cut it to 12 points before Bill Brownless kicked what shaped to be a crucial long behind. Geelong by 13 points with 2min 45sec to play.

Craig Lambert, best afield with 31 possessions for three votes, won a free kick before Chris Scott fired a perfect left-foot pass to a leading Justin Leppitsch. He wobbled through a flat punt for his third goal but with only 45 seconds left it was still seven points.
But after Geelong pushed forward from the centre bounce Scott won it back. He fired an ambitious 30m left-hand handpass to a running Marcus Ashcroft who hit a leading Scott McIvor on the chest. From 35m McIvor made no mistake. One point the difference. Still 1min 11sec to play.

An Ashcroft smother sent the ball out of bounds. An Andy Gowers spoil and a Gilbert McAdam tap did likewise before a Matthew Kennedy tackle forced a ball-up with 30sec left 75m from the Brisbane goal.

A perfect Matthew Clarke tap back found Michael Voss, who went wide by hand to Scott. The man who 15 years later would coach Geelong to a premiership kicked long to centre half forward. Nigel Lappin, now Scott’s right-hand man at the Cattery, crumbed it beautifully and went inboard by hand to a running Kennedy.

From 65m Kennedy kicked long towards Leppitsch but it went over the back and out of bounds beside the right behind post. Seven seconds to play. Clark Keating, imposing himself in just his fourth game, hit it forward where Leppitsch, with nothing on, cleverly tapped it through for a behind. Time was up. Brisbane 15-8 (98) to Geelong 14-14 (98).

It wasn’t the win the Bears were looking for but Healy declared they’d done enough. “They’re a serious side … a definite challenger if they can carry on the way they’re going.” He was right. He was just five years early.


2008 – Another Brown Record

Most Lions know that Jonathan Brown holds the Brisbane record for most goals in a game. It was 10 against Carlton at the Gabba in 2007 in a performance which, in a repeat of the Robert Walls sacking in 1989, saw Denis Pagan moved on by the Blues.

But who holds the club record for most behinds in a game? It’s a two-part answer. The record is seven behinds and is held by two players.

It was established first in Round 10 2008 when the Brisbane Lions beat North 18-21 (129) to 15-8 (98) at the Gabba. The twin targets of Brown and Daniel Bradshaw kicked six goals each, with an uncharacteristically-wayward Brown also kicking seven behinds.

Still, he was a clear standout, taking 12 marks inside the Lions’ 50m zone to earn three Brownlow Medal votes in a memorable double-barrel assault with his 2001-03 premiership teammate as Simon Black had 30 possessions for one vote.

Brown was on hand, too, when his record of seven behinds was matched in Round 1 2010. But this time he was the straight-shooter as the Lions beat West Coast by 32 points at the Gabba. The villain in his first game for Brisbane was Brendan Fevola, who kicked 3-7 to begin his short-lived stay with the club.


2012 – Long live the torpedo

Remember James Polkinghorne, the high-flying utility who played 94 games with Brisbane from 2008-14 and later played seven games with Essendon as a top-up players during their drug supplements scandal in 2016?

He had his moment of glory in an epic clash with West Coast at the Gabba in Round 10 2012 in which the Lions posted one of the club’s all-time great upset wins.

It was an epic. The Lions, 14th at 3-6, led the 8-1 ladder-leading Eagles by 11 points at halftime but trailed by 14 at three-quarter time. They pegged one goal back 47 seconds into the final tern through ‘super sub’ Josh Green, who replaced Aaron Cornelius at three-quarter time for his eighth game, but when the visitors kicked the next two quickly to make the difference 21 points things looked dire.

But in the next six minutes Brisbane kicked four goals through Josh Drummond, Jonathan Brown, Daniel Rich and Green. They were three points up.

It was end-to-end stuff. Goals went Eagles, Eagles, Lions, Eagles and Lions, and as the clock ticked beyond 33 minutes the visitors led by four points. While Eagles coach John Worsfold grimaced in the box his Lions counterpart Michael Voss could only smile and whisper sideways as he shook his head.

Eagles spearhead Jack Darling, opposed to Niall McKeever, looked to have the drop on the Irishman as they chased a loose ball back towards goal. Darling went off the ground twice and looked to do so again in the square for what would have been the clincher. But a diving McKeever touched it on the line.

As the goal umpire finished waving the flags Drummond kicked it to himself and played on from fullback in a ploy no longer seen under the new rules. He fired a booming left-footer to Rich on the defensive side of the centre square.

Rich went long to a marking contest where Polkinghorne was spoiled by West Coast’s Jacob Brennan. Polkinghorne, on hands and knees, tapped it out to skipper Jed Adcock and ran forward to receive a quick handpass from his skipper.

From 65m plus Polkinghorne let fly. It sailed through on the full. “They’re in front,” screamed Anthony Hudson in commentary. “Pandemonium at the Gabba. Long live the torp”.

But amazingly there was still 54 seconds to play. Green, who had kicked three goals in the final term, was flattened by Darren Glass with what was ruled a legal front-on challenge to cause a halt in play.

West Coast had one last chance. Matt Rosa kicked over the head of Darling and it was on again. And again McKeever prevailed, tapping the ball to Mitch Golby for Golby to find an Adcock mark on the wing. Job done. Brisbane 16-6 (102) to West Coast 15-10 (100).

Drummond’s 26 possessions and three goals from the back half in his 86th game earned the Sunshine Coast left-footer three Brownlow Medal votes, while Jack Redden picked up one vote for 21 possessions against the club he would later play for.